Schmidt considers nuke waste
BY HOWARD WILKINSON | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
This doesn’t happen every day: An incumbent member of Congress, in the middle of a re-election battle, says that storing nuclear waste shipments from around the world in her district may be a good idea.
U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt does say that, and her support for studying the idea has become an issue in her re-election campaign, especially in rural Pike County, in the far eastern end of her sprawling Southern Ohio District, where the nuclear wastes would be stored.
“I’m not advocating for it one way or the other,” Schmidt told The Enquirer. “I’m saying it is something we need to look at.”
Schmidt said she sees potential to create “hundreds, maybe thousands of jobs” in an economically distressed part of the state, where double-digit unemployment rates are the norm.
Schmidt has signed on to an effort by the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) and a Cleveland-based company called SONIC to seek a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $5 million for a study of whether the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant should be a site for temporary storage and recycling of spent nuclear fuel rods. The 3,400-acre site near Piketon produced highly enriched uranium through the Cold War years for military purposes and for civilian reactors until 2001, when that activity was consolidated at the similar Paducah plant.
A decision on the grant could come this week.
The idea of nuclear waste storage on a site that is still being cleaned up from its previous use has infuriated environmentalists and neighbors of the plant in Pike County and nearby Scioto County, prompting a communitywide petition drive and vows to fight the storage plan to the bitter end.
That and the fact that Schmidt’s Democratic opponent, Victoria Wulsin of Indian Hill, has come out against the idea, mean that the issue could have an impact on Schmidt’s re-election – meaning it could help determine who represents 650,000 constituents from Greater Cincinnati to Portsmouth.
“All I can tell you is that when it became known that she supports this, every Jean Schmidt yard sign in the county went down overnight,” said Geoffrey Sea, a writer whose home abuts the Piketon plant.
While in most towns and congressional districts, outside business investors coming in is usually considered a good thing, I have no idea why the hell Schmidt thought it would be a good idea to have a nuclear waste facility in her district. Maybe she’s getting campaign advice from Mr. Burns? Yucca Mountain is a no-brainer for people and politicians in Nevada, regardless of their political stripes. In a close re-election race, a gaffe like this could be costly for Schmidt.
NOTE: The photo is of a radioactive waste facility in Chernobyl, taken by a Ukrainian TV news station.