The Relief Report ®


A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research

501 Capitol Court, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
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Issue #104 * February 19, 2002 * David A. Ridenour, Editor

Contents:

Let's Hold Global Warming Forecasters Accountable... Brazilian-Style

Opposition to Yucca Mountain is About Nuclear Power, Not Public Safety

 

Let's Hold Global Warming Forecasters Accountable... Brazilian-Style

According to the Detroit Free Press, Luiz Carlos Austin, a television meteorologist in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is facing criminal charges and a possible six month jail sentence.

His crime: a bad weather forecast.

Austin had predicted severe weather in Rio for the New Year's Eve holiday. The bad weather never occurred, but only two million people came to the city to celebrate - less than in previous years. Rio's mayor blamed the low turnout on the inaccurate weather forecast, so he brought a criminal charge against Austin.

Finally.

A weather-guesser gets his just desserts.

How many of us have been victimized by practitioners of the "science" of meteorology? Outside my office window a near-blizzard is in progress. Earlier in the week meteorologists predicted that today would be sunny. These things happen all the time. That's why so much of every television weather forecast is about what the weather was and is, not what it is going to be. Gives the weather-guessers something to be right about.

Now, what about climate-guessers?

Climate-guessers are those gloom-and-doomers that make up the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change - the folks who persistently try to scare the public with fears of "global warming." The IPCC doesn't just try to tell you what the weather is going to be for the weekend. No, no.

These folks are trying to tell us what the weather is going to be for the next century... even longer. They've been at it for at least 25 years.

First it was global cooling... headed for a new ice age... now it's global warming... the earth is going to get two degrees warmer... no, four degrees... 10 degrees... 10.2 degrees. The oceans are going to rise six inches... no, a foot... two feet... all of Manhattan and Los Angeles will be flooded... hmmm.

Truth is, the climate-guessers have never, through all their ever-changing predictions, been right. None of their global warming predictions have ever been right.

In these forecasts, the lower atmosphere, known as the troposphere, was supposed to warm first. It hasn't. Careful measurements made on NASA balloons and satellites have shown no warming.

How have the climate-guessers run up such a stunning record of failure? The same way as the weather-guessers on TV. They use computer models. The only difference is that weather-guessers have some real data in their computers and the climate-guessers are working with unproven theories.

Luiz Carlos Austin is looking at a possible six months in the pokey for getting about a week's weather forecast wrong and costing Rio some tourist dollars. The climate-guessers are repeatedly blowing forecast after forecast covering more than 100 years worth of weather.

I figure that the failed global warming forecasters are making mistakes covering a period 5,200 times as long as Austin's mistake, not counting leap years. Austin's looking at a six-month sentence, so by this scale the failed global warming forecasters should be looking at 2,600-year sentences.

If this seems excessive, keep in mind that the mistakes being made by the global warming forecasters would, if they have their way, cost the public a lot more than 5,200 times what Rio's weatherman cost Rio. The U.S. government's Energy Information Agency says, after all, that the global warming treaty they support would require the U.S. to cut back on its energy use by as much as 40 percent from current usage levels, which could throw between 1.5 and 3.2 million Americans out of work, raise electric utility bills by 86 percent and add an extra 66 cents to the price of gasoline. What's more, a report commissioned by the Black Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and four other minority groups estimated that the Kyoto treaty would diminish the earnings of 25 million African-American and Hispanic workers by 10 percent and cost 864,000 African-Americans and 511,000 Hispanics their jobs.

Plus, one way or another, the global warming forecasters would be eligible for parole long before 2,600 years went by, so the sentence isn't as harsh as it seems at first.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice are pretty busy these days dealing with terrorism. And, obviously, dealing with terrorism must be this country's most noble and urgent calling. But, Mr. Ashcroft, when you do get some time, you might look toward an appropriate resolution the global warming issue - Brazilian style.

by Tom Randall, director of Environmental & Regulatory Affairs of the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy Research

 

Opposition to Yucca Mountain is About Nuclear Power, Not Public Safety

The opposition to opening the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is not about public safety. It is about nuclear power.

