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    A radioactive argument for storing nuclear waste in Eugene

    May 23, 2022 - Don Kahle


      Eugene and Oregon are searching everywhere for new tools to increase housing affordability. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has a plan that could accomplish this almost instantly, while adding a new source of revenue to the city's coffers.

      The Biden administration is looking for communities willing to serve as temporary homes for nuclear waste currently stored at power plants around the country. Biden is resuming a "consent-based" process for storing 89,000 metric tons of nuclear waste.

      "We know that those communities will have to be compensated for their willingness, as a service to the nation," Granholm recently told reporters after touring a decommissioned nuclear power plant in California.

      Granholm didn't specify how much money the feds will pay for each barrel of nuclear waste stored inside the city limits, but it doesn't really matter. Those extra funds should be considered isotopic icing on the radioactive cake. The most important benefit for Eugene would be an immediate reduction in property values. Housing affordability would return in an instant.

      To those who ask where exactly would we store this sinister slurry, I propose that we take enough of it so that every neighborhood can benefit from its anti-gentrifying effect. If that doesn't suit citizens, we could take just a single barrel and move it around town, extinguishing skyrocketing home values wherever it goes.

      You can make my proposal as modest as you like, but you cannot deny its effectiveness. Once we welcome nuclear waste into our city, housing costs will plummet. Even just the threat of an unending contamination will fix this problem that we've been unable to fix any other way.

      Once other cities get wind — hopefully not downwind — of our plan for guaranteed home affordability, there may be competition. Fortunately, the Hanford Nuclear Site, home to the largest Superfund cleanup operation in history, is just up the road in eastern Washington.

      If Eugene doesn't win the waste windfall immediately, there will be more chances in the future. The United States produces approximately 2,000 metric tons of nuclear waste every year, so the detritus depot demand is sure to multiply in the years ahead.

      If everything goes swimmingly, we can always add more waste for additional federal funds in the future. If we play our carcinogenic cards right, we could probably entirely eliminate property taxes. Come to think of it, that might happen anyway as property values approach zero.

      We won't have to spend money fixing potholes because there will be so few residents driving around that roads will barely deteriorate. There will be no more lines at the grocery store. There may not even be grocery stores, if delivery drivers refuse to don hazmat suits to enter our blast-area bliss.

      This flawless plan has one more benefit that cannot be denied. Anyone who doesn't see the value and logic of this plan will be exposing themselves. Housing affordability advocates must eschew half-measures and embrace half-life measures to save Eugene and communities under its potential plume.

      Every crusade benefits from identifying those who are truly, deeply and thoroughly committed to the cause. These efforts are already underway. Those who are judged to be less committed to the cause are treated as vermin who care only about themselves. For whatever selfish reason, they just don't fully understand the severity of the housing affordability crisis.

      Simply put, all we need to do to make Eugene affordable is to make it less attractive. There's no need to overthink it. If the federal government will pay us to make our city more affordable, we'd be monsters not to accept the offer. And we're not monsters, are we? No — though living near nuclear waste together could change that.

      Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at


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