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April 18, 1980 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-18

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Page 4-Friday, April 18, 1980-The Michigan Daily

t tYetai
Whether the nuclear industry should become
4 major source of energy for this nation is a
Oighly controversial issue. One of the primary
qontentions of the anti-nuclear movement is
hat nuclear plant operation, safety and cost
aside, creates a serious problem of nuclear
aste disposal.
'The process of removing uranium from its
eological home, converting it into a fuel, and
sposing of the resultant waste is referred to
Is the nuclear fuel cycle. The cycle begins in
uranium mines and ends with the storage of
Pastes generated by nuclear plants.
GTO SOME DEGREE the nuclear industry
p oduces hazardous wastes at all stages of the
el cycle. For example, miners suffer from
fAdioactive radon gas that is released during
(he mining of uranium. Accidents while tran-

nother reason to close

Oorting radioactive wastes through large
population areas can do severe damage.
Though serious, these problems are minimal
compared to the bulk of the nuclear waste
problem-the wastes generated specifically by
nuclear power plants.
There are low-level radioactive wastes. Low-
jtvel waste includes anything that has picked
dip radiation during any stage of the fuel cycle.
This includes medical wastes produced by
hospital use of radioisotopes, as well as tools
ased in mining and glovesaand uniforms of
*orkers in enrichment and reprocessing plants.

High-level wastes contain uranium-235
and/or plutonium-239. Both are highly radioac-
tive. This type of waste is only produced by the
operation of a nuclear power plant and by the
arms industry in weapons production. These
high-level wastes come in the form of radioac-
tive gases (radon, for example); liquity
(radioactive cooling water); and solids (spent
fuel rods). Due to their radioactivity, these
high-level wastes are the most difficult to
dispose of. Some researchers recognize so-
called "intermediate" wastes. These' are
liquids and materials contaminated with
radioactivity to a slightly less degree than
high-level wastes. Excepting fuel rods, inter-
mediate wastes include all items considered
high-level wastes. These wastes are not
necessarily less dangerous than high-level
wastes, but they are less concentrated.
EXACT, UP-TO-DATE figures on the total
amount of nuclear waste are very hard to find.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
has estimated that by the year 2000, federal
and commercial nuclear power together will
have generated up to 400 million cubic feet of
low-level waste products. Also, by the year 2000
there could be an annual volume of 2 million
cubic meters.
Isolated incidents aside, there is a question
as to the general efficiency of low-level nuclear
waste disposal. Between 1946 and 1962 there
were 47,500 fifty-five gallon drums of radioac-
tive waste dumped into the ocean. One site for
this dumping was 35 miles west of San Fran-
cisco and the other was off Cape Cod. These
wastes, a result of our atomic weapons and
researdh activity, were dumped completely
within Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)

guidelines and with an AEC license for both
sites good until 1970.
Today ocean dumping of low-level waste con-
tinues. The non-commercial government sites
seem to pose some of the more serious
situations concerning environmental destruc-
OF THE SIX commercial low-level storage
sites, only four are presently operating. The
West Valley site closed in 1975 when burial
trenches were found to be leaking into the
surrounding waterways that feed Lake Erie.
Similarly, in 1977 at the Morehead, Ky. site,
leaking was discovered where containers full of
radioactive waste were buried. The facility
was closed because of the leaks, including one
that was reportedly 14 years old.
High-level radioactive waste storage is a far
more complex and expensive process. The
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does
not define spent nuclear power plant fuel as
high-level waste because of its potential value
as fuel if reprocessed. However, since
reprocessing methods are years away from
being developed, spent fuel is certainly a waste
Most researching bodies, including the
General Accounting Office (GAO) of the
federal government, consider spent fuel high-
level waste. The great majority of this waste is
stored on the nuclear plant sites that
originally generated it. Today, about 3,000
metric tons of spent fuel are stored on site. This
figure could grow by 17,000 metric tons over the
next four years. At this rate there will be a
severe shortage of on-site storage capacity by
THE NRC HAS recently given certain power
plant sites permission to pack fuel rods closer

the nukes
together in waste storage tanks. Some fear this
risks creating a critical mass, the amount of
radioactive material that would permit an ex-
The super-hot liquid high-level waste
generated at nuclear plants is stored in con-
crete-encased carbon or stainless-steel tanks.
These wastes often boil, and further
procedures are needed for cooling. Although
the tanks were designed to last 50 years, the
stress on them from hot, corrosive, and acidic
wastes has caused a far shorter tank life, and a
series of leaks. By 1970 there had been 15 tank
failures, the worst leak coming from a tank
built in 1944. When discovered, the tank was
releasing 2,500 gallons of high-level waste a
day. It had been leaking for 51 days. An
estimated total of 115,000 gallons of high-level
waste had escaped.
The methods for detecting leaks today are
crude. Experts agree that many small leaks
simply go unnoticed.
THOUGH MANY inefficiencies have been
documented, there are some who believe the
waste storage problem is on the brink of a per-
manent solution. More than one billion dollars
have been spent in search of this solution.
Techniques ranging from shooting the wastes
into outer space to burial in rock formations, ar-
ctic ice, surface vaults, and deep wells have
been investigated.
A few years ago a solution was supposedly
found-the underground salt mines of Lyons,
Kansas. However, the mines were eventually
judged unsuitable because, among other
deficiencies, they were full of holes from ex-
ploratory oil well drilling. One of the latest
ideas for the disposal of high-level wastes is
sub-seabed burial. Some researchers feel that

