Thursday, September 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
'via Blog this'
Friday, September 23, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Review & Outlook: The Buffett Alternative Tax - WSJ.com
Monday, September 19, 2011
President of the Unionized States - Michael Barone - National Review Online
Friday, September 16, 2011
I received this as an email today. Unfortunately under our current leadership
"This deserves to be passed around the Internet forever. It took a person on the outside - looking in - to see what we take for granted!"
GOD BLESS AMERICA !!!
How on earth were they able to respond united as one human being? Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put into collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit, which no money can buy. What on earth unites the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their history? Their economic Power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace, I thought things over, I reached but only one conclusion... Only freedom can work such miracles.
LightSquared: The Next Big Obama Scandal - HUMAN EVENTS
Please take the time to read the following and let your fury be known. These are desperate times and we must make sure that Obama will be a one term President. Pass the link on to every one on your email list!
The American Spectator : Deep Corruption at the Obama Justice Department
Friday, September 9, 2011
AGENDA ITEMS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETING ON MONDAY, SEP 12.
PRESENTATION OF CERTIFICATE OF ACHIEVEMENT FOR EXCELLENCE IN FINANCIAL REPORTING – City Manager Richard Pearce is very pleased to report that the city has received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 19th consecutive year. Dennis R. Locke, CGFO, Finance Director for the City of Spartanburg, is scheduled to appear at our City Council meeting to present this certificate. A Certificate of Achievement recognizes our efforts to make sure that our city audit is clearly presented in a format that is both simple to understand and provides accurate information for anyone reviewing our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report [CAFR].
CUMBEE CENTER TO ASSIST ABUSED PERSONS PURPLE RIBBON CAMPAIGN – OCTOBER IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH - Barbara Sanders of the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons (CAAP) has written, requesting permission to place purple ribbons in our downtown area during October as part of October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month observances. Each year, too many South Carolinians lose their lives as victims of domestic violence. Our headlines often tell the sad tale of our citizens who find themselves in abusive, and oftentimes, violent episodes in what should be a sanctuary from our hectic lifestyles--our homes. Barbara will be with us at our Council meeting to present their ideas on a fitting observance in October.
Our Zoning Ordinance limits the sign size to only 75 square feet, and its height is limited to 18 feet. Upon discovering these Zoning Ordinance violations, Zoning Official Tommy Paradise notified the property owners of this problem. These owners,together with the tenant, have contacted me. They are seeking relief from our Zoning Ordinance requirements.
They cite several considerations in support of their request:
1. The County approved the sign.
2. The property is 160 feet from Richland Avenue, and the sign is needed for motorists to locate the restaurant.
3. The cost of removal would be prohibitive, and a burden to the business to modify.
Planning Department Director Ed Evans has provided his memo with background information related to this request. He will also be available at our Council meeting to answer any questions Council might have.
CARRIAGE PARK SEWER SYSTEM REPLACEMENT – Christine Langton, on behalf of the Carriage Park Condominium Board of Directors, is requesting replacement of the sewer system at this development. Based on the investigation and cost estimates done by Engineering and Utilities Department Director Larry Morris, it will cost approximately $68,000 to replace the sewer lines in this development. As we did with the residents of Gem Lakes Estates with their sewer system improvements, the Carriage Park Board is asking to be able to reimburse us over a period of ten years.
POWDERHOUSE LANDING – DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT AMENDMENT - Todd Bailey, President, Powderhouse Development, Inc. has written regarding his development known as Powderhouse Landing. In the Development Agreement City Council approved in2007, the roads to be built in this subdivision were going to be built as private roads. Mr. Bailey has written requesting modification of this agreement to instead allow these roads to be public. Engineering and Utilities Department Director Larry Morris and his staff have inspectedthese roads, and determined them to have been built to city standards.
ACCEPTANCE OF AN FAA AIRPORT LIGHTING GRANT - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded a grant totaling $1,120,140, which covers 95% of the cost to replace our ten-year old airport lighting system at the Aiken Municipal Airport. The South Carolina Aeronautics Commission will pay 2.5% of the lighting system cost, $29,477 and the City is paying $29,478 toward this project, which was budgeted in our FY 2011-2012 budget that City Council already approved. In order to meet the requirements of this grant, City Council must approve acceptance of it.
APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS – I have reappointed Rose Lee Fox to the Recreation Commission. Councilmember Price has appointed Leroy Myrick to the Community Development Board and reappointed John Wallace to the Recreation Commission.
SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING OF AN ORDINANCE TO REZONE PROPERTY OWNED BY CROWELL & CO. ON FOX HAVEN DRIVE FROM PLANNED RESIDENTIAL TO RESIDENTIAL SINGLE FAMILY (RS-6) - Crowell & Co., as owner of a 0.34 acre tract of undeveloped real estate on Fox Haven Drive in Fox Haven Subdivision, has made an application to rezone this property. It is currently zoned Planned Residential. They seek to rezone it to RS-6 [Residential, 6,000-square-foot lots]. As Planning Commission Chair Bill Reynolds' July 13, 2011 memo explains, this application was spurred by a 50-foot wide gas pipeline easement that separates this tract from the rest of the Fox Haven Subdivision. This tract also connects two subdivisions: Fox Haven and Deodar Plantation. After the Planning Commission's review of this application, the members present unanimously determined [5-0], it is appropriate for approval because it is within the Comprehensive Plan provisions for this area of Aiken.
SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING OF AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE CONCEPT PLAN FOR THE FILLAGE AT HOUNDSLAKE - The principals of Gaul and Kisner, LLC, have applied for approval of amendments to their concept plan for their Planned Residential development--known as The Village at Houndslake. It is located at the intersection of Pine Log Road and Alpha Drive. Council approved a concept plan for this original development on February 10, 2003. The minutes from that approval [and the Planning Commission action on it] are attached. The 2003 plan showed 37 attached, two-story, single-family dwellings grouped as three to four per unit. Of this total number, 23 units were proposed to be built outside the looped street and 14 within the confines of this loop. One condition of your 2003 approval was preservation of 10 existing trees shown on the development plan.
Now, the developers wish to modify the 2003 concept plan as follows:
1. New units to be built inside the loop are proposed to be 1.5 story, and not 2 stories, as well as detached instead of attached. The number of units would be reduced from the 14 originally approved to 7 to be built inside the loop instead.
2. Establishment of an 8-to 10-foot wide protection zone for the grand specimen deodar cedar that is within this development area. Interim Coordinator for Urban and Community Forestry of the S.C. Forestry Commission, Jimmy Walters, has provided a detailed course of action for steps to minimize the impact of the inner loop development on a large, existing Grand Specimen deodar cedar. His June 6, 2011 memo is included in these materials for your reference. Several citizens have expressed concerns about the impact of this development on the existing grand specimen deodar cedar. Their comments are also attached for your review. City Arborist Tom Rapp has marked off this area in white stripes.
Several letters from concerned citizens are included in these materials, including a July 24, 2011 letter from Susan and Bob Scherphorn addressed to City Council. Since our August 8 meeting, additional communiqué’s have been received, and are also included for your review.
The Planning Commission members in attendance voted unanimously [5-0] to approve the July 13, 2011 Revised Site Plan which shows 7 detached, single-family residences upon these conditions that:
1. The house in the bend of Amberly Circle be located as far away from the two Deodar Cedars as possible, that temporary construction fencing be placed as determined by the City Horticulturist to protect these two trees during construction, and that the protected area be permanent;
2. The design of the houses be substantially similar to the attached townhouse units;
3. Conditions of this approval be shown on the Concept Plan as revised;
4. Applicants execute an agreement listing the conditions of approval; and
5. The agreement be recorded by the City at the RMC Office within 90 days of approval by City Council.
SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING OF AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE ZONING ORDINANCE REGARDING DWELLING UNIT DENSITY IN THE PLANNED RESIDENTIAL ZONING DISTRICT - At your joint meeting with your Planning Commission members this year, you asked them to review the Planned Residential [PR] portion of the Zoning Ordinance to see what, if any, revisions to it would be appropriate. This review has also been spurred by the increased number of apartment construction projects within our city limits. Council has pursued a policy that all proposed residential-use developments / annexations need to be zoned PR. Planning Department staff has encountered concerns from developers with this policy, which is seen as too restrictive by developers regarding dwelling unit density. Developers have instead sought RML or RMH zoning, and these zones do not provide for Council approval of a development plan. Planning Commission has reviewed this section of our Zoning Ordinance. The Commission members present voted unanimously [5-0] to revise the existing Zoning Ordinance provisions as shown in the Exhibit attached to Chairman Reynolds' July 13, 2011 memo. These proposed amendments include recommended City Council action to:
1. Delete the requirement that an entire project must have at least 20% green space to instead read that the predominantly single-family residential section have at least 20% open space; the portion of the development that will be built as multifamily residences have at least 40% open space, and any predominantly nonresidential portion of the proposed development have open space set aside as described in the Planned Commercial zone requirements of our Zoning Ordinance.
