[ RadSafe ] [Nuclear News] A drug to fend off radiation

Sandy Perle sandyfl at cox.net
Sun Mar 4 13:12:27 CST 2007


A drug to fend off radiation
Despite Bush warnings, U.S. ill-prepared for nuclear attack
Fortunes rebound for Europe's last uranium mine
Guv plans to cut off N-waste expansion
Yucca Issue Presents Dilemma for Democrats

A drug to fend off radiation

New Scientist news service Mar 4 - Emergency workers attending the 
scene of a "dirty" bomb or nuclear blast could soon have a drug to 
help protect them.

People exposed to radioactive material often die weeks later of acute 
radiation syndrome, as blood cells vital to clotting and fighting 
infection die off, and bone marrow cells killed by radiation cannot 
replace them. There is currently no preventive treatment.

Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, California, now reports 
that 5-androstenediol (AED), an adrenal gland hormone that stimulates 
marrow-cell growth, cuts the death rate among monkeys exposed to 6 
grays of radiation - usually enough to kill 32 per cent of them - to 
12 per cent, mainly by boosting blood platelets (International 
Immunopharmacology, vol 7, p 500).

The 40 monkeys were given intramuscular injections of AED 4 hours 
after exposure and then once daily for five days. Hollis-Eden 
stressed no other treatments, such as blood transfusions - which are 
unlikely to be widely available after a mass-casualty attack - were 
administered. The results suggest AED, which has already passed 
initial safety tests in people, may even protect victims of a blast 
if administered quickly enough after exposure.

Amid growing fears of terrorist attacks with radioactive materials, 
the US government plans to award a contract for the treatment for 
acute radiation syndrome later this month under its revamped 
BioShield fund for civilian defences against chemical, biological and 
nuclear threats.

Despite Bush warnings, U.S. ill-prepared for nuclear attack

WASHINGTON (McClatchy Washington Bureau) Mar 4  - Although the Bush 
administration has warned repeatedly about the threat of a terrorist 
nuclear attack and spent more than $300 billin to protect the 
homeland, the government remains ill-prepared to respond to a nuclear 

Experts and government documents suggest that, absent a major 
preparedness push, the U.S. response to a mushroom cloud could be 
worse than the debacle after Hurricane Katrina, possibly contributing 
to civil disorder and costing thousands of lives.

``The United States is unprepared to mitigate the consequences of a 
nuclear attack,'' Pentagon analyst John Brinkerhoff concluded in a 
July 31, 2005, draft of a confidential memo to the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff. ``We were unable to find any group or office with a coherent 
approach to this very important aspect of homeland security.

``This is a bad situation. The threat of a nuclear attack is real, 
and action is needed now to learn how to deal with one.''

Col. Jill Morgenthaler, Illinois' director of homeland security, said 
there's a ``disconnect'' between President Bush's and Vice President 
Dick Cheney's nuclear threat talk and the administration's actions.

``I don't see money being focused on actual response and mitigation 
to a nuclear threat,'' she said.

Interviews by McClatchy Newspapers with more than 15 radiation and 
emergency preparedness experts and a review of internal documents 

o The government has yet to launch an educational program, akin to 
the Cold War-era civil defense campaign promoting fallout shelters, 
to teach Americans how to shield themselves from radiation, 
especially from the fallout plume, which could deposit deadly 
particles up to 100 miles from ground zero.

o Analysts estimate that as many as 300,000 emergency workers would 
be needed after a nuclear attack, but predict that the radiation 
would scare many of them away from the disaster site.

o Hospital emergency rooms wouldn't be able to handle the surge of 
people who were irradiated or the many more who feared they were.

o Medical teams would have to improvise to treat what could be tens 
of thousands of burn victims because most cities have only one or two 
available burn-unit beds. Cham Dallas, director of the University of 
Georgia's Center for Mass Destruction Defense, called the predicament 
``the worst link in our health care wall.''

o Several drugs are in development and one is especially promising, 
but the government hasn't acquired any significant new medicine to 
counteract radiation's devastating effects on victims' blood-forming 
bone marrow.

