blank.gif (51 bytes) We Don't Need No
Stinkin' Nuke Dump!

Science Proves On-Site RemediationOf Radoiative Materials is Feasible
by John McClaughry

evadans are rightly concerned about the federal government transforming their state into the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Despite vigorous efforts by the state’s congressional delegation, the federal wheels keep turning, and every year the Yucca Mountain repository comes closer to completion.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that before long the nation won’t even need a nuclear waste repository. New scientific breakthroughs have proven the feasibility of on-site remediation of radioactive materials. The trick is to get the U.S. Department of Energy to catch on.

There are three different processes already lab-tested which have demonstrated the conversion of radioactive waste materials into harmless and stable elements. A group called Clean Energy Technologies Inc. (CETI) , headed by Dr. James Patterson in Sarasota, Florida, reported its findings at the American Nuclear Society’s annual meeting in June 1997. CETI, using a four stage flow-through electrolysis cell with palladium catalyst, has sharply diminished the radioactivity of a uranium-thorium loaded carbon matrix.

In Kentucky, the Cincinnati Group, using a similar cell, has converted radioactive thorium nitrate into stable copper and titanium with isotopic concentrations radically different from what occurs in nature (thus ruling out inadvertent contamination). The Cincinnati Group is even selling a table top radioactivity remediation kit to college physics departments.

Both of these processes make establishment scientists uncomfortable because the underlying theory of nuclear transmutation is not fully understood. A third process, pioneered by Dr. Paul M. Brown at Nuclear Solutions of Aurora, Colorado, operates on well-understood physical principles. Brown bombards radioactive materials with high energy gamma radiation. His results show the photo-disintegration of the most significant waste isotopes (strontium 90, cesium 137, iodine 129, and technetium 99) into stable byproducts (in the worst case, cesium 130) within days.

These processes can and have been independently verified and have given rise to a number of patent applications. It will of course take considerable engineering work to design an on-site processing facility to locate at nuclear plants, but there is no scientific problem to be solved, In fact, there are four suitable waste separation processes that are or have been in large scale use, mainly to separate plutonium from other reactor wastes.

Department of Boondoggles

hat is the U.S. Department of Energy doing about this? Apparently not much. A low level DOE-sponsored group at Los Alamos has reportedly been very interested in Brown’s results, but there appears to be no awareness at the top of the agency, let alone any sense of urgency.

Why not? Two reasons. First, building Yucca Mountain is a multi-billion, multi-year project, which will feed a lot of contractors very well for a long time. No one involved in this boondoggle wants to find out that there is a far less costly alternative process that will make their labor (and paychecks) unnecessary.

The other reason is the ignorance of the Nevada congressional delegation. When I brought this good news to the attention of Senators Reid and Bryan, the communication disappeared into the memory hole. The same thing happened in the office of Rep. Jim Gibbons. Only Rep. John Ensign’s office showed a glimmer of interest, but even there the issue has apparently not gone beyond low-level staffers passing papers to each other.

True, Ensign and Reid were locked in a hot race for the Senate, but there is no excuse for not putting their staffs on the case and letting DOE know that there is a way of solving the nation’s nuclear waste problem without trucking all that stuff to Nevada. It will take strong and continuous pressure from Nevada’s delegation to bend DOE away from its beloved Yucca Mountain project. Now, however, the delegation will have the momentum of a scientific breakthrough on their side instead of just the howls of their anguished constituents.

As a taxpayer, though not a Nevadan, I hope Nevada’s congressional delegation gets on the stick. Whoever grabs this issue and runs with it first will probably become an all-time political hero of the Silver State.  NJ

John McClaughery, a former nuclear engineer and senior policy advisor in the Reagan White House, shares his reviews from Vermont, where he is president of the Ethan Allen Institute (eai@ethanallen.org).


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