A possible nuclear radiation leak has occurred at a Department of Energy nuclear waste plant near Carlsbad, NM, in the south east corner of the state, Raw Story and Reuters report. The story reports that there have been several false positives in the past; however, this one is likely the real thing:
“They (air monitors) have alarmed in the past as a false positive because of malfunctions, or because of fluctuations in levels of radon (a naturally occurring radioactive gas),” Department of Energy spokesman Roger Nelson said.
“But I believe it’s safe to say we’ve never seen a level like we are seeing. We just don’t know if it’s a real event, but it looks like one,” he said.
While much of the debate on nuclear weapons focuses on the possibility of worldwide annihilation or nuclear terrorism, this is the unintended consequence of our reliance on the military industrial complex to keep us safe. When we engaged in a massive nuclear buildup in the name of stopping communism, nobody stopped to consider where all the waste would be put. The DOE has to hire 139 people at this particular plant just to make sure that this waste will not leak, meaning that any nuclear weapons program will cost taxpayer dollars generations into the future.
At the time of this writing, we don't know if this will blow up into a major international story or whether this story will fall into the dustbin. But what we do know is that there are many more accidents like this waiting to happen as long as we rely on nuclear weapons to keep us safe. The only alternative to relieve future generations from this kind of burden is to work for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.
Cleaning these sites has proven to be costly, time consuming, and dangerous for the human workers involved. Although the Cold War ended in the late 1980s many of the 113 nuclear sites remain unsafe for humans and continue to damage the environment. The United States government failed to create formal programs for the cleaning of these sites until the 1980s when they were forced to by two law suits for failure to comply with the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (Macdonald, 1999). Aside from the facilities already mentioned, there are an estimated "10,000 contaminant release sites" also requiring cleanup (Macdonald 1999).If the government is serious about reducing the deficit and getting people back into the workforce, then let them negotiate a worldwide convention to eliminate nuclear weapons. Then, use the savings from not having to have any more nuclear weapons to open cleanup facilities at all 10,000 of these contaminant release sites. Then, pay people to get training and degrees so that they could work at these places and protect our country against future accidents such as this one. If we hired 140 workers to work at each one these places and multiply the salaries by $50,000 a year, then that would come out to $70 billion. That would be far less than what we are currently paying to maintain our nuclear weapons.
"As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act," Obama told a crowd of more than 20,000 in Prague's historic Hradcany Square. "We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it."It is time for Obama to follow through on that promise.
His speech in Eastern Europe in front of the spires of a medieval castle came as Eastern Europeans mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, ending the Cold War that for decades defined American relations with the world.
"The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War," Obama told the crowd. "Today, the Cold War has disappeared, but thousands of those weapons have not."