Over the past three years, several federal agencies have taken some 
steps in nuclear disaster planning. The Department of Health and 
Human Services has drawn up ``playbooks'' for a range of attack 
scenarios and created a Web site to instruct emergency responders in 
treating radiation victims.

The Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is 
geared to use real-time weather data, within minutes of a bombing, to 
create a computer model that charts the likely path of a radioactive 
fallout plume so that the government can warn affected people to take 
shelter or evacuate. The government also has modeled likely effects 
in blast zones.

Capt. Ann Knebel, the U.S. Public Health Service's deputy 
preparedness chief, said her agency is using the models to understand 
how many people in different zones would suffer from blast injuries, 
burns or radiation sickness ``and to begin to match our resources to 
the types of injuries.''

No matter how great the government's response, a nuclear bomb's toll 
would be staggering.

The government's National Planning Scenario, which isn't public, 
projects that a relatively small, improvised 10-kiloton bomb could 
kill hundreds of thousands of people in a medium-sized city and cause 
hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses.

The document, last updated in April 2005, projects that a bomb 
detonated at ground level in Washington, D.C., would kill as many as 
204,600 people, including many government officials, and would injure 
or sicken 90,800. Another 24,580 victims would die of radiation-
related cancer in ensuing years. Radioactive debris would contaminate 
a 3,000-square-mile area, requiring years-long cleanup, it said.

Brinkerhoff, author of the confidential memo for the Joint Chiefs, 
estimated that nearly 300,000 National Guard members, military 
reservists and civil emergency personnel would be needed to rescue, 
decontaminate, process and manage the 1.5 million evacuees.

The job would include cordoning off the blast zone and manning a 200-
mile perimeter around the fallout area to process and decontaminate 
victims, to turn others away from the danger and to maintain order. 
Brinkerhoff estimated that the military would need to provide 140,000 
of the 300,000 responders, but doubted that the Pentagon would have 
that many. And the Public Health Service's Knebel cited studies 
suggesting that the ``fear factor'' would reduce civil emergency 
responders by more than 30 percent.

Planning for an attack seems to evoke a sense of resignation among 
some officials.

``We are concerned about the catastrophic threats and are trying to 
improve our abilities for disasters,'' said Gerald Parker, a deputy 
assistant secretary in Health and Human Services' new Office of 
Preparedness and Response. ``But you have to look at what's pragmatic 
as well.''

Dr. Andrew Garrett, of Columbia University's National Center for 
Disaster Preparedness, put it this way: ``People are just very 
intimidated to take on the problem'' because ``there may not be 
apparent solutions right now.''

The U.S. intelligence community considers it a ``fairly remote'' 
possibility that terrorists will obtain weapons-grade plutonium or 
highly enriched uranium, which is more accessible, to build a nuclear 
weapon, said a senior intelligence official who requested anonymity 
because of the sensitive nature of the information. The official said 
intelligence agencies worry mainly about a makeshift, radioactive 
``dirty bomb'' that would kill at most a few hundred people, 
contaminate part of a city and spread panic.

But concerns about a larger nuclear attack are increasing at a time 
when North Korea is testing atomic weapons and Iran is believed to be 
pursuing them. Al-Qaida's worldwide network of terrorists also 
reportedly has been reconstituted.

The Sept. 11 commission's 2004 report rated a nuclear bombing as the 
most consequential threat facing the nation.

``We called for a maximum effort against the threat,'' Lee Hamilton, 
the panel's vice chairman, told McClatchy Newspapers. ``My impression 
is that we've got a long ways to go. . . . I just think it would 
overwhelm us.''

Dr. Ira Helfand, a Massachusetts emergency care doctor who co-
authored a report on nuclear preparedness last year by the Physicians 
for Social Responsibility, chided the administration for trying ``to 
create a climate of fear rather than to identify a problem and 
address it.'' The doctors' group found the government ``dangerously 
unprepared'' for a nuclear attack.

Government officials say they have drafted playbooks for every sort 
of radioactive attack, from a ``dirty bomb'' to a large, 
sophisticated device.

