Whistleblowing: Public Safety First
by Maggie Gundersen, Editor
Many Friends of Fairewinds Energy Education know that Arnie and I both were nuclear whistleblowers during a daunting time period in the electric energy production sector for us and for many of our colleagues, who also chose to place public safety ahead of corporate profits from atomic power reactors. There was a reprieve for a number of years as more stringent regulations, courageous regulators, and motivated members of congress saw public health as their priority rather than the desire to simply line pockets. Today, it seems that the some of the fast and furious ‘nuclear cowboys’ have returned, namely Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry. Instead of alluding to stories, I’ll let Fairewinds writer Sue Prent share this ongoing radiation saga with you:
Secret Plutonium Shipment
by Sue Prent
Lately, Americans are experiencing an unprecedented volume of top-down lies emanating from the White House and its circle of acolytes like Energy Secretary Rick Perry. This steady drip of obvious misinformation often renders us somewhat deaf to actual situations of public deception. And, so it is that the latest act of deception perpetrated on the people of Nevada by the U.S. Department of Energy is being met with little attention outside of the state of Nevada.
Not known for candor even in more transparent times, the DOE is now headed by one of President Trump’s hand-picked lackeys, Rick Perry, whom, you may recall, didn’t even know that this job involved oversight of our country’s nuclear stockpiles when he accepted the job.
Like its quasi-independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has long behaved more as a captive instrument of the nuclear industry when it comes to nuclear energy, the DOE seems to enjoy carte blanche to do as it pleases with little regard to human safety and security issues. The people who live in the states in which DOE activities take place are permitted little say in any DOE matter.
With regulation of any kind under attack by a small but vocal segment of the U.S. population, it probably seemed like the perfect opportunity to sneak a little political contraband into the unsuspecting state of Nevada and through many other unsuspecting states in its clandestine meander through the nation’s backyards.
It was well-known in Nevada and by the federal government that the Nevada legislature, its Governor, and the majority of Nevada voters were opposed to the DOE plan to transport shipments of weapons-grade plutonium in temporary storage containers to a resting place near Las Vegas. We’re talking a metric ton of plutonium, here, even though “a little dab will do ya.”
While the state was seeking an injunction to prevent the shipments from happening, the DOE did its secretive thang. As of January 17, 2019, Nevada’s Chief Deputy attorney General Wayne Howell had maintained to the judge that the U.S. government had failed to satisfy any environmental review standards having submitted no evidence to support their assertion that the shipments would pose no threat to the people of Nevada or the environment. Essentially lawyers for the DOE argued that details of the shipments were classified and the state would just have to trust them. The judge said she would rule on the matter shortly.
Chomping at the bit, the DOE didn’t wait for that decision before secretly sending its first shipment from South Carolina to Nevada. They didn’t even wait for the state to make their case in court. In fact, it was revealed on January 30 that the first shipment to Las Vegas was actually secretly transported in November of 2018. There had been a deadline of January 1, 2019 to get the plutonium out of Dodge…er…South Carolina, so the DOE just went ahead and did it.
Newly elected Governor Steve Sisolak is beyond livid and wants a word with Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, the state of Nevada is demanding that the secret shipment of plutonium be removed from the state, post haste.
“State officials believe the plutonium shipped into the state was in a powder or granular form, which they say is more volatile and dangerous than the form used in the core of nuclear bombs. Now, in the latest filing in the appeals court, Nevada is arguing that the presence of the plutonium in the state will lead to increased radiation exposure equivalent to receiving 100 to 200 X-rays per year for three years. The state’s attorneys argued that constitutes irreparable harm to Nevada and the public.”
As of Friday, March 15, (the court-ordered deadline for a reply), the federal government has not yet responded to Nevada’s demand that the material be removed.
According to the Nevada Independent,
“the plan to temporarily store plutonium in Nevada is the result of the DOE’s failure to meet a deadline to complete construction on a South Carolina facility that is meant to repurpose excess plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors. A federal judge in May ordered that one metric ton of plutonium be removed from the site [in South Carolina].”
As citizens around the U.S. look the other way, because this latest ‘deception’ does not pertain to their state, just remember that almost every state in the union has an atomic or nuclear facility of one type or another. In an effort to push the Atoms for Peace program back in the 1950s, those in power decided that if they wanted public support for nuclear power, the best thing to do was to create a federal lab, test reactor, nuclear power plant, uranium mine, or waste dump in as many locations as possible throughout the U.S. That strategy was implemented to make sure that every state possible would get federal dollars and jobs to strengthen its economy and be ‘beholdin’ forever to nuclear energy.
Don’t look now, but what is your friendly federal government bringing into your state via the feds secret backdoor? Gotta keep that war-machine going!