Press "Enter" to skip to content

Daugaard Sought Funding for Research on Nuclear Waste; Edgemont 1984 Redux?

Last updated on 2013.06.12

Holy glowing cow! If you're trying to work up the courage to run against Dennis Daugaard for Governor in 2014, let this stiffen your spine: Governor Daugaard may be setting South Dakota up to host a nuclear waste dump.

To explain, I yield the floor to one of the smartest commenters to grace the South Dakota blogosphere, Mr. Donald Pay, who draws dashes between the dots of Gov. Daugaard, former Rep. Heather Wilson, the School of Mines, and the nuclear industry:

I believe Heather Wilson's hiring at the School of Mines and Technology may be a part of a tightly held (so far secret from South Dakota residents) plan of the Governor of South Dakota to site an interim high-level radioactive waste disposal facility, or perhaps a geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste in South Dakota.

While Governor Daugaard has not made any public announcement, it appears he has been sending letters indicating an interest in having South Dakota serve as a storage site for high-level radioactive waste... [Donald Pay, comment, Madville Times, 2013.06.12].

Pay cites this blog post, which refers to a March 7, 2012, meeting of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, at which Albert Carnesale, nuclear engineer, former UCLA chancellor, and member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, mentioned a letter Governor Daugaard sent to then-U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu:

Some of you, I presume, that members of the Board may be aware, others may not be, just last week a letter was written by the Governor of South Dakota to Secretary Chu, asking for the support for a research program going on at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology on shale, broadly. But one aspect was to be what about the suitability of shale in South Dakota for storing radioactive waste? And he said he supports this fully, but he put in the usual caveats. The fact that it turns out to be promising does not guarantee that South Dakota would say, “Okay, put it here.” That they would have to go through some process themselves. But it’s not as if nobody is willing to step forward to even think about it [Albert Carnesale, transcript, U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, Spring Board Meeting, 2012.03.07].

Governor Daugaard "supports this fully." That phrase is perfect example of one of my English teacher pet peeves, the vague this. This what? This research? This nuclear waste dump? Always put a noun after this to make yourself clear. The unclear antecedent in Carnesale's statement could be the difference between South Dakota voters raising an eyebrow and going for their pitchforks.

Pay continues:

This development is very similar to the secret efforts made in the late 1982 by Governor Bill Janklow's administration to site a low-level radioactive waste facility at Igloo, SD. That attempt met strong opposition from South Dakotans, leading to an initiative vote followed by a Legislative ballot issue, which killed the plan. The 1984 initiative also precluded siting a high-level radioactive waste facility in South Dakota without a vote of the citizens. However, the Legislature used an illegal vote of a 100+ page bill to repeal that protection.

A new initiative may be necessary to protect South Dakota from Governor Daugaard's plans to site a high-level radioactive waste facility in South Dakota.

Heather Wilson, a well known supporter of the nuclear industry, may use her position to grease the skids for a high-level radioactive waste facility. She could use SDSM&T to launder nuclear industry money [Pay, 2013.06.12].

That's odd: I was of the impression that the brainiacs at Mines are doing enough good work there that we don't need to pimp ourselves out to nuclear waste to get research dollars. And I really, really, really don't see a nuclear waste dump boosting our effort to recruit Minnesotans to move to South Dakota (more on that in another post).

I don't fault the Governor for seeking federal money for solid research (I'll leave that to my anti-science RINO-hunting friends). But given the controversy that arose when Governor Janklow tried to "save" Edgemont with nuclear waste, it would seem wise for Governor Daugaard to make any intentions he has in this direction clear and invite the public to discuss whether they want to go down that road again.

Related Reading:


  1. Donald Pay 2013.06.13

    Thanks for the follow up, Cory. I was going to post the Carnesale quotes from the BRC this morning, but you beat me to it.

    Thanks also for the historical information as well.

  2. Rick 2013.06.13

    I'm glad you included the Minnesota poop sludge fiasco. A more damning version was in the Wall Street Journal which shamed South Dakota for backing an "alchemy" plan to extract silver, gold, cadmium and heavy metals from dried out sewage sludge from the Twin Cities. And where did all that silver and gold come from? Answer: Years of people brushing their teeth and spitting in drains.

    Janklow kept an arm's distance on the plan as he left office to lose in the primary against Jim Abdnor, so this pile of poo wound up on George S. Mickelson's desk. The magic alchemy machine's technology never developed. It was a scam. Yet, train loads of sludge wound up in our beautiful Black Hills, heaped in piles that had to be removed and shipped off when it was clear the episode was a complete farce. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars from your taxes to clean up that mess.

    This brings me to the fools' parade known as the Hyperion "Green" Refinery, also known as The Gorilla Project. At no point did this scheme have any realistic possibility of getting the $10 billion government grant since its founders had no ability to raise so much money for a refinery to be built in South Dakota. Just because you can find a state gullible enough to host a concept which had never been built and tested doesn't mean it's a great investment option. The net result is the truth eventually emerged and a lot of Union and Clay County neighbors pissed off at each other with the way the whole deal pitted them against each other getting land options, all because someone in Pierre thought there was a buck to be had. It was a very ugly episode.

    Don't get me wrong. I support business developments aggressively as long as they are well thought out and they're a strong match for our state's people and their communities. Yet there is an embarrassing litany of Pierre biting onto really dumb and destructive ideas. I had hoped the bitter taste from Lonetree, sewage sludge, mountaintop removal gold schemes, giant corporate hog farms, the Hyperion farce and public outrage at past radioactive waste dumps would deter more bad ideas.

  3. Donald Pay 2013.06.13

    Minnesota's poop ash didn't get carted off. It got buried at Igloo. South Dakota got suckered, or was that the plan all along? Only Janklow knew, and he ain't telling.

  4. interested party 2013.12.18

    Cory: please revisit this.

Comments are closed.