LD-26 Senate race goes nuclear

by David Safier

When I say the LD-26 Senate race is going nuclear, I'm not speaking metaphorically.

Cap'n Al Melvin, who will heretofore be referred to as Atomc Al, has come out in favor of dotting Arizona with nuclear power plants, each the size of the huge Palo Verde facility outside Phoenix. But that doesn't begin to describe the nuclear future he sees for Arizona. Atomic Al wants to make Arizona the nuclear waste dump for the nation.

Challenger Cheryl Cage thinks this is a disastrous, out-of-touch idea, and she has issued a strong reply to Melvin's nuclear notions.

Melvin wrote an op ed in last week's Explorer detailing his love for all things nuclear. Except he doesn't use the word "nuclear" much. He prefers "atomic." "Nuclear" sounds so . . . so dirty, I guess.

He writes about "atomic energy producers" — otherwise known as nuclear power plants — and "atomic energy recycling" — otherwise known as nuclear waste dumps that reprocess some of the radioactive waste for reuse in nuclear power plants and leave the rest to be disposed of somehow, somewhere in Arizona, where it will remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years.

How much atomic energy recycling nuclear waste does Melvin see in Arizona's future? Enough to put about $5 billion a year in our state tax coffers and cover the entire cost of K-12, community college and university education for the state.

Try to picture it. Arizona would collect highly radioactive nuclear waste from all over the country, truck it down our poorly maintained highways, then stick it . . . somewhere. No one in the world knows what to do with nuclear waste in the long term, and in the U .S., no one wants to offer their state as the final resting place for everyone's radioactive garbage. No one, that is, except Atomic Al, who says, Ship it all here — make sure there's enough to generate $5 billion annually in taxes — and we'll figure out what to do with it.

Cage wrote a counter op ed in this week's Explorer. She's appalled at the idea of a radioactive Arizona future and debunks many of the facts and figures Melvin throws around in his op ed.

Expect to hear more about this in the future, from me and, I hope, from traditional media outlets. This is a question about what Arizona's future should be, and the answer we choose will be with us for a long, long time.

0 responses to “LD-26 Senate race goes nuclear

  1. Thanks for the alert on this. The answer with what we should do with our nuclear waste will definitely, “be with us a long, long time,” as you say in your closing.
    Regarding nuclear waste storage from reactors, the courts have ruled that instead of the Environmental Protection Agency having to design waste disposal for 10,000 years, as it had previously ruled, the EPA will instead require that waste disposal be designed for 1,000,000 years.
    However, nuclear waste from reactors is only one waste step. There is waste from mining, which is primarily in the form of U-238 (half-life of 4.5 billion years), from milling, also primarily U-238. There is waste from the conversion, enrichment and reconversion processes, also primarily U-238. Although the wastes of these steps are primarily in the form of U-238, there are also other many other isotopes to be concerned with, each with their own half-lives and associated problems.
    On top of all that scheming for dumping on Arizona with the nation’s nuclear waste (and as Al said, the world’s), there is no real way to compensate the state government with $5 billion per year. That claim is sheer boosterism. The state has no mechanism for such collection of fees or taxes. And any such law designed to raise that much money would be a good candidate for a law suit under the Interstate Commerce Clause.