But radiation experts and government memos emphasize the chaos that a 
bigger bomb could create. Emergency responders could face power 
outages, leaking gas lines, buckled bridges and tunnels, disrupted 
communications from the blast's electromagnetic pulse and streets 
clogged by vehicle crashes because motorists could be blinded by the 
bright flash accompanying detonation.

No equipment exists to shield rescue teams from radiation, and 
survivors would face similar risks if they tried to walk to safety.

Defense analyst Brinkerhoff proposed having troops gradually tighten 
the ring around the blast zone as the radiation diminished, but 
warned that the government lacks the hundreds of radiation meters 
needed to ensure that they wouldn't endanger themselves. He said 
those making rescue forays would need dosimeters to monitor their 

Emergency teams would have no quick test to determine the extent of 
survivors' radiation exposure. They would have to rely on tests for 
white blood cell declines or quiz people about their whereabouts 
during the blast and whether they had vomited.

For those with potentially lethal acute radiation sickness, only 
limited medication is available, said Richard Hatchett, who is 
overseeing nearly $100 million in research on radiation 
countermeasures for the National Institute of Allergies and 
Infectious Diseases.

The Department of Health and Human Services might commit to a limited 
purchase of one promising drug as early as this month. But currently, 
federal health officials plan to fly victims of acute radiation 
sickness to hospitals across the country for bone marrow transplants.

The National Planning Scenario expressed concern that uninformed 
survivors of an attack could be lethally exposed to radiation because 
they failed to seek shelter, preferably in a sealed basement, for 
three to four days while radioactive debris decayed. Another big 
problem: Only a small percentage of Americans store bottled water, 
canned food and other essentials for an ordeal in a shelter.

Helfand said it would be too late to help most people near the blast, 
but that advance education could save many people in the path of the 

Education is critical, he said, because attempting to evacuate could 
``put you on a crowded freeway where you'll be stuck in traffic and 
get the maximum radiation exposure.''

California's emergency services chief, Henry Renteria, said it might 
be time ``to re-establish an urban area radiation shelter program.''

Brinkerhoff wrote that people could build their own radiation-proof 
shelters if the government engaged in ``large-scale civil defense 
planning'' and gave them meters and dosimeters to monitor the 

Since there hasn't been ``any enthusiasm to address this kind of 
preparedness,'' Brinkerhoff concluded, the only choice for most 
people would be to flee.

Fortunes rebound for Europe's last uranium mine

DOLNI ROZINKA, Czech Republic (AFP) - Everything from the faded blue 
overalls donned by the miners to the bone-jolting trains and 
primitive extraction methods seem to cry out for Europe's last 
operating uranium mine to be turned into a museum. 

The Czech government would probably have closed the state-owned Rozna 
mine in 2004 if it had not been for the around 1,000 jobs at stake in 
the small towns and villages nestled in the hills of this relatively 
undeveloped south-east corner of the country.

But last week, industry minister Martin Riman rejected a 640-million 
koruna (22.5-million euro) bid by Australian uranium mining company 
Uran Limited for a 50 percent stake in exploitation of current and 
future uranium reserves.

And he held out the prospect of a new lease of life for the mine if 
research uncovers fresh reserves of the now coveted resource.

"Uran's bid is interesting but we can mine and survey for reserves on 
our own," the minister announced.

The Rozna mine has seen its fortunes improve as the price for 
uranium, used to feed nuclear reactors, soars on concerns about 
global warming and the cost and security of fossil fuel supplies, 
such as coal and oil.

The price hit record highs in February after an eightfold increase 
over the last three years. It had barely budged during the previous 

As a result, Rozna's previously loss-making annual production of 
around 300 tonnes of uranium now turns a profit. "There is about 0.25 
percent of uranium in every tonne extracted compared with about 0.10 
percent for similar operations in India. It is a very respectable 
quality," boasted chief engineer Petr Kriz.

He admits conditions below ground for the 115 miners - the rest of 
the workforce are support staff and employed in processing and 
cleaning operations - appear primitive.

Wire netting and rusting corrugated iron panels and air ducts cover 
the network of tunnels of the 24-floor complex. Engineers cut timber 
supports at the cramped faces where small teams of miners will work 
with the aid of hammer drills and a mechanical claw to pull rocks 
towards waiting wagons.

