When one thinks of the US Department of Energy (DoE), they naturally might be tempted to assume that this august agency is working diligently to reinvest state revenue in the facilitation of energy solutions for the American people. Well, get ready for the big surprise. It’s not the case. The DoE has been fronting as an energy agency, only to actually spend the majority of its budget allocation each year on nuclear weapons, nuclear subs, and the clean-up of Manhattan Project sites. A full 65% of the DoE’s annual budget, or over $18 billion (as of 2011 annual allocation request) goes toward these programs, and they have nothing to do with energy, and everything to do with catastrophic destruction.
What else does DoE spend government allocated dollars on – just out of curiosity? 15% on actual energy supply; 18% on scientific research; About 2% on administration, including data collection. It must be said that the Energy Information Administration is a wonderful font of energy data. This seems to be the one area in the house of cards that has been handled properly. How much of the funding actually gets spent on nuclear? Approximately 6%, or $1.8 billion. This includes both fission and fusion, whatever that means. Included in “energy supply” is renewables, which claims $879 million of the grand prize, or about 3%.
The next question must be why? Why would the US government trot out this nice little agency on the pretext that it actually concerns itself on a day-to-day basis entirely with the none-too-small enterprise of ensuring the US population has sufficient energy? Is the Department of Defense not sufficiently funded to handle all of these issues? The answer lies in pure optics. This way, the US government gets to double-dip into taxpayers’ wallets to fund their war games, while still maintaining the veneer of actually being a responsible energy provider.
As if to add insult to injury, the DoE refuses to spend the money competently. That may be an understatement. Just this week, it was revealed that Hanford, the Manhattan Project site where all the plutonium was fabricated for the nuclear weapons program, has suffered a leak in its underground nuclear waste storage tanks. Hanford is located in Richland, Washington, in the northwest corner of the USA. The Associated Press estimated that approximately 1,000 gallons per year were leaking into the surrounding ground from no less than six tanks. The DoE characteristically hedged by suggesting that these leaks “are more than five miles from the Columbia River.” What a relief! No mention of the 50,000 inhabitants of Richland, WA.
A nuclear industry expert who visited the site six times as part of an IAEA international waste cleanup review board found that DoE was wholly irresponsive when asked about the bizarrely cavalier decision of not having double-walled tanks for the waste. They refused to even acknowledge that it was a risk at the time. Clearly they were wrong, and now radioactive waste is leaking into the ground five miles from the vital Columbia River. Playing chicken with waste plutonium is how the DoE chooses to spend most of its $30 billion per year that it doesn’t even deserve – and not, for example, investing in new nuclear technology.
What is to be done? In lieu of any actual outrage, it is no secret that western nations in general have been playing an ever-diminishing role in the nuclear industry. The eastern nations, including China, India, Russia and the Middle East, have been picking up the slack, and promise to give nuclear a bright new future, and seemingly far more well managed.