Trump Solves Nuclear Waste Problem, But Media Refuses to Give Him Credit

This is just Hollywood. In reality, radioactivity kills ants, and that's a good thing.Warner Brothers

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On Monday I had dinner with a friend who insisted that nuclear needed to be a big part of any climate change plan. We just had to get smart about how to build nuclear power plants. I didn’t disagree, but reminded him that the big problem with nuclear has always been radioactive waste. After 70 years, we still don’t have any great ideas about how to handle that.

But I was wrong! The Trump administration, as always, has figured out a unique way to slash through this Gordian knot:

The U.S. government on Wednesday will reclassify some of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive waste to lower its threat level, outraging critics who say the move would make it cheaper and easier to walk away from cleaning up nuclear weapons production sites in Washington state, Idaho and South Carolina. The U.S. Department of Energy said labeling some high-level waste as low level will save $40 billion in cleanup costs across the nation’s entire nuclear weapons complex.

….The waste is housed at the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina, the Idaho National Laboratory and Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state….The new rules would allow the Energy Department to eventually abandon storage tanks containing more than 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of radioactive waste in the three states, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That’s the answer for weapons-grade nuclear waste, but what about the stuff from power plants? That’s even easier: just reclassify it as agricultural waste and compost it. Liberals, with all their yammering about “policy” and “plans” and “safety” would never have thought of this. Only the Trumpies, who came to office promising to disrupt the tired old bureaucracy with insights gained from building golf courses, could have come up with this. Huzzah!

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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