The Australian company claimed modernisation could boost production 
and profits at Rozna but Kriz argued: "There is not much space, it is 
difficult to use other methods."

The mine was opened in 1958 not for profit, but as part of the Cold 
War uranium mining boom when communist Czechoslovakia was one of the 
main suppliers of the Soviet military-industrial complex.

It was one of half a dozen major uranium mines dotted across the 
country which sent 96,600 tonnes of uranium, currently valued at more 
than 470 billion koruna (16.7 billion euros), to the Soviet Union 
between 1945 and 1989.

"At today's prices we can clearly realise what a fortune was sent by 
socialist Czechoslovakia almost free of charge to the Soviet Union," 
Riman commented dryly.

In the early years of the Czechoslovak industry, the price of uranium 
mining was primarily human. German prisoners of war were used at 
first for the dangerous, radiation-exposed work. The communist 
regime, which seized power in 1948, later sent its political 
prisoners down the mines.

Over 45,000 people were employed in uranium mining in 1954 with 
output and deliveries to the Soviet Union peaking at around 3,000 
tonnes in 1961, just before the Cold War threatened to turn into a 
nuclear conflagration.

In Rozna's drab offices, pictures charting the mine's achievements 
are written in both Czech and Russian, harking back to the brothers-
in-arms production era. Today's managers stress that political 
prisoners were a feature of the earlier post-war mines, but not 

In the 1960's, the environment was mining's main casualty as heavily 
polluting chemical extraction methods were used at some locations. 
The massive, multi-billion koruna clean-up is likely to last another 
40 years. 

When the Cold War ended, so did much of the exports. "The armaments 
race stopped and fuel for power plants started to be prepared from 
nuclear warheads with enormous reserves of this in Russia," recalls 
Jiri Jez, the head of state company Diamo, which runs Rozna. 

In the early 1990's, Czech mining plummeted to 20 percent of its 
average over the previous decade, Jez added. 

The 65-year-old, who has worked with the firm ever since starting out 
as a 17-year-old milling machine operator, now sees a uranium revival 
beckoning not only for Rozna but for other sites in the north and 
east of the country.

Guv plans to cut off N-waste expansion

Huntsman may bypass new legislation and ask regulatory group to cap 
material coming to Utah

