Legislature, help me out. Every time I post about the Deep Borehole Field Test—you know, that nice little engineering project to try drilling perfectly straight three-mile holes in bedrock to see if maybe someday the United States Department of Energy might finally, permanently dispose of the nuclear waste we’ve been generating since the Manhattan Project—almost everybody on my blog, right and left, except for nuclear engineer (mad scientist?) Robert McTaggart, says Good God no, they’ll drop nuclear waste down those holes! Despite the assurances of everyone involved that no nuclear waste will be used in the Deep Borehole Field Test—the contract says so!—but on this issue, my readers trust nobody.
As I suggested last spring, the only way to provide voters the guarantee they crave against any placing of nuclear waste in the Borehole is democracy. Toward that end, I beat the New Year’s rush and propose the first Dakota Free Press Bill of 2017, an idea that Donald Pay offered in last year’s discussion of reader-proposed legislation.
Dakota Free Press Bill 2017–01: Submitting Long-Term Nuclear Waste Disposal to a Public Vote
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to submit nuclear waste disposal to statewide public vote.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. No person, corporation, public agency, political subdivision, or other entity may store nuclear waste anywhere in South Dakota without first obtaining a nuclear waste permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Section 2. Any entity seeking a nuclear waste permit shall submit an application to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources including the following information:
- the source, amount, and composition of nuclear waste to be disposed;
- the entity’s plan for containing, disposing, and monitoring the waste;
- a description of the disposal site, including exact location and assessment of the geology, hydrology, land usage, cultural and economic features, and other relevant information;
- the entity’s plan for remedying any leakage of the nuclear waste into the environment; and,
- proof of financial resources to carry out all transportation, disposal, and clean-up activities associated with the plan.
Section 3. All items submitted in relation to a nuclear waste permit are public record from the moment of filing.
Section 4. The Department of Nuclear Waste may reject any nuclear waste application for incompleteness or deficiencies in scientific analysis, engineering, or financing.
Section 5. If the Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not reject a nuclear waste permit application, that application shall be submitted to a statewide vote in the next general election or, if deemed necessary by the Governor, a special election.
Section 6. If a majority of voters approve a nuclear waste permit in a statewide vote, the Department of Environment and Nuclear Waste may issue the permit.
Section 7. An entity receiving a nuclear waste permit must begin its nuclear waste disposal project within four years of certification of the public vote on that permit. If no physical work on the permitted site takes place within four years of issuance, the permit expires.
Section 8. Nuclear waste permits may not be transferred to entities not named in the initial nuclear waste permit application.
Section 9. Approved nuclear waste permits may not be amended. Once approved, a nuclear waste permit applies only to the type, amount, and location of nuclear waste specified in the final application.
Section 10. Whereas, this Act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, and this Act shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and approval.
Readers, as always, I welcome your amendments.
South Dakotans had this public-vote power over nuclear waste thanks to a voter initiative in 1984. We used it once to reject a nuclear waste dump at Edgemont; then the Legislature took our power away in 1987.
Rep. Lana Greenfield threw political grenades last spring when the Borehole threatened her skeptical constituents in Spink County. Now that the Borehole proposal has moved from District 2 to District 27, will Reps. Elizabeth May and Steve Livermont and Senator Kevin Killer be as attentive to the fears of their Haakon County voters? If so, Rep. May, Rep. Livermont, and Senator Killer, DFP Bill 2017–1 is your first item for the hopper. Give voters the guarantee they crave that no one will sneak nuclear waste into the Boreholes or anywhere else in South Dakota: restore power over nuclear waste to the voters.