2. Delete existing provisions that do not allow the multifamily open space development area to be credited toward the total 20% open space requirement in the proposed PR development.
3. Add a provision to allow City Council to vary these open space percentages as Council may determine is needed for creative PR development design.
SECOND READING AND PUBIC HEARING OF AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE ZONING ORDINANCE REGARDING REVISIONS TO THE PLANNED COMMERCIAL ZONE - At this year's joint meeting with your Planning Commission members, several action items were discussed. One of these items was review of the Use Table for the Planned Commercial [PC] zone to determine what revisions to it were warranted. This Council request resulted from concerns amongst you that certain uses were permitted by right in PC-zoned tracts, and Council involvement with development of these tracts is currently limited to site plan approval, intensity of development, appearance, and related issues.
With these concerns in mind, our Planning Commission has reviewed the Use Tables related to Planned Commercial developments. In addition to Council's concerns, Planning Commission members took what they consider to be two additional, related issues under advisement:
1. Incorporating previous Planning Director interpretations into the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance related to Planned Commercial [PC] development.
2. Adding language to the Zoning Ordinance to clarify that City Council has authority to grant waivers from Zoning Ordinance provisions except to Section 4.3.8, Planned Commercial primary section and to Section 3.1.6 Planned Commercial Use Table.
The notices given by Planning Commission of its work session, public hearing, and public vote are included in these materials. After their review, Planning Commission members present voted unanimously [5-0] to send
Council their recommendations that:
1. The Use Table not be changed, and if there are specific uses that City Council thinks should be prohibited in PC developments, that they so advise the Commission so that a recommendation can be made on such specific possible amendments;
2. The amendments incorporating the five interpretations made by our Planning Director be adopted; and
3. The amendments making it clear that City Council may waive any provision of the Zoning Ordinance except for Section 4.3.8, and the Use Table at Section 3.1.6, be adopted.
REPORT ISSUED FROM “PROJECT 21”: Several graduate students from Columbia University School of Journalism visited Aiken this summer to profile issues faced by our residents over 65 years of age, who make up 21.9% of our population. According to their report, our City has a demographic profile that the rest of our United States will have by 2050. They wrote very positively about the foresight Aiken has shown in identifying potential problems and benefits with this population composition. This report was published by Project 21, a Kaiser Health Foundation project. Several City officials were interviewed for the article, including Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, City Manager Richard Pearce, Public Safety Director Pete Frommer, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Director Glenn Parker.
PUBLIC SAFETY SUMMER YOUTH INVOLVEMENT: Our Public Safety Department sponsored, or assisted with, seven summer programs involving our area youth. In a 2 ½ month period, ADPS was involved in 77 different programs with about 3,000 total youth participants. These events reinforce our commitment to keeping our community safer while providing a positive environment for our City youth.
VOLUNTARY WATER RESTRICTIONS IMPLEMENTED: We have asked City water customers to voluntarily restrict their water usage during this extremely dry season. Due to inadequate rainfall, we have had to tap our reserve water supply at Mason Branch Reservoir for the first time in four years. Houses with odd number addresses should water, as needed, only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Houses with even number addresses are asked to water, as needed, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Under voluntary water restrictions, Sunday watering should be omitted. If rainfall does not replenish our water supply, we may have to implement mandatory water restrictions. We will continue to monitor this situation and keep Council and our citizens informed of any improvements we see from recent rainfalls.
ALL-ELECTRIC VEHICLE DELIVERED: One Council goal from our annual Horizons meeting earlier this year was the purchase of alternative energy and all-electric vehicles. An all-electric Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) pickup truck was delivered several weeks ago to our Public Services department. As an LSV, it must travel under 25 MPH. We will be driving it on secondary roads in our downtown. This green vehicle will be utilized in Hopelands and at work on our parkway flowerbeds. We will also be taking delivery on a passenger car and an electric bicycle for trial use by our Department of Public Safety for patrolling at events and through our Downtown.
ELECTION ISSUES - Please remember to vote on Tuesday, September 13 in the Republican Primary for Mayor of the City of Aiken. Since there is no Democratic Primary, all voters can vote in this election. The Department of Justice has indicated “no objections” to the City’s proposal submit to the voters a Referendum to change how City Council members are elected from the current four by District, two At-Large and the Mayor to six by District and the Mayor. This item will now appear on the November ballot.