SNELLING, S.C. (The Salt Lake Tribune) Mar 4 - l debris is no cause 
for celebration. Chem-Nuclear,  - In this rural county beset by high 
unemployment, the soon-to-arrive day when the local nuclear-waste 
landfill closes its doors to nearly ala disposal site for low-level 
radioactive waste from hospitals and power plants around the nation, 
offers some of the county's few high-paying jobs, provides roughly 10 
percent of its overall budget and pumps $1 million a year into local 
schools. It has also handed out college scholarships and bought 
equipment for police and paramedics. The landfill has long been under 
attack from environmentalists, and a 2000 state law says that 
starting next year, it can accept waste only from South Carolina and 
two other states. But now, as that date draws near, lawmakers are 
considering extending the deadline to 2023. Locals say that changing 
the law is vital and that outsiders just don't understand how 
important the landfill is. In its heyday from 1980 to the early 
1990s, Chem-Nuclear employed hundreds of people. In 1980, it 
collected 2.4 million cubic feet of the solid, radioactive waste, 
which is stored in steel containers that are put in concrete vaults 
and then buried in long trenches. Bought last year by Utah-based 
EnergySolutions, it is now one of three landfills in the nation for 
low-level radioactive waste. Utah and Washington have the others. 
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. took blow after blow last week over his 
decision on a radioactive-waste oversight bill. Partisans on both 
sides used words like "wimp" and "coward" after he let SB155 go into 
law without his signature. Nuclear-waste company EnergySolutions 
congratulated itself and its friends in the Legislature for winning 
the latest round of Utah's waste wars. They had rolled the wildly 
popular governor and cleared the way for an expansion Huntsman vowed 
to block. Nuclear-waste opponents, revved by Huntsman's successful 
face-off over the federal government's Divine Strake, were bitterly 
disappointed he did not use a veto to make it clear, as he has said 
throughout his term, "our state will not become the dumping ground 
for other states' nuclear waste." Around 1,000 of them urged the 
governor to veto the bill. But, now that the fog of the 2007 
Legislature has started to clear, it looks like Huntsman landed a 
sucker punch. He tucked a few lines in his SB155 announcement that 
basically say he will use another tool to rein in the nuclear-waste 
company. And, if he succeeds at capping waste coming to the company's 
mile-square landfill in Tooele County, EnergySolutions won't be open 
another 30 years, but maybe only a few. The move has the potential to 
ripple across a nation that has come to rely on Utah for affordable 
nuclear-waste disposal and to cripple a company built on 20-year 
contracts. "If Huntsman's good on his word," said Vanessa Pierce, 
executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, or 
HEAL, "then this is going to be a fight to determine who has the real 
power when it comes to nuclear waste: the governor or 
EnergySolutions." Neither the Governor's Office nor EnergySolutions 
is willing to publicly admit as much. Huntsman's regulatory and legal 
team is drafting a promised letter to the Northwest Interstate 
Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste to seek its help in capping 
the waste allowed at the Utah site. In effect, he is using his role 
as a member of the federally established waste-control group to say 
"no" to further EnergySolutions expansion. Mike Mower, the governor's 
spokesman, declined to reveal what the letter will say or to predict 
how well the strategy would work. All Mower would say is, "Governor 
Huntsman is committed to keeping additional waste out of our state." 
EnergySolutions, the nation's largest nuclear-waste company, also had 
little to add. Greg Hopkins, vice president for public relations at 
the company, insists the company got what it wanted with the 
enactment of SB155. The bill protects his company from what other 
waste companies describe as an "intimidation provision," a section of 
Utah law that requires companies to receive the approval of local 
elected officials, the Legislature and the governor if they want to 
establish or greatly expand a waste site. "We're focused on 
maintaining our business and maintaining the path we've been on," 
said Hopkins, who used to be Huntsman's lead political fundraiser. 
Hopkins would not comment on whether EnergySolutions recognizes the 
cap Huntsman announced Tuesday. "We're not angry about it because we 
don't know what it means," he said. An answer to that could come in 
the next three months, when members of the Northwest Compact have 
their next meeting. The Northwest Compact is a radioactive-waste club 
with 11 member states, including Utah. Low-level radioactive waste 
produced within those states - in industry, medicine and research - 
all has a place to go, a disposal site in Richland, Wash. Commercial 
waste from outside the states is not allowed in. Congress set up this 
system in 1980 because the three states with disposal sites - 
Washington, South Carolina and Nevada - complained they had become 
the nation's radioactive-waste dumping grounds and they were tired of 
it. Although Congress carved up the states into 10 regions, only 
three regions established sites for their low-level radioactive 
waste. Nevada's site began leaking, and it was closed. But no new 
disposal was then built - until EnergySolutions, then called 
Envirocare of Utah, came along. In November 1991, Envirocare 
President Khosrow Semnani joined state Radiation Control Bureau Chief 
Larry Anderson in petitioning the Northwest Compact for permission to 
open the gates to Envirocare. And ever since, the Utah site has taken 
all but the hottest waste from outside the Northwest Compact. A few 
years later, Anderson and Semnani would be embroiled in a public 
extortion-bribery scandal that resulted in tax charges and fines for 
both and more than a year in federal prison for the retired 
regulator. And former Gov. Norm Bangerter, who was in office when 
Utah opened the gates for low-level waste, would repay a $65,000 
personal loan that Semnani made to him shortly after he had left 
office. But Utah's oversight system for radioactive waste had been 
established. And, state regulators would grant more than 80 license 
changes at the site in its 19 years. The result: EnergySolutions has 
become the nation's biggest site, accepting all but a small fraction 
of the nation's low-level waste. More than 16.6 million cubic feet 
flowed to the Utah site last year through the Northwest Compact, 
including radiation-tainted dirt from government cleanups and 
commercial waste. Envirocare joined with lawmakers and the governor 
two years ago to ban the hotter Class B and C radioactive waste. But 
when the company announced plans to expand onto acreage adjoining its 
mile-square site, Huntsman said "no." The company's friends in the 
Legislature, determined to help a generous campaign contributor, 
passed a bill to take away the requirement that the governor approve 
new waste sites and expansions. But Huntsman vetoed the bill, and the 
veto held up. This year, with SB155, a veto-proof majority of the 
Legislature and the company insisted that political leaders need no 
say over what happens at the Tooele County site as long as it stays 
within current boundaries and as long as it takes only Class A waste. 
But, with one sentence in his SB155 announcement Tuesday, Huntsman 
asserted executive branch authority. Michael Garner, executive 
director of the Northwest Compact, would not predict what might 
happen when member-states consider Huntsman's request at their 
upcoming meeting. Pierce, the HEAL director, wondered aloud whether 
EnergySolutions would acknowledge the compact's authority and whether 
lawmakers would force the governor to let expansion continue at the 
Tooele County site without his interference. Her group has struggled, 
sometimes against the Huntsman administration's radiation regulators, 
to stanch the flow of waste to Utah. "We are cautiously hopeful that 
the governor is going to use every power at his disposal to limit the 
waste going" to the Utah site, she said. "If that sticks in the long 
term, it is more than we could have ever hoped for, but there are so 
many legal and political obstacles in the way." EnergySolutions could 
fight in court. Or it could take the fight all the way to Congress, 
where congressional representatives from 36 states might kill the 
compact system altogether to protect their access to nuclear disposal 
in Utah. "We could be gearing up," said Pierce, "to see a really 
nasty battle between EnergySolutions and the state."

