Observers, even those who long ago gave up all trust in Obama, are baffled.
On Thursday, the administration announced that the President would reappoint Kristine Svinicki to another five-year term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when her term expires at the end of June.
Obama, of course, even in the wake of Fukushima, remains a strong supporter of nuclear power. He has pushed for construction of two new reactors, the first in more than thirty years. Svinicki was first named to the NRC by George Bush, and is a close ally of the nuclear industry.
She is widely regarded as one of the most compromised commissioners, having served in the federal Department of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology and as a staff member for Senator Larry ‘Wide-Stance’ Craig (R-ID), whom Kalvin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear calls “one of the most pro-nuclear Senators of the past fifteen years.”
While at the Department of Energy, Svinicki worked on support documents for the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, a fact about which she lied during her first confirmation hearing in answer to a direct question posed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The Yucca Mountain site is the prospective repository for the thousands of tons of toxic waste in the form of ‘spent’ fuel rods currently stored all over the place, on the grounds of the country’s reactors, in ‘pools’, and in so-called ‘dry casks’, which are massive concrete coffins never meant to be permanent solutions.
Nevada doesn’t want this shit. In fact, otherwise useless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has done what he can to keep the Yucca project from happening.
So why would Barack Obama not only decide to reappoint Svinicki but announce it?
The problem of nuclear waste, apart from the suicidal dangers inherent in imperfect reactors, hasn’t been resolved. Notions for what do with it have ranged from burying it deep in the earth in enormous sealed packages to blasting it into space. Do I have to explain how the latter idea is as bone stupid as anything ever suggested by a biped?
Ironically, keeping it in ‘pools’ requires a tremendous power source to keep cooling water circulating.
America’s fuel pools are already filled beyond their intended capacity, which makes them hotter and even more dangerous. This means that pools which suffer a power loss are at greater risk of boiling off the water at a faster rate. If the fuel rods are not adequately cooled, the ‘cladding’ may melt and catch fire, which would send a catastrophic amount of radioactivity into the atmosphere. It is the damaged spent fuel pool at Fukushima reactor number 4 which imperils millions of lives –– including yours –– right now, though nobody in the U.S. media will talk about it and Obama pretends it’s not happening.
The ‘dry casks’ presently in use are already cracking, and several have moved during earthquakes.
One of the reasons why Obama’s reappointment of Svinicki is so bad is that she was centrally involved in attempts by the nuclear industry to get rid of NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko. Jaczko has urged that the Yucca project be terminated for safety reasons. He is not some left-wing, green energy freak. He is simply someone doing his job.
The Yucca site has been shown to be a really, really stupid place to locate spent reactor fuel, regardless of the safety conditions imposed. Its volcanic formation is more porous than first believed. There is evidence that water can get in, and it has an unhappy proximity to underground aquifers. There is also seismic activity. The NRC chairman has cited these and other concerns.
There has been a concerted, orchestrated attempt to get rid of Jaczko, including attacks on his ‘management style’ by Republican legislators.
The nuclear industry is desperate for Yucca. Without it, it will be hard to justify or explain license extensions for the current 104 reactors, all of them aging and showing signs of dangerous deterioration. Without it, the new reactors Obama is backing would be hard to approve, since there would be no reliable place to get rid of the waste.
All of this is pretty obvious to those following the story, but a couple of things about the Obama announcement are striking and unusual. One, it would be easy enough to name someone else to the Svinicki seat who might be less controversial, who didn’t have a history of having committed perjury in her confirmation hearings, and who would at least on the surface de-escalate the war on the NRC. Two, there would seem to be no earthly reason why the decision would be announced months in advance, something which is rarely done with respect to federal agencies and departments.
But Barack Obama is not an ordinary man. Even given his ideological conservatism, his manifest lack of integrity, and his record on matters of energy policy, he seems to sometimes behave in a gratuitously obsequious manner toward the military and the multinational corporations. No one seems able to explain this.
In 1968, a fellow named Grant Cooper was the attorney for one Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the accused assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy. Although the defendant was actually innocent, Cooper mounted no defense. In fact, he promoted a ‘proposal’ which would deny Sirhan his rights in exchange for nothing at all.
The district attorney made the following ‘offer’: if Sirhan pled guilty, there would be no trial, but the prosecution would still be free to seek the death penalty.
No defendant would willingly take such an ‘offer’. No defense attorney would entertain it. But Cooper tried to convince his client to accept it. Only a trial judge who was looking for a public splash before his expected retirement, and thus indicated he wouldn’t accept such a plea, prevented it from happening.
Cooper then took the bizarre step of publicly announcing that he had urged Sirhan to accept the deal and asked that his position be entered into the official record of the case.
No lawyer would do that. It was tantamount to proclaiming that one had committed malpractice and insisting on making a record of it. Yet Cooper did it. Why?
Because Cooper was a compromised counsel whose loyalty was not to his client but to the federal government, which was at the time investigating him for his role in a massive fraud involving the L.A. Friars Club, celebrities, and the mafia. Once he had done his job as Sirhan’s counsel, the investigation of Cooper disappeared.
Cooper not only made a public show of urging his client to trade his right to a trial for absolutely nothing in return, he refused to enter into evidence forensic proof of his client’s factual innocence and manifest proof of police fraud.
Cooper’s otherwise unnecessary announcement was for the purpose of signaling his sponsors in the U.S. Attorney’s office that he was on board. The U.S. Attorney, incidentally, was a fellow named Matthew Byrne, who was thereafter rewarded with a federal judgeship.
President Obama’s unnecessary announcement may well have been for the purpose of signaling his sponsors in the nuclear industry that he is on board. That appears to be the most plausible explanation.