COMMENDATIONS: Mr. Burt Tiffany called on behalf of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church to commend Tim Bledsoe of our Engineering and Utilities Department. Recently, there was a street drainage issue adjacent to St. Thaddeus that Tim addressed very quickly and to the satisfaction of the church.
James Henderlong of Aiken contacted us to commend Janice Rickard for her efficient customer service and several unnamed Engineering and Utilities employees who repaired a water main break on Laurel Ridge Circle. Mr. Henderlong was impressed by how responsive the crew was at cleaning up dirt that washed onto his driveway on Laurel Ridge Circle.
Bruce Pitts of Aiken called our Engineering and Utilities Department to compliment the paving work done on the roads in the Plantation South neighborhood. Mr. Pitts notes that the new street surfaces beautify the subdivision.
Gary Yount the President of the Crosland Park Neighborhood Association wrote to thank your City Manager for this presentation made at their last monthly meeting. This organization is an important member of our Northside Revitalization partnership.
Several Target employees wrote to thank our Public Safety’s Community Services Division for their assistance with the National Day Out observance held on August 6. Public Safety officers Rick Brown and Celeina Dobbs and driver Robert Massucco were specifically noted for their generosity of support and time.
Brian Maddox, a resident on Hayne Avenue, wrote to compliment Tom Rapp and his team in Public Services for their quick response to a downed limb on a Bradford pear tree in the city’s right-of-way. While removing the limb, Mr. Rapp’s crew noticed a diseased oak also in the right-of-way and removed it as well. Mr. Maddox adds he was pleased with the communication given him by city workers as well as the speed that the logs were removed from the roadside.
Aiken resident Alberta Ashley wrote to compliment Lt. Ben Harm of our Public Safety Department for his attention to a noise complaint involving a newspaper delivery truck.
Ms. Ashley is appreciative to Lt. Harm’s attention and daily follow-up until the noise issue was resolved. She also spoke glowingly of Lt. Harm’s genuine concern for her welfare.
Don Hamilton of Aiken called us to compliment the prompt attention paid to the patching of a section of pavement on Ashwood Drive. Mr. Hamilton contacted the city on Tuesday, August 30 and was pleased that the city was able to respond to his problem the next day.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann wrote to thank Chief Frommer and the Public Safety Department for their logistical support provided during her recent presidential campaign rally. She noted that all attendees felt “safe and secure” because of the service provided by Public Safety.
Leonard Browder visited with Pete Frommer recently to express his appreciation for Public Safety’s handling of two recent situations occurring on the same night. He complimented officers’ handling of an issue at the Aiken Tennis Club on Newberry Street. Several out-of-town visitors attending a memorial service illegally parked near the facility, but the officers respectfully spoke to those individuals and helped them resolve their parking issues.
He also shared that he had witnessed several officers handle an unruly group of young people in The Alley. He was very impressed with how professionally and calmly the officers handled the situation as they escorted the group out of The Alley without further incident.
We have also had positive customer surveys on Karl Odenthal and our ADPS Records Division.
SAVE THESE DATES AND PLAN TO ATTEND:
Saturday, September 10 at Noon, at the Aiken County Historical Museum, USCA will be holding a picnic on the grounds to begin celebrating its 50 years in Aiken.
Wednesday, September 21 from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. will be our annual Senior Extravaganza at the H.O. Weeks Center on Whiskey Road.
Saturday, October 1, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. will be a charity fundraiser BBQ and Garden Party at Jack Wetzel’s home at 494 Powderhouse Road. This event will raise funds to provide critical equipment to upfit our new equine ambulance. Tickets are required.
For other events and happenings around Aiken, be sure to visit www.AikenIS.com.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I received this in an email today. Pass it on!
"Socialism is a philosophy of failure,
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Both arguments side step the primary issue. In the contest to mould public opinion on the use of MOX fuel in the U.S. there are many other factors that should be brought to the public's attention. To begin with, there are no nuclear power plants in the U.S. which use, or plan to use, MOX fuel and there are no plants in the U.S. which presently fabricate MOX fuel. The 30 some plants which Dr. Wolfe referred to are all in Europe or Asia. Some have used the fuel for two decades.