Yucca Issue Presents Dilemma for Democrats: Candidates Can't Please 
Nevadans and S.C. Residents at Same

Mar. 4--Democratic candidates need more than quarters to play the 
political slot machine that is Nevada's January 2008 caucus. 

They need to oppose opening a nuclear waste repository in the state. 

While pulling that lever might be a winner in Nevada, it's a clunker 
in South Carolina. Palmetto State residents and nuclear power 
officials long have expected to send tons of high-level waste from 
South Carolina to a site near Las Vegas. 

Next year's Democratic caucus in far-away Nevada -- the second of 
three critical, early tests of a candidate's strength -- increases 
the possibility that high-level nuclear waste currently being stored 
in South Carolina will remain here longer than planned. 

Most Nevadans are strongly opposed to a plan to open a national 
repository for waste at Yucca Mountain, a hollowed-out ridge about 
100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. 

No Democratic candidate seems eager to tell Nevada voters Yucca 
should serve as a national repository. All have either voted against 
it or voiced concerns about the project. 

One candidate, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., recently 
changed his position on Yucca. He voted to move forward with the 
project five years ago but now says he opposes Yucca and believes 
waste should be stored at the facilities where it is produced. 

Half of the Republican candidates -- who don't face caucus voters in 
Nevada -- support opening Yucca and have voted to do so. A couple -- 
former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts 
Gov. Mitt Romney -- would not say if they would open Yucca. The 
response of the Romney campaign to a pair of questions about Yucca 
and nuclear waste storage did not even include the word "Yucca."

Without a national repository or some other means of handling high-
level waste from spent fuel, hundreds of tons of waste, stored at 
various nuclear facilities in South Carolina, would remain here and 
would not be shipped to Yucca, as energy officials here have long 

Skeptics wonder if Yucca ever will open, noting the project has 
endured nearly 30 years of study and stalls. 

holding on 

Nuclear facilities across the Palmetto State long have had to store 
their own waste. It is not known precisely how much is stored here. 
Officials have said the amounts are significant. 

--Savannah River Site, the state's most visible nuclear facility, has 
36 million gallons of waste, said Julie Petersen, a spokeswoman for 
the Department of Energy. 

--A Jenkinsville nuclear facility operated by South Carolina Electric 
& Gas produces about 26 tons of waste every 18 months, said Robert 
Yanity, a public affairs official at SCANA, SCE&G's parent. 

--Progress Energy's nuclear plant in Hartsville has stored 194 metric 
tons of waste, according to Andy Cole, a communications specialist 
for the company. 

--Officials at Duke Energy, which operates five nuclear facilities in 
York and Oconee counties, cited security concerns in not revealing 
how much waste is stored at their plants. 

