Monday, April 8, 2013

Obama to America: "Frack You!"

Obama's pick of fracking advocate and close friend of the nuclear industry, Ernest Moniz, to replace outgoing Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, is being looked upon with dismay by many, including me.

Perhaps the most damning comment on his nomination comes from the Food and Water Watch: "His appointment to the DOE could set renewable energy development back years."  The advocacy group is circulating a petition opposing the nomination.

His past statements supporting the nuclear power industry and its crumbling infrastructure are troubling.  Emblematic is his assessment of lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor disasters, "It would be a mistake to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits."

Whatever its short-term benefits, its long-term dangers are rapidly growing, with rising sea levels, ossified power plants that should have been shut down years ago running at full bore, and no solution in sight to remove the growing tonnages of spent fuel rods suspended above operating reactors, both in the USA and elsewhere.

When I spent a lot of time around Hanford in the late 1980s, through the 1990s, people there, including nuclear scientists and engineers joked about Moniz' ability, as an Assistant Secretary of Energy (1997 to 2001), to award huge contracts to companies to do nothing about growing radioactive waste leakage problems:
Back then, Moniz and [Oregon Senator Ron] Wyden were debating the department’s handling of cleanup at the site. The DOE acknowledged in the late 1990s that it knew less about how much the radioactive waste was leaking into soil above the water table, a dry area known as the “vadose zone.”  
“It was Moniz who had the unenviable task of coming out to the Hanford site and eating crow for DOE and admitting the waste had migrated, that the science was good, that they were wrong,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Hanford Challenge, a Seattle-based watchdog group. 
According to press reports at the time, Moniz did concede the department had not done enough. 
And they have continued to not do enough, and with Moniz at the helm of DOE, he will defer to the "sage wisdom" of a nuclear industry that has no realistic solutions to waste problems.

Wyden plans on grilling the nominee in the upcoming confirmation hearing:
In recent months, tanks at Hanford have been found to be leaking, and just last week Wyden received a letter from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent government organization, warning that a treatment plant being built there to better store the waste could lead to chemical explosions. In February, Wyden asked the GAO to investigate the Energy Department’s management of Hanford. That’s the same group Wyden asked 15 years ago to look into a similar set of problems.
“The next Secretary of Energy—Dr. Moniz—needs to understand that a major part of his job is going to be to get the Hanford cleanup back on track,” Wyden said in a statement regarding the letter last week. “I plan to stress that at his confirmation hearing.”
From Wyden's statement, it appears he accepts that the nomination is unstoppable.

At a time when public perception of climate change and global warming as being a real threat is on the rise, Obama has picked someone who will make sure the policy of DOE remains one of keeping its head buried in the sands of time:
The corporate mainstream media has roundly ignored or barely mentioned Moniz's connections with the fossil fuel industry.  
After all, just looking at the companies who are his founding advisors for MITEI (see above) indicates that the fossil fuel lobbyists will give the green light to senators of both parties to confirm Moniz.  
As with Obama's policy of no major action toward preventing irreversible Climate Change, Moniz will become Secretary of the Department of Energy at a time when the earth's environmental deterioration may outpace his and Obama's leisurely approach to implementing alternative energy and standing up to the fossil fuel industry.
What a shame!

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