However, the most important factor pertaining to the decision to develop a MOX fuel program in America is that it originated within the framework of an international agreement between the U.S. and Russia to reduce their inventories of weapons-grade plutonium . The reduction plan involved blending military plutonium (legacy waste) with depleted uranium oxide to produce mixed oxide fuel (MOX) that is approximately 5% plutonium and 95% uranium. The MOX fuel is then assembled in bundled rods and irradiated (burned) in civilian commercial nuclear reactors to produce electricity. The program is a key asset in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPD). During a series of negotiations between U.S. and Russian officials each side agreed to convert 34 metric tons (37.5 tons) of weapons-grade plutonium that has been declared excess to national security needs. Combined, the 68 metric tons are the approximate equal to 17,000 nuclear weapons. The plutonium would be derived from dismantled nuclear warhead triggers (called pits). Following conversion into MOX fuel, and irradiation in commercial reactors, the left-over spent nuclear fuel (SNF) would contain plutonium in a form less usable in nuclear weapons and the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) Fact Sheet points out that using MOX fuel gets the plutonium out of circulation forever.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to MOX, some of each are outlined below. The public should not be asked to form its opinion on the narrow argument of whether MOX is a desirable additional component to the U.S. nuclear energy industry. The public's opinion should be formulated around the originally intended purpose of the U.S./Russian MOX agreement. In other words, the driver is no less than one small step toward a world liberated from the horrifying prospect of nuclear attack and less high level nuclear waste (HLW) to store and manage in national repositories. The argument, then, is not so much whether the fuel can be used without unmanageable risks, but whether converting nuclear weapons warheads to MOX fuel will get Planet Earth to a more peaceful, secure place.
Program Factors. The programs on each side of the globe have met with obstacles. For various reasons, which time and space prevent discussing here, the Russian program failed to get off the ground. It may be regenerated under a new agreement but only if the U.S. kicks in $400 million. The U.S. program has encountered a series of its own difficult obstacles.
While there are no plants fabricating or using MOX fuel in the U.S., DOE does have a plant under construction in support of the U.S./Russsian agreement. It is located at SRS but the plant is not scheduled to ramp up until at least 2016 and, before that, it must be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Comission (NRC). From an economic perspective, the U.S. stands to benefit substantially from a functioning MOX fuel program. While the plant is projected to cost $3.5 billion, plus a $1.3 billion contingency, and projected operating costs of $183 million per year, the costs of storing and securing surplus plutonium are estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Compounding the issue, the DOE MOX plant has met with severe marketing challenges. Although the government is spending billions of taxpayer dollars on the plant's construction, DOE has had difficulties securing agreements with U.S. utilities to take the MOX fuel. Without customers, MOX fuel simply presents the U.S. with an added challenge for nuclear waste management.
There are also questions on the compatibility of MOX fuel with the various types of nuclear reactors on line in the U.S. (as well as in Russia). TVA signed an agreement with Shaw Areva MOX Service (the contractor for the SRS plant) to test the fuel in a limited number of its reactors to make sure there are no problems and that the fuel will be cost effective. The NRC has indicated that only 40 percent of a reactor core can use MOX fuel. Even if the tests are positive, TVA cannot burn the fuel until the NRC issues a licanse to produce it and until it is then produced, following completion of the plant's construction, at least another five years from now (if there are no schedule slippages).
If MOX fuel proves to be compatible with some styles of reactors, the state of South Carolina stands to benefit greatly. There is widespread concern that with the cancellation of the Yucca Mountain repository program, the SRS is becoming the national repository for nuclear waste by default. In an effort to shrink the footprint of its nuclear security enterprise, the NNSA consolidated materials by shipping them to SRS from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Pantex Plant, the Hanford site, and the Rocky Flats site. The MOX facility will help to finally provide the promised pathway out of South Carolina for the surplus plutonium brought to SRS for disposition.
Addressing the safety issue, the NRC has published its Safety Evaluation Report on the application to build the SRS MOX plant and found that operation of the facility, as it is designed on paper, would not pose an undue risk to workers or to the public's health and safety. However, a recent Scientific American article pointed out that MOX fuel can melt at lower temperatures and could release some of its plutonium, which has a half-life of 24,000 years. Plutonium is highly toxic. Because it decays quickly, it produces radiation that can kill cells in the human body. The good news is that some scientists also point out that plutonium would only pose a severe threat if it was involved in a violent reaction that converted it into dust particles which could be inhaled or make its way into the soil and groundwater.
