A4 A4
Editorial: Piketon demolition shows costs of nuclear power

Nuclear power has been sold by some people as a clean alternative to coal or natural gas for producing electricity, but the experience of one small town in southern Ohio shows that nuclear power is not really clean power.

According to an article last week in the Wall Street Journal, demolition has begun or is about to begin on the old uranium enrichment plant at Piketon, Ohio. The plant is about 25 to 30 miles north of Portsmouth, Ohio, which puts it at about an hour and a half driving time from Huntington.

From 1954 to 2001, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, as it was called, was one of the three plants in the U.S. that produced highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and for commercial reactors. The other two were at Paducah, Kentucky, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. At its height, the Piketon plant employed thousands of workers, some of whom commuted long distances.

In 2001, the three plants’ operations were consolidated at Paducah. That rendered the Piketon plant redundant. Although plans were floated to replace its outmoded gas centrifuge technology with something more modern, none was ever put into practice there, and now after 20 years of idleness the plant is being dismantled.

The Journal article quotes several Piketon area residents as being concerned that not enough steps are being taken to protect demolition workers from radiation-related illness and to protect nearby residents, too. Two years ago, neptunium-237, a radioactive element, was detected across the road from Zahns Corners Middle School. After that, radioactive isotopes were found in the school, several nearby homes and a creek. The Department of Energy says the neptunium-237 was at normal background levels and could be naturally occurring. Nevertheless, the school was closed.

This wasn’t the first time concerns had been raised about how the plant affected local health. Over the past 40 years at least, some nearby residents have said the plant was a contributor to a local cancer cluster.

The plant’s sheer economic strength in southern Ohio — reaching into northeast Kentucky, also — provided some cover, but with the plant having been closed for 20 years, that protection is gone.

There are few forms of truly “clean” energy, whether we’re talking about fossil fuels or renewables. Using the Piketon plant again as an example, the old technology used at Piketon required tremendous amounts of electricity. Two coal-fired power plants were built to supply it with the energy it needed. One was the Kyger Creek plant a few miles north of Gallipolis, Ohio. The other was in Indiana.

All forms of energy production have their drawbacks, and each requires a cost-benefit analysis to determine if new technologies are better than old ones. It’s the argument some people make regarding electric cars, and it’s the same one that has come into play with the cleanup at Piketon.


John Patrick Grace: Biden could be a good hope for WV

Will the presidency of Joe Biden be good for West Virginia?

That, it seems to me, ought to be the bottom-line question in these parts. From the response nationally to Biden’s first address to the U.S. Congress last Wednesday evening, I would say a shift in attitude from suspicion to at least mild positive interest is on the horizon.

West Virginia’s two senators, Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R), were among only 200 or so people invited to sit, with plenty of social distancing, in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 70- minute speech.

House and Senate leaders from both parties were on hand, but the majority of senators and representatives had to watch the rollout of the Biden agenda on television due to COVID-19 precautions. And everyone in attendance was masked, except for Biden himself while he was speaking.

Mountain State families as well as individuals and our state’s small businesses and governmental units — counties and cities — have already benefitted from the relief bill Biden proposed. Paula and I received both the initial relief checks of $600 each and the subsequent federal payments of $1,400 for a total of $4,000 for our household.

Some of our relief money went into savings accounts, but another portion has already been spent. I expect that’s the same for a lot of folks. And whatever you spent has helped relaunch economies, either locally or for online purchases, nationally.

Biden’s highest marks in national polls come for his rollout of vaccines to combat the spread of the coronavirus that has ravaged our nation and indeed virtually the entire world. He had promised 100 million injections in his first 100 days. Shot records for the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in that timeframe showed last week that 220 million doses went into American arms.

Talk about “under-promise and over-deliver,” the mantra of successful sales campaigns.

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls late last week put Biden’s favorabilities at 72% for his rollout of the vaccines and 53% for his performance overall. Gov. Jim Justice has been 100% on board with Biden’s vaccine push, and indeed roughly 45% of our state’s adult population has now been fully vaccinated.

