Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Radioactive Waste In Utah

I've been avoiding taking a position on nuclear waste storage in the state of Utah, but as the primaries for the gubernatorial election are next week, I avoid it no longer.

Three-word summary: I'm fer it. However, I have a few preliminary remarks.

First, radioactive waste is not the spawn of Satan. Nuclear power is one of the cleanest, most efficient, and most environmentally friendly sources of power out there in the world. While its disasters are monumental and catastrophic, they are also few and far between, particularly when care is taken to correctly site and maintain nuclear plants. Other nuclear technologies provide us with medical imaging and treatment. And yes, they too generate waste that needs to be disposed of. Because of water issues, desert states like Utah and Nevada are the ideal place to store this necessary waste. Utah may have lots of extra land, and it may be growing like crazy, but there are parts of the state that will never be able to be developed anyway.

On the other hand, I don't think other states ought to be encouraged by the above fact to produce nuclear waste with abandon, thinking they'll just dump it off in Utah. This is where the free market economy (with a little help from government) comes in. If the price of sending the stuff to Utah is steep, there will be a large financial incentive for them to plan to deal with their own waste. So if other states begin to see Utah as a nuclear landfill, the problem is that we aren't charging them enough to send us their waste. (On the third hand, this could backfire, making oil/coal/etc. power cheaper than nuclear power, and pushing other states toward more polluting energy solutions. But I'll leave it to the voters of those states to push their governments for less pollution.)

So I say: allow the waste, but impact-fee the living crap out of it.