Use of MOX fuel in the No. 3 reactor at the Japanese Fukushima Dai ichi plant has raised concerns in this regard. Japan started using MOX fuel in 2009, procuring it from Areva which fabricated the fuel in France at its La Hague plant. A massive earth quake and tsunami hit the Fukushima Dai ichi plant and caused fires and explosions in the reactors, including No. 3 in which MOX fuel was in use. High as the cost has been, there will be gains from the disaster. It will take months (even years) to know how much plutonium from MOX fuel (if any) found its way from the Fukushima Dai ichi reactor No. 3 and into the air, ground, and water after the explosion and fire. The data from the study of the disaster will also provide scientific information on the degree to which burning MOX fuel in nuclear energy plant reactor cores subjects the public to added health and safety hazards in the event of uncontrolled releases.
Some governments, pressed to solve nuclear surplus and waste problems, nuclear industries eager to capitalize on government needs, and research/consulting organizations are considering multi-national solutions. As an example of such a solution, a recent Discussion Paper (98-25), was published under the aegis of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) at Harvard University. The Discussion Paper recommended that Japan and Russia enter into a government-to-government cooperative agreement to build a large MOX fabrication plant and international SNF storage facility in the Russian Far East. That area of Russia is in need of economic development and hard currency investment. The Japanese/Russian facility would, according to the authors of the paper, resolve problems of nuclear proliferation risks and much needed storing/processing capacity for today's growing stockpiles of military and civilian weapons-usable separated plutonium. Utilities could secure low-cost contracts from the facility for storage of nuclear waste and MOX fuel.
This kind of problem solving is just another "kick the can down the road" solution where nuclear waste management is concerned. One has only to remember the confusion and incompetence surrounding the disaster at Fukushima Dai ichi, the lack of transparency and veracity, and the failed attempts to gain control of the fires, explosions and core meltdowns, to understand how a strategy involving a centralized storage facility for the planet's surplus plutonium is fraught with possibilities. External to the possibilities for functional and security failures at such a facility are the prospects for shipping disasters, the possibilities of political upheavals, and the potential for economic collapse in the countries involved with the management of a facility housing much of the world's weapons-grade plutonium.
Need for National Energy Policy.
Thousands of tons and millions of gallons of radioactive waste has accumulated in the U.S. (and Russia) due to the production of nuclear weapons during the Cold War and nuclear energy production following the 1946 authorization by the Atomic Energy Commission to build an experimental breeder reactor (a breeder reactor produces more plutonium than it burns). Here in the U.S., over one hundred nuclear power plants have been built, many of them now aging but most recently declared fit enough by the NRC to run for several more decades. The accumulation of 60,000 tons of SNF (growing by over 2,000 tons each year), plus the legacy waste, presents the clear prospect of a catastrophic problem if the government continues to follow its policy of delay for a national nuclear energy and waste management policy and plan.
Which brings us back to the MOX controversy. As discussed above, the U.S. and Russia will each reduce their surplus weapons-grade plutonium inventories by 34 metric tons through the production of MOX fuel (which contains some 5% plutonium and 95% degraded uranium). This effort, if successful, will be a mere drop in the bucket in terms of the overwhelming amount of plutonium housed in legacy waste and SNF. The arguments over MOX fuel usage, whether it is, or is not in the best interests of the nation and public should be framed in support of efforts to reduce the world's nuclear weapons arsenals, elimination of proliferation risks, and lowering the surplus plutonium that must be managed through some form of storage and/or processing.
Turning to international cooperative programs such as the BCSIA Discussion Paper recommendations is not a tenable solution. In the final analysis, the ultimate resolution of the nuclear waste problem is to develop the technology that will reduce in both legacy waste and SNF (1) the amount of the waste, (2) the level of its radioactivity, and (3) its half-life. This prospect has long been an interest of nuclear science. It is called transmutation. Currently, transmutation is not an available option. Its critics say that it will take years to develop, but the argument can be made that it has already been years and the options currently under consideration (e.g. deep geologic repositories) will also take years. Transmutation is an option that will only become available when the federal government supports and funds the necessary research and development. Although that is the only socially responsible course of action for nuclear waste management (and possibly the only hope for the future of the nuclear energy industry), the catalyst for such government commitment must be public opinion. As Thomas Jefferson was fond of saying, "Public opinion rules the universe". However, public opinion is only effectively manifested when members of the public become actively involved in issues and courses of action which they want their government to take. That reminds one of what Will Rogers used to say. "You get the government you deserve".
Friday, September 2, 2011
Evidence Suggests Cover-Up In ATF Scandal, As More Guns Appear At Crime Scenes FoxNews.com