The answer is no, do not put off building new sources of nuclear energy. The only reason we do not have preferred methods developed and in place for the storage of nuclear waste is that the administration, the DOE in Washington, D.C., and politicians from all states have not made it a priority. There is a general lack of will to make decisions based on what's best for America. Rather decisions, or a lack of decisions, are based on what's best for an ideology or a party or what's going to get me elected. The tough decisions or the potentially controversial decisions are put off until we are in a crisis. We cannot afford to wait -- we need energy and we cannot depend on any country other than our own to provide that energy for us over the long term.
Other countries have developed ways for long-term storage -- some better than others. France has plants that glassify waste but yet we are recreating that technology at Hanford with "so much help" from so many sources (Defense board, EPA, Washington and Oregon states, interested outsider groups, etc.) that there is doubt at this point whether the plant will ever operate. We need to do much better. We need leadership to step up and set the priority. We need to understand the urgency.
When Hanford was built it took only a couple of years to build reactors and processing plants and get them operational. Were some mistakes made? Yes. Are we paying for those mistakes today? Yes. But in general Hanford was successful and contributed energy to power the northwest and provided materials needed to win a war. Today it takes in excess of 10 to 20 years or longer to license and build a nuclear reactor or related plant. The process needs to be improved. There must be a logical balance between the protecting of the environment and meeting the energy needs of the country in a cost-effective way.
The time is now to think and act like one country and collectively and aggressively utilize all forms of energy available to us and build the associated plants, develop the strategies needed to deal with and minimize within reason environmental impacts and develop and put in place long term storage capabilities.
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-- LENNY PEKINS, Richland