Long known as a moderate in Democratic Party policies, Biden articulated proposals for days ahead that clearly tip toward the liberal side on issues such as gun safety reform, police training and tactics reform and the hope for comprehensive immigration reform. In his speech he especially underscored his aim of securing citizenship for the “Dreamers,” children brought to the U.S. by illegal immigrant parents.

Such children, many now in their 30s and 40s, speak English with natural American accents and in dress and manner seem just like the rest of us. In short, America has long been their home. Many have never even been back to their countries of origin.

Notably absent from the Biden address was any mention of expanding abortion rights, such as by repealing the Hyde Amendment which, for 44 years, has blocked the use of federal funds to offset the costs of an abortion. Many voters opposed Biden in the 2020 election primarily on that issue, which remains a heated and divisive point in U.S. politics. Republicans largely champion the pro-life side. Democrats largely stand behind the right to abortion in all 50 states guaranteed by the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe vs. Wade.

Kathleen Parker: Liberals just can't handle a Black conservative

CAMDEN, S.C. — The tightrope one must walk when discussing race these days is especially perilous if you happen be Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

During his response Wednesday night to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, Scott managed to keep his balance. He leveled strong and smart criticisms at Biden’s agenda for the next four years.

But you wouldn’t know it to read his critics on the left. The only Black Republican in the Senate, Scott was quickly trending as “Uncle Tim” on Twitter, as a tool of white supremacists and as a blind servant of the far right. Liberals just cannot handle a Black conservative.

This, my friends, is (also) what racism looks like in America today.

Let a Black man speak for the GOP; let him defend conservative values that were once considered mainstream; let him challenge the current orthodoxy of systemic racism that pegs whites as oppressors — and he will feel the wrath of those for whom, as Scott said, belief in racism is essential to political power.

The trouble among people who seem to see racism everywhere is that Scott neither sees nor dwells in a Black-and-White world. Life for Scott hasn’t been easy. As he said Wednesday, he has experienced the insults to his dignity that other minorities recognize as part and parcel of life in America. He’s been followed in stores, he said, and pulled over for no reason while driving.

As a child growing up in South Carolina, Scott was often angry in school, he said, and nearly failed. That he didn’t is a credit to his single mother, who “has prayed me through some really tough times,” and his grandparents with whom, he, his mother and his brother lived. He spoke of seeing his grandfather read the morning paper each day, only to learn much later that his grandfather couldn’t read but was trying to set an example.

In other words, Scott’s is the kind of story Americans have always admired — the overcoming of adversity to become what he could not have imagined as a child.

So, what’s wrong with Tim Scott? Not one thing except that he’s a conservative — and Black. A child could easily recognize the unfairness of such an assessment. Anyone can see that judging Scott by his skin color is the essence of racism. The fact that Republicans admire him does not and should not diminish his accomplishments.

Scott’s response to Biden was respectful while also being tough on policies that at other times in our history might have brought a broad segment of Americans to their feet in protest. Yet, we’re supposed to sit back and nod at the prospect of $4 trillion in new spending. Shut the door.

Massive new government programs are often tempting, especially when it comes to things such as infrastructure. Everyone knows that improvements to roads, bridges and waterways are critical. Everyone wants all children to be well-fed and well-educated. But who pays for free preschool and free community college? Who pays for medical and family leave? Who picks up the higher cost of goods and services when corporations are set to be taxed at higher rates? Even the very wealthiest Americans aren’t rich enough to cover Biden’s proposed spending spree.

In his rebuttal, Scott based his criticisms on core conservative principles by which he was raised. Yes, of course, Republicans are gratified when a conservative African American comes along because there are so few. But there’s no justification for conflating appreciation with White manipulation or the dubious “reward” of responding to the president in prime time, a practice that often ruins a political future.

As Scott said, “It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination.”

Thus, the more apt question is: What’s wrong with progressives?

An array of debates awaits us. We should have them. But let every person speak without threat of reprisal on the basis of race — slammed as un-woke, guilty of “White grievance,” or a traitor to one’s race. Those who diminish Scott under the racist rubric that a Black man can’t be a conservative for his own good reasons diminish themselves — all of us, really. Worse, they impede the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s unifying goal that we judge a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. Nice work.