Friday, April 04, 2008

Privatize This

#381 Privatize This

The Jersey Turnpike, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the coal industry, the steel industry. In the US and Britain, they're still looking to shove unprofitable or costly municipal or federal assets to private enterprise. These are the kinds of deals that make money for middlemen and brokers and analysts and consultants, a whole category of people brought into existence to bring down the criminal population, un-clog the courts and slow the overcrowding of prisons.

But when it comes to privatizing something that it makes SENSE to privatize, the Great Capitalists are unready to move.

Here's a fine example: The surge is working. Not the surge in Iraq, the surge in fuel prices. Gasoline, oil, corn, wheat, and anything else that can be burned in an internal combustion engine is approaching the edge between the earth's atmosphere and the beginnings of outer space.

So what fuel is cheap and plentiful? The engineers and utility companies insist it's atomic energy. And to a certain extent, they're right. While Three Mile Island and Chernobyl pretty much vaccinated us against the widespread use of nuclear fuel, technical advances have overcome the kinds of problems that caused the two most famous nuclear failures in history. The problem with atomic energy is two-fold. First, they build the plants on the cheap. Billions may not seem cheap, but it is. The main problem with nuclear plants today is plumbing. Plumbers are expensive, so they often bring in temps, Hells Angels, vagabonds, odd jobbers and workfare victims. And they tend to do a lousy job. Doing a lousy plumbing job is an inconvenience in your bathroom or kitchen and a disruption in your basement. In a nuke plant, it's a disaster.

So, bring in certified construction plumbing foremen and plumbers, people who've had to deal with real plumbing in real buildings in real places where you can't bribe the city inspector to look the other way while you put in a solder joint where four are specified and six makes more sense. Problem solved.

But then, there's nuclear waste. When atomic fuel is "spent" in a reactor, it's still radioactive and therefore dangerous.

One plan is to rocket the stuff into outer space, where another few trillion Curie of radiation won't make much of a difference.

It's a pretty good idea, but NASA appears to busy to do it. So here's a suggestion.

Let's get FedEx, UPS and DHL to build unmanned rockets, and ship the stuff off into the wild blue yonder.

Look at it this way: the FedEx driver pulls up to the nuke plant, dons his hazmat suit, loads up the truck, and the next thing you know, the stuff's on a rocket heading for Andromeda III or the Siamese Squid Nebula.

It would take some doing. Maybe even a tax break or two. But once on board and out of the atmosphere, no worries.

The package people do a pretty good job when it absolutely positively has to get there on time, so why not when there's no particular hurry?


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008



2 comments:

Johnny Rocket said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Rocket said...

I was glad to hear two nuke plants are in some early stage of development in Georgia. They (Georgians) may not typically be thought of as trend setters, but I hope they are just the beginning of a 'nostalgia kick' for nukes. I've advocated a strong nuke program in Pennsylvania would be among the best of economic stimuli. Even as a government (or highly government incentivized) program, the need for ultra-professional plumbers, and a legion of other well trained individuals, would skyrocket. A good pun perhaps, as a goal of commissioning a certain number of nukes per year could generate the enthusiasm of the moonshot of the 60's. We need that, the national unity and enthusiasm, if we are going to return to a higher level of prosperity for all. The electricity wouldn't hurt either.