safe containers can be devised to take away the
high risk of burying large concentrations of
radioactive wastes in the floor of the ocean.
A permanent solution to the nuclear waste
disposal problem should be. a high priority.
Considering the figures on temporary storage
site space compared to the growth of waste
generation, a crisis is developing.
THERE ARE THOSE who question the
extent of the danger posed by small amounts or
doses of radioactivity. For this reason, some
researchers and law makers do not consider
the waste problem very crucial. Like any other
toxin, radioactive wastes are dangerous.
"Radioactive wastes, being highly toxic, can
damage or destroy living cells, causing cancer
and possible death depending on the quantity
and length of time individuals are exposed to
them. Some radioactive wastes will remain
hazardous 'for hundreds of thousands of years.
Decisions on what to do with the wastes will af-
fect the lives of generations to come," says A.
Gyorgy in his book No Nukes.
Considering the virtually perpetual danger
and potential disaster radioactive wastes pose
to life and health on this planet, and con-
sidering that reliable disposal techniques have
not been developed while temporary holding
facilities are close to capacity levels, the only
logical proposal is to halt further production of
radioactive wastes until disposal problems are
The Public Interest Research Group in
Michigan (PIRGIM) addresses a number of
consumer and student concerns in its
column on this page. This article was writ-
ten by PIRGIM member John Leone..



I .

East Quad by David Kirby

tgan+ ttil


"it(e " Yers of Editor'iaI lFreedomI


Vol. XC, No. 158

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan




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Pomp and 'U' finance

rMPM/S 91V 04/AS5h"OLI/A'SS
aIE _


11HE UNIVERSITY does not inau-
gurate presidents very often.
Adeed, in its 163-year history, this in-
$titution has had only 10 chief officers.
consequently, when an inaugural oc-
kasion does arise, it provides a con-
yenient opportunity for the University
P show itself off with much pomp and
; This week the University formally
-Istalled its tenth president, Harold
hapiro. Last night's festive Inaugural
.Ball capped several days pf
;ceremonies and performances
honoring the distinguished economics
)rofessor who many believe is ideally
suited to lead the University through
ts toughest financial times.
We have the greatest hope that
resident Shapiro will prove among
,he best leaders this University has
'bad. As a scholar, he will resist stead-
Zastly any erosion of educational
Auality that could be the unfortunate
'esult of budget cutbacks.
As an administrator (Shapiro step-
ped up to the presidency from the
University's number-two position,
ice-president for academic affairs),
,,Shapiro has had much experience with
; the University's unique decentralized
;decision-making system.
And as an economist, Shapiro has the
practical experience necessary to
develop increasingly complex budgets
with rapidly decreasing revenues. In
: fact, Shapiro surprised many a visitor

to his vice-presidential office with his
devotion to the highly-acclaimed U.S.
economic outlook reports he regularly
issues with several colleagues-he
kept a computer terminal behind his
desk to work on problems whenever he
had a few spare minutes.
There have been some critics of the
pageantry and cost-about $25,000-of
this week's events. They have pointed
to extreme fiscal pressures now facing
the University, the probability of huge
tuition increases, and even the finan-
cial problems of specific
curricula-such as the Women's
Studies Program-as evidence that the
inauguration funds could have been
better spent.
But these critics fail to realize that
the proud, almost ostentatious display
put on this week has strategic
significance beyond its ego-building
function. The $25,000 invested in
ceremonies should reap many times
that in donations from alumni newly-
infused with pride.
We wish President Shapiro the best
in his tenure as the University's
leader. And we are confident that he is
well aware of the dangers of passing
off the University's greatly increased
costs to students in the form of sharply-
hiked tuitions. After all, if costs go up
much more, there won't be many
students left who can afford to be
proud of the University-because they
won't be able to afford to be here.

- , _,


Apathy prevented booklet distribution

To the Daily:
I would like to congratulate
David Meyer on his excellent
detective work on a very
newsworthy item: "MSA fails to
deliver student booklet" (Daily,
April 12). While his story was fac-
tually correct, he failed to un-
cover the true cause of the un-
distributed booklets.
I am the outgoing com-
munications co-ordinator for
MSA. As reported, I attempted to
distribute the booklets in mid-
November, approximately one
week after I was informed that
their distribution was my respon-
. After gathering seven Assem-
bly members who said they
would help, we decided on a day
and time to distribute. When the
time came, only one person
besides myself showed up. We
went to the University Cellar and
attempted to locate the booklets.
I spoke to no fewer than five
people who had absolutely no
idea what I was talking about.