We know this because there are already far more plutonium and fission products under the ground - with no special containment - at the Nevada nuclear test site than could ever be expected to leak through the confinement barriers at the Yucca Mountain repository. At least four tons of plutonium remains at the test site, along with a much greater quantity of radioactive fission products. Yet there has been no worry about public safety, and rightly so, since this radioactive material poses no real threat to people.

Much of the worry over the repository comes from the inability of scientists to certify that nuclear waste can be isolated for 10,000 to 20,000 years, since nobody can predict what will happen over periods of time that transcend recorded history. But it doesn't matter!

The claimed need for such a long isolation period comes from assuming that spent reactor fuel is waste, and that this waste would still be dangerous after 10,000 years. Change these assumptions and the problem disappears.

Spent reactor fuel contains long-lived radioactive material that still has lots of energy in it. It can be reprocessed to remove this material, which can then be burned in advanced "fast" reactors to produce more than 100 times more energy. Old reasons for not doing this are no longer convincing in the light of new technologies. With reprocessing and fast reactors, the time the remaining waste would need to be isolated drops to around 500 years. Geological disposal for this period of time is almost trivial.

In light of these facts, Yucca Mountain should be thought of as an interim spent fuel repository. In the future, we will need the energy in this fuel.

However, even if the fuel value of the "waste" is not recovered, leakage of the material poses no long-term problem. There is so much natural radioactivity in the land near the repository (not counting the Nevada test site) that the extra contribution from the reactor waste after a few thousand years is trivial in comparison.

Nor need we worry about the transporting of spent fuel. Every year there are hundreds of thousands of shipments of gasoline in tanker trucks, and some of them turn over and catch fire and burn people (to take just one example of what we live with). There have been thousands of shipments of spent reactor fuel, too, and some of those have turned over. But we have not heard of even one case, anywhere in the world, where anyone at all has been exposed to dangerous radioactivity in a spent-fuel shipping accident.

The opposition to opening the repository is fueled by misinformation from anti-nuclear-power activists. Some just don't grasp the facts. Others seem to hope that if the utilities are unable to empty their spent-fuel storage ponds, they will not order new reactors and sooner or later the plants will have to be shut down. But that thinking is silly. If a repository is not opened, the waste will simply continue to be stored near reactors in storage ponds and dry-storage casks. Since aboveground storage of spent fuel represents the only significant terrorist target at nuclear generating plants, it is time for even the anti-nuclear-power folks to support the repository.

Frankly, it is also time for anti-nuclear activists evaluate their own position in terms of the actual risk to the public that nuclear power represents compared with the environmental impact of other energy sources. Nuclear power is by far the safest.

Conservation and alternative energy have a place, but they cannot provide the baseload electric power that will be needed in the future. Our population will grow, and energy demand with it. Lowering per capita consumption will help, but it will not solve the energy problem.

Gas-fired plants are considerably cleaner than those that burn coal or oil, but there is not enough gas for widespread baseload electricity without driving up the cost of gas, which will raise home-heating bills as well as electricity cost. We need gas for heating our homes. It is the use of gas rather than coal or oil for heating that has made American cities clean and healthy places to live.

It is time to act. Our need to be safe from terrorist attack while generating clean, low-cost energy mandates that people come together on the twin issues of Yucca Mountain and nuclear power.

by Gerald E. Marsh and George Stanford. Gerald Marsh is a physicist who served with the U.S. START delegation and was a consultant to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations on strategic nuclear policy and technology for many years. He is on the advisory board of The National Center for Public Policy Research. George Stanford is a nuclear reactor physicist, now retired from Argonne National Laboratory after a career of experimental work pertaining to power-reactor safety.





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The National Center for Public Policy Research
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