Waste Sites Aren't Built in a Day Either

The columnist in the article "Low-Level Radioactive Waste Piles Up," July 28, is correct that the Jan. 1, 1993, deadline for the development of new waste-disposal facilities passed without the operation of a new disposal site in any of the regional compacts.

But a pronouncement of failure based simply on a congressionally imposed deadline implies that Congress has supernatural powers in determining the time required to accomplish a difficult task. We all know better.

Since Congress gave its consent to the regional compacts in 1985, the states have submitted license applications to construct new disposal facilities (California, in the Southwestern Compact; Nebraska in the Central Compact; and Texas in the Southeast Compact). Given the current obstacles to development of any type of waste-disposal facility, even for municipal solid waste, these four states reflect remarkable progress.

In addition, the columnist argues that falling waste volumes justify fewer sites. But he fails to recognize that compacting or incinerating waste, the principle means of reducing volume, does not diminish the radioactivity - it only results in a smaller package. He also fails to anticipate that nuclear power plants and other facilities that use radioactive materials one day will be decommissioned. Their dismantlement can produce significant amounts of waste. Gregg S. Larson, St. Paul, Minn. Executive Director, Midwest Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission

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