Obviously, the booklets were, and
still are, there. Frustrated at
wasting an hour-and-a-half, I
"abandoned the project."
So there you have it. A typical
story-ask people to help with
something, be it serve on a com-
mittee, sit at a tableduring MSA
week, vote in an election, and
people don't come through. What
it all comes down to is saying
"yes" and making a commit-
ment. One person can only do so
much coercing and pleading
before frustration sets in and he
or she "abandons the project."
Personally, I" have found that
the most efficient and quickest
way to get things done is to do
them yourself. Unfortunately,
there are many others in
positions like mine on this cam-
pus who will agree. Beating your
head against a wall gets you
nowhere-and with a sore head.
The real problem is not un-
distributed booklets, but unin-
terested, unconcerned, and un-
motivated students (I would just

love it if someone would
challenge me on that!)
We need more students to say
"yes" and not be afraid to make a
commitment. I have, and if I had
to do it over again, I wouldn't
change a thing (except maybe to
distribute some booklets).
We are still left with the unfor-
tunate situation of the un-
distributed booklets and the
dismayed patrons. I no longer
have any desire to distribute
these booklets, but, as I still hold

the position of co-ordinator, one
of my duties entails delegating
responsibility (otherwise known
as passing the buck). a
In view of the fact that Mr.
Meyer has a keen interest in get-
ting the booklets out, as eviden-
ced by his sharp work in un-
covering the story, I'd like to see
him distribute the booklets. This
would solve the problem and we'd
all live happily ever after.
-Jeanne Barr
April 14

En dorsemen t defended

The Socialist alternative

% 4


To the Daily:
"Working people keep the
country running-working people
should run the country," is the
slogan of the 1980 Socialist
Workers Party presidential cam-
paign of Andrew Pulley for
president and Matilde Zimmer-
man for vice president.
Pulley, a black steelworker
from Chicago, and Zimmermann,
a long-time activist in the women's
rights movement, are the only
candidates for president and vice
president that call for full em-
ployment by reducing the work-
week with no reduction in pay to
spread the available work around
through emergency public work
programs. The money for such a
program would come from the
military budget and taxes on
profits of the big corporations.
The SWP candidates oppose the
draft for men and women. They
say we shouldn't die for big oil.

country to meet its demands for
higher prices and more profits.
Pulley and Zimmermann say the
industry should be taken out of
the Ijands of the capitalists and
nationalized. It should be ad-'
ministered by an elected board,
operating out in the open, under
the vigilance of the unions and
consumer groups.
Chrysler should be placed un-
der public ownership so that its
productive facilities can be used
to promote the social good: to
provide jobs at decent wages; to
produce efficient, safe, inexpen-
sive cars and to build socially
necessary public transit vehicles
and agricultural machinery.
Since increasing numbers of
people are disgusted by the antics
of the Democrats and Republican
politicians, we, the majority of
American people, should have
our own independent labor
political party. A labor party
based on the power of the unions

To the Daily:
In response to the letter by Mr.
Marc Shepherd (Daily, April 10)
concering the Daily Editorial
Board's endorsement of the
Realistic Party for the Michigan
Student Assembly (MSA)r:
It is too bad that Mr. Shepherd
has allowed a lack of knowledge
concerning Realistic goals and
candidates to get in the way of
what could have been a fair
rebuttal against our party: The
Realistic Party.
Making analogies to Gov. Jerry
Brown is all fine and dandy, but
one should base one's analogies
on the common premises bet-
ween the two objects being com-
pared, and then draw conclusions
from those premises. Shepherd's
basic premise that the Realistic
Party may only receive "a token
sum of votes" may be true. But,
the proposal that the Daily has
the "responsibility to recom-
mend. . . a viable candidate" is
where his argument loses its fire
against the Daily's deliberated
decision to endorse "Realistic."
The Daily's endorsement should
be based on the issues involved,
not which party has the best
chance of winning.
I ask you, Mr. Shepherd, and
all who might share your views,
wouldn't it be sad if the Daily

werean instrument of the big
parties that have such a good
chance of winning, the parties
that espouse the same issues year
after year, the parties that get
elected by just a small percen-
tage of the student populace (and
call themselves "student
representatives"), the parties
that spend upwards of $100, $200
$300, $400 on campaigns tha
could easily be run for less than
The Daily pleaded for change,
for an MSA which truly represen-
ts the students, for candidates
concerned with campus and
campus life; the Daily did not,
and does not, want to endorse
the well-greased political
machine that manages t
steamroll campus election
every year.
The Daily spent at least one
week researching the issues, in-
terviewing candidates,
deliberating amongst themselves
as to who would best represent
the ideals of the students of this
university. They did not try to
predict which group had the best
chance of winning. I'm realistic,
and maybe you should be too.
-Jeff Knaggs
Realistic Party
April 10

CARP responds to attack

To the Daily:
I was shocked and saddened by
the blatant smear upon the

remarks we were accused of.
I question the integrity of
people who would sign such a let-

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