By Dan Calabrese
I can see why you might think, at first, that this didn’t really sound like such a bad idea. If we could take existing resources that are just laying around – or worse, presenting an environmental hazard – and turn them into an energy source, why not?
But there are several good answers to why not. We’ll start with this: It is not 1973 and we are not facing an energy crisis. We have abundant sources of energy already at our disposal and we’re developing more, in addition to the utilization of new methods – like fracking – of getting at them.
Second, the existing and plentiful sources we have are much more cost-effective to exploit and develop than this.
Third, this is looking more and more like a boondoggle designed to create economic impact for South Carolina, but not to really deliver value for the rest of the country, which is why Lindsey Graham is upset, but everyone else seems to recognize this is the right thing to do:
The Trump administration plans to kill a project it says would have cost tens of billions of dollars to convert plutonium from Cold War-era nuclear bombs and burn it to generate electricity, according to a document it sent to Congress last week.
The Department of Energy submitted a document on May 10 to Senate and House of Representative committees saying that the Mixed Oxide (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina would cost about $48 billion more than $7.6 billion already spent on it. The United States has never built a MOX plant.
Instead of completing MOX, the administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants to blend the 34 tonnes of deadly plutonium – enough to make about 8,000 nuclear weapons – with an inert substance and bury it underground in a New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Burying the plutonium would cost about $19.9 billion, according to the document, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
“We are currently processing plutonium in South Carolina for shipment (to WIPP) … and intend to continue to do so,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a letter sent to committee leaders.
Legislation passed in February allows the Energy Department to advance burying the plutonium if it showed that the cost would be less than half of completing MOX.
South Carolina politicians, including Senator Lindsey Graham, have defended the MOX plant, saying it is about 70 percent complete, would help keep plutonium out of the hands of militants, and provide up to 600 direct jobs.
South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster complained to Perry in a letter earlier this month that the Energy Department’s dilution plan is at best “conceptual.” South Carolina, which has already sued the department over the MOX plant, will “use all legal recourses available” to continue the program, McMaster said.
This is shaping up to have all the characteristics of the never-ending ethanol nonsense that contorts politics and common sense in Iowa. Ethanol subsidies enrich Iowa farmers, and every Iowa politician – no matter how conservative in other respects – feels duty-bound to defend these indefensible subsidies. Sen. Charles Grassley has even gone so far as to hold up judicial nominees if anyone dares to threaten these subsidies.
South Carolina appears intent on playing the same game with the MOX plant. It may be true that it would “provide 600 jobs,” but it makes no sense for the federal government to bankroll the cost of jobs in which people are doing something that doesn’t need to be done. And if the concern is keeping the plutonium out of the hands of terrorists, burying it would be an even more efficient way of achieving that objective – in addition to not promising to build them a bomb and then giving them a shoddy casing made of used pinball machine parts.
But here’s the bottom line: Spending $48 billion to convert the plutonium to energy, when we could bury it for $19 billion and we don’t need the additional energy source, would be insane. It would also be the sort of thing you’d routinely expect Washington to do, if only because a particular senator wants it for his state and no one wants to tell him no. After all, some day you might want a boondoggle for your state, and you might need Lindsey Graham’s vote!
So much of the nonsense that comes out of our nation’s capital comes about like this. The MOX plant is a good opportunity to put the kibosh to it. Hopefully this is just the start.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!