Nuke train cometh?

Log onto and see how close your house sits to the shipments of high-level radioactive waste that could well be coming through Chico within the next eight years. I live within a mile. The Senate voted this week to allow spent nuclear fuel rods from across the country to be hauled to and buried in Yucca Mountain, Nev., which is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. I called Rep. Wally Herger‘s office to find out how he feels about the Senate vote. A few years ago Herger, R-Marysville, said he opposed the shipment of spent rods through the Feather River Canyon on their way from Oakland to Idaho for temporary storage until a permanent repository could be found. Now that one’s been found, it looks like the Union Pacific tracks through Chico is a likely route for the waste coming from power plants in the Northwest, including the decommissioned plant in HumboldtsBay. Herger Spokesman Dan MacLean said the routes shown by Mapscience are premature at this juncture, and that the Department of Energy will have to hash out the travel plans over the next few years. However, a map in the Sacramento Bee based on information supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy certainly seems to indicate the shipments would be coming through Chico.

If nothing else, this gives the folks opposed to the Sterling student apartment building along Nord Avenue and next to the train tracks some new ammunition. Part of their objection to the project is its close proximity to the tracks. It’s dangerous, they say, to place students right next to roaring locomotives. (I’d have to add, especially those carrying high-level nuclear waste.) And the engineers who haul their trains through Chico complain about the debris—including inebriated people—that sometimes ends up on the tracks. Maybe now is the time to look into re-routing the tracks to a more westerly location. We’ve got eight years to do it. But then again maybe Chico’s nuclear-free ordinance will protect us. All you folks who made fun of the Chico City Council that passed that ordinance—who’s laughing now?

Last Friday, July 5, the CN&R celebrated its 25th birthday at the Friday Concert in the Park. Actually we sort of crashed the celebrations of two other local institutions holding silver anniversaries—the Madison Bear Garden hamburger and beer palace and the Friday Night Concert in the Park series itself. Honoring us—we’d like to think, anyway—with their presence were Chico Mayor Dan Herbert and Rep. Herger. (I didn’t make it to the festivities because my arms were too sore from all the frenetic flag-waving I did the day before.) I’d like to thank those two guys for taking time out of their busy schedules—remember they are both Republicans running for re-election—to help us commemorate our longtime standing in the community with a burger joint and a concert series.

How things change. I’ve learned that 25 years ago The Wildcat, this paper’s on-campus predecessor, actually fought against the arrival of The Bear, bemoaning the fact it was a chain (with links in Sacramento and Mountain View), that its location on the corner of Second and Salem streets was too close to the university and that it would ruin the downtown—or something like that. More irony bought on by 25 years of mellowing: Apparently this paper’s political leanings once stood diametrically opposed to those of conservative leaders like Mayor Herbert and Rep. Herger. The CN&R used to be a (cover your kids’ ears, please) liberal rag. Back then the reporters wore torn-up jeans and T-shirts and drove 15-year-old VW bugs. Now we wear blue blazers and black wing-tips and drive Ford Expeditions.

Okay, I made that last part up. But recently I have come to the conclusion that despite what Gil Scott-Heron told us all those years ago, the Revolution did get televised. In fact, it’s not only televised, it’s also sponsored by Miller Genuine Draft and sells product placement options to Pepsi and merchandising rights to McDonalds. The Revolution’s music has been turned into jingles hawking everything from tennis shoes to allergy medicine and now investors are banking on the success of Revolution II, The Sequel starring Will Smith and Halle Berry. Anybody interested in buying a "THE REVOLUTION GOT TELEVISED" bumper sticker can send me $19.95 and as soon as enough people do, I’ll get those stickers mass produced and sent out.