Comedian and political commentator, John Oliver, tackled the issue of radioactive nuclear waste during the August 20th episode of Late Week Tonight, and overall, did a fantastic job.
No matter your political leanings, we can all agree that nuclear waste is bad. Oliver accurately defined nuclear waste as the toxic radioactive byproduct from making nuclear energy and hazards, which poses serious health hazards caused by ionizing radiation, including 21 different types of cancer.
America has 71,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste and one out of three Americans lives within 50 miles of high-level waste.
It couldn’t be more clear that we need a workable solution to isolate radioactive waste. Oliver offered the analogy that producing nuclear waste is like building a house with no toilet, repeatedly referring to our need for a “nuclear toilet,” as if nuclear waste can be disposed of. It can’t. Nuclear waste remains toxic and radioactive for tens of thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands, of years. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s no longer dangerous. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply to radioactive nuclear waste.
Of course, Oliver brought up Yucca Mountain as a possible permanent underground repository that could house America’s nuclear waste, highlighting that we’ve already invested 15 billion into Yucca Mountain. It is during this part of the segment that Oliver’s commentary falls short.
He incorrectly stated that Yucca Mountain has been deemed safe. Yucca mountain has not been deemed safe. It has been deemed scientifically unsound and morally indefensible, which is why Yucca Mountain still has no waste.
We know that Yucca Mountain will not be an effective way to isolate radioactivity from our environment, because:
it has magma pocket below creating the potential for volcanic eruption through the repository
the site was chosen by Congress without the benefit of a geological advisor
it is location traditional Native American (Shoshone) lands and breaks the Treaty that helped Lincoln win the civil war
200 large and small environmental groups petitioned Bill Clinton’s DOE to disqualify the site
Oliver also misrepresented the “leave it where it is” ideology which stems from Hardened On Site Storage (HOSS) principles. Activists and experts alike agree that this community-based concept that aims to protect the public from the threats posed by the current vulnerable storage of commercial irradiated fuel is a better, much safer option than Yucca Mountain.
It is clear we need a solution! A solution was supposed to be implemented by 1985, 37 years later we still have no long-term solution.
John Oliver has used his platform to give us a springboard from which to take action.
What you can do:
- Write a tweet using the above talking points and mention John Oliver (@iamjohnoliver).
- Call your Congressperson and ask them to oppose Rep. Shimkus’ bill (H.R. 3053) to continue down the Yucca Mountain path.
- Call your Senator and ask them to oppose Trump’s nominations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who have clear biases in favor of Yucca Mountain.
Go to https://www.facebook.com/iamjohnoliver/ and feel free to take these sample posts and edit them to make them your own:
- Thanks for your segment on nuclear waste! Please note that Yucca Mountain is not a viable option for a permanent waste repository. See here for more: http://bit.ly/2w8fgim
- So glad you did an episode on the dangers of nuclear waste. Unlike human waste, we don’t need to keep making nuclear waste! See more: http://bit.ly/2w8fgim
- @iamjohnoliver thanks for the show on nuclear waste! Please note that enviro. groups & Native tribes know #YuccaMountain is not a solution.
- Thanks, @iamjohnoliver for your episode on nuclear waste! Unlike human waste, we don’t have to make more: wind & solar are safer & cheaper.