In rural Tennessee lies a small uranium processing plant. In
operation since the 1960s, its primary activity today is converting
nuclear warhead material into a form no longer usable for weapons,
but suitable for nuclear power plants.
Last year, the facility experienced a leak in a transfer line,
spilling some nine gallons of uranium solution onto a floor. The
company took appropriate cleanup measures, and immediately notified
the Nuclear Regulatory Committee, which investigated.
Their conclusions? Had the leak not drained onto a floor, but into
some sort of bowl-shaped container, the fluid might have been able to
amplify its own weak level of radiation. Had a worker not wearing
protective gear been nearby at that particular moment, they might
have received a dangerous, or even fatal dose. None of these events
happened, of course, but even if they had, the risk to the public at
large would still have been zero. Zero. None. Zip.
The NRC issued a reprimand to the plant operator, Nuclear Fuel
Services Inc, and ordered the hiring of an outside team of experts
for to review all safety practices. Ordinarily the action would have
gone into the public record immediately. But because NFSI supplies
fuel to the U.S. Navy, the DOE had previously required all
documents sealed for further review.
You might think this is the end of an amazingly boring non-story.
Not so. A year later, that review finally happened, and the
commission decided there was no national security threat from
disclosing the event. And so our alarmist media learned of it.
Reaction was swift. "Uncontrolled Nuclear Reaction Possible!"
screamed news stories. "Public Kept in Dark!" "Veil of
Secrecy Must Be Lifted!" Papers in London and Paris even picked
up the story, repeating the alarmist calls verbatim. While some of
the more responsible journalists eventually admitted there was no
risk to the public, they usually did so in the final paragraph of a
lengthy story, ensuring most of their readers would not be burdened
by that inconvenient truth.
Environmental groups were even more shrill. The Sierra Club's
anti-nuclear task force went into immediate overtime, demanding to
know why the company wasn't fined, or even shut down. A SWAT team of
Sierra Club activists descended upon the site, where they promptly
organized public meetings for "concerned citizens," and
called for the NRC to hold public hearings to explain their actions.
Combining innuendo and hand-waving, they attempted to convince area
residents their property and very lives were at stake.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why clean, cheap, safe nuclear
power is dead on the vine in this country. It's why we still burn
millions of tons of coal each year, despite the horrendous cost in
environmental damage and the thousands of lives lost to coal mining.
It's why widespread use of electric cars will still result in
enormous amounts of toxic emissions, and why the "hydrogen
economy" can never be practical.
To those of you who care about the environment, I say this. If you
want to do some good -- go and protest the Sierra Club. Demand more
responsible, biased reporting by your news media. And let your
government representatives know you're too educated to fall for such
manipulative fear tactics.