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Specter of nuclear waste dump returns to WNC via The Macon County News

Thursday, 28 July 2011 Written by Christopher Carpenter – Staff Writer

The U.S. Energy Freedom Center proposed for the Dept. of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Augusta, Ga., is billed as an “energy park.” The primary purpose of the facility would be as a national reprocessing center for extracting plutonium and other highly radioactive elements from spent nuclear fuel. The federal Blue Ribbon Commission’s draft recommendations on such a facility and other issues regarding the nation’s stockpile of nuclear waste are due out this week.

Remember the nuclear waste debates of the 1980s? Remember the panic after Three Mile Island, a nuclear power station on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Penn., which after a reactor core meltdown in 1979 released highly radioactive gas into the environment? Remember the protests and pickets? Remember how the consensus in the country regarding the clear dangers of nuclear power led to the cancelation of all new nuclear power projects for decades?Some in Western North Carolina, those who are able to remember all the way back to those glory years of muscle cars and Reaganomics, may even recall Sandy Mush and a local protest campaign to keep nuclear waste from being trucked into our mountains and dumped here. Farmers, business owners and local governments all united in sending a big, loud “NO” to Washington officials who were considering locations in the region as potentially acceptable sites for a national nuclear waste depository. At the time, it seemed the protests had worked. Nationally, nuclear power was on the wane. Washington regulators turned their gaze west to sites like Yucca Mountain in Nevada as potential memory holes for the nation’s toxic and ever-lasting nuclear waste, and most folks in Western North Carolina happily forgot that their own back yard had once been a prime candidate.

Mary Olson hasn’t forgotten, however. And Olson, the regional director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), an organization that advocates for a “non-nuclear future,” has some bad news: The past has come back to haunt us.

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