Unclear nuclear policy threatens
By Curt Andersen
Green Bay News-Chronicle
An Aug. 20 story by Josh Gelina of The Augusta Chronicle
tells the disturbing story about the potential disposal
of liquid nuclear waste that might spell bad news for
Following the decision by a federal judge to remove radioactive
waste from the Savannah River Site, South Carolina state
health officials sent a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer
Abraham asking him to follow federal laws on the handling
of nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site.
Currently, the federal government must consult with states
before disposing of nuclear waste from states that house
it. Officials from the Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory and Washington State's Hanford
Nuclear Reservation signed onto the letter.
Abraham wrote a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert
asking him to rewrite the Nuclear Waste Policy of 1982,
changing the status of the waste to low level instead
of high level, allowing it to be mixed with grout and
buried in the state, claiming it to be "environmentally
According to the report, the stockpile of waste at the
Savannah River Site contains a radioactive reading of
400 million curies. The Department of Energy's plans to
leave some of the waste buried at the site would leave
about 20 million curies.
David Wilson, the chief of the department's Bureau of
Land and Waste Management, said, "One curie could
certainly cause a significant amount of problems to a
This is an issue for people in Wisconsin because of the
Wolf River Batholith, a geological feature covering more
than 1,000 square miles in Northeast Wisconsin, which
was proposed by the energy department as a potential site
for large-scale nuclear waste disposal. Additionally,
the Bush administration is pushing for more nuclear power
and new plants.
Creating more radioactive waste increases the chance
that Wisconsin will be fingered to host thousands of tons
of it from all over the country.
A change in what constitutes low-level or high-level
waste might allow Wisconsin nuclear plants to bury their
"low-level" waste either at the nuclear plant,
or perhaps in one or more of the Crandon Mine's shafts,
or in one of the many mines planned in the Batholith area
of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Claire Schmidt, local issues coordinator for Clean Wisconsin,
said, "Wisconsin may be asked to host the second
permanent nuclear waste facility in the country, even
though studies have shown that storing nuclear waste in
the Batholith could expose our groundwater and Great Lakes
This says nothing about property values and tourism.
Wisconsin initially faced the threat of a nuclear repository
in the Wolf River Batholith in the 1980s, when the site
passed the energy department's screening criteria for
Clean Wisconsin's report, however, shows that the Batholith
contains many of the screening factors that should have
disqualified the site. These factors include proximity
to populated areas in Shawano, Clintonville and Waupaca
and their rivers, streams, wetlands and protected areas,
such as the Nicolet National Forest and the Wolf National
Wild and Scenic River.
Now we have another reason to be concerned about the
Bush administration and the coalition of mining and nuclear
power corporations that might profit from a mine in Northeast
Wisconsin. There were enough reasons before this lunacy.