Here’s a clear example in which an ounce of prevention would have been worth at least a pound of cure: The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the facility in central Washington that, for four decades, produced plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The site is severely contaminated, and cleanup costs are absurdly expensive, somewhere in the range of $50 to $60 billion through 2035. Now, as the Tri-City Heraldnotes, new liabilities are piling up, this time to compensate workers from Hanford and other federal nuclear sites whose health has suffered as a result of their on-the-job exposures. The Department of Labor has just taken over one such compensation program, after it languished in the hands of the Energy Department. Through the end of 2004, a similar Labor Department compensation program for nuclear workers had racked up outlays of about US$ one billion.
All of this, obviously, is being paid for by federal taxpayers, adding expenses to an already out-of-balance federal buget. It all makes me wish that someone had been taking precautions earlier on. That way, my kids wouldn’t still be paying in their middle age for toxic blunders that were made before their father was born.