Thursday, February 16, 2012

This here's the Atomic Duck

Mother Jones needs to check its shorts for skid marks.  Apparently the fact that the government is transporting nuclear weapons and other material over our nations highways in specially constructed and manned semi-trucks is causing an epic amount of PSH.  They claim that their major worry is that a road accident or terrorist attack could cause a huge amount of damage to the environment, with ancillary deaths among those filthy humans who also live along our nation's byways.

They make some good points.  The program to transport nuclear materials, including bombs, around the country has had issues, just like every other endeavor ever taken up by humans.  Some of the drivers have had problems with alcohol, some have turned out to be thieves, and some have a problem with following rules about firearms.  There have indeed been some accidents, just like every other organization that drives trucks across the country.  They can only point to one incident where any amount of cargo was leaked outside of its containment mechanism, and that caused no significant environmental impact or any human casualties.

What I don't see from Mother Jones is a better solution.  We as a nation have nuclear weapons, power stations, and research facilities.  Bombs, fuel rods, raw materials, and other nuclear materials need to be moved from the place where they're manufactured and maintained to the place where they're used and then to the place where they're destroyed or stored.  Putting them on an airplane would probably have a higher risk of accidents and would probably make it harder to contain the material after a crash.  There's a heck of a lot more kinetic energy in a C-17 crashing than there is in a Peterbilt jackknifing.  You could put them on trains, and that would probably have the same risk of accidents and containment failures as you would find on the interstates, and with trains you lose the flexibility of routes you have with trucks.  Nuclear cargo that gets backed up in a rail yard can't just make a right at the next exit and route around it so it's not sitting as a nice stationary target.

I have news for Mother Jones:  The government has been moving nuclear weapons and other material around on the roads of our country for two generations with only a very small number of minor incidents.  I grew up around SAC bases, and convoys with Minuteman missiles and their payloads moving from main bases out to silos and back were common.  To my knowledge, the young airmen who were driving them and providing security never killed anyone, lost a weapon, or caused us to worry about the groundwater.  Every so often you'd hear about a missile truck that went into a ditch, but I never saw even a small mushroom cloud or saw a missile streaking across the prairie because of it.

My gut tells me that the Mother Jones position comes down to "Don't move them because you don't have them".  It's the evolved position of the "No Nukes" crowd from the last century.  They want us to unilaterally destroy our nuclear weapons, shut down our research facilities, and turn nuclear power stations into research facilities for breeding a better manatee. 

To be honest, if we could safely give up our nuclear arsenal, I'd be all for it.  If you think that's going to be possible before a better way to turn cities into glowing holes comes along, I've got a bridge you might also be interested in. 

And until we come up with something better, I'm a big supporter of nuclear power.  It doesn't pollute like coal or natural gas, it doesn't kill wildlife like wind, it works on cloudy days, and what waste it creates can either be re-used or stored safely. Of course, that assumes that hippies don't make you store it in a shed behind the reactor because it would make kittens explode if you tried to have a safe, secure, centralized place to keep it out in the middle of nowhere.

So I wish Mother Jones and the other groups that are excreting masonry building materials over this luck.  If they have a better idea, I'd love to hear it.


BobG said...

"If they have a better idea, I'd love to hear it. "

They don't have ideas, just "feelings".

"The college idealists who fill the ranks of the environmental movement seem willing to do absolutely anything to save the biosphere, except take science courses and learn something about it."
- P.J. O'Rourke

Tom Lindsay said...

Good Lord, if they're worried about moving nuclear material, please don't tell them about railcars of chlorine.

Or the fact that 25% of fuel rods in use in domestic nuclear power plants come from de-commissioned Soviet nuclear warheads, shipped to the Pantex plant near Amarillo and taken apart.

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