And as nuclear facilities here continue to run, they continue to 
produce more waste. 

Some nuclear power companies want to expand their facilities to meet 
what they believe will be a growing demand for energy that does not 
contribute to global warming. 

More nuclear power means more waste, however. 

Nuclear officials say waste in South Carolina is stored safely and 
their facilities have the capacity to continue storing waste for the 
short term. But they won't define "short term."

A report last year from the U.S. Senate's Committee on Environment 
and Public Works estimated waste stored at nuclear plants across the 
country can be safely held there for 100 years. 

The problem is the federal government is breaking a promise to the 
nuclear industry and its bill-paying customers, said Progress 
spokesman Cole. 

Power companies and customers have paid hundreds of millions of 
dollars in fees to the federal government as part of a 1982 agreement 
that called for the construction of a national repository. Progress 
Energy's Hartsville plant has paid about $150 million over the past 
25 years, Cole said. 

Power companies have sued the federal government over its failure to 
open a site. Some have settled claims for millions. However, the 
Senate report, compiled when Republicans held a majority, estimated 
the government's liability could reach $56 billion. 

"It costs us a lot of money to store spent fuel, and that cost is 
passed on to our customers," Cole said. "It's like paying your 
mortgage and renting your house at the same time."

taking a risk 

Opponents of Yucca, however, question whether waste can be stored 
there safely. 

"As Energy secretary, I saw no convincing scientific evidence that 
Yucca Mountain was an appropriate site for high-level nuclear waste," 
said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the Democratic presidential 
candidate who was Energy Department secretary during the Clinton 
administration. "We learned rainwater travels from the surface down 
to the level where the waste would be stored much faster than anyone 
expected. That poses a risk that radiation could escape from Yucca 
Mountain and reach the aquifer below."

While Richardson said he opposes Yucca, he did not kill the project 
when he was head of the Energy Department, a fact he will have to 
explain to Nevada voters. 

Yucca is a front-burner issue in Nevada, one of the first things 
candidates are asked about when they campaign in the state. 

Nuclear storage, though, does not generate the same passion in South 

Some government officials in the state want to continue accepting low-
level waste because it brings in revenue. But they and others want 
the high-level waste moved to Yucca. 

Nevadans remain fiercely opposed to having their state serve as, in 
their words, "the nation's nuclear dumping ground."

Dina Titus, minority leader of Nevada's state senate, said Democratic 
presidential candidates have no chance of winning the Nevada caucus 
if they don't oppose Yucca. 

"You need to be able to do that for two reasons," said Titus, a 
Democrat who has taught political science at the University of Nevada-
Las Vegas for 30 years. "First, there's popular opinion. Secondly, no 
leading political figures would endorse you if you don't oppose Yucca 

Titus said caucus voters tend to be the most active members of their 
party -- and the most strongly opposed to Yucca. 

Still, supporting Yucca is apparently not a deathblow in a statewide 
general election in Nevada. 

Over the vociferous opposition of the state's political leadership, 
President George W. Bush signed a law in 2002 designating Yucca as a 
national repository. 

Two years later, he carried Nevada on his way to re-election. 

Democrats looking to win Nevada's caucus next year -- and grab 
momentum toward their party's nomination -- must grapple with the 
challenge of keeping voters in Nevada and South Carolina happy when 
many want a different outcome on the same issue. 

Edwards' change of heart on the issue illustrates the difficulty of 
that challenge. He is counting on success in his native state's 
primary, which follows Nevada by a week. Edwards has attempted to 
keep himself balanced on the political high wire stretching from the 
Palmetto State to Nevada. 

"To the extent possible, the waste should be stored where it's 
created and neither Nevada nor South Carolina should serve as the 
nation's dumping grounds," he said in a statement issued by his 
campaign. "Waste can be safely stored where it is produced while we 
develop a long-term solution that will not put anyone's health or 
safety at risk."

Sandy Perle 
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations 
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc. 
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714 Extension 2306 
Fax:(949) 296-1144

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 
Personal Website: http://sandy-travels.com/ 

More information about the RadSafe mailing list