Gov. Anthony S. Earl (D) of Wisconsin put his people's reactions with grim facetiousness. "We haven't purchased any F111s yet, but we expect to use every technical and political resource at our command in order to keep this dump and all of its problems out of Wisconsin."
Four other governors were with him to say why none of their states would do as a nuclear trash site. They all complained to the House subcommittee on energy conservation and power that the Department of Energy, which fingered 12 locations in seven states, had made gross errors -- bad mapping, overlooking of wetlands, earthquake faults, cracked granite and Indian rights -- had, in short, been ignorant, hasty and sloppy in its procedures.
Gov. Joseph E. Brennan (D) of scenic Maine, which is marked for two dump sites, said that DOE's report was "riddled with inaccuracies."
Virginia's Gerald L. Baliles (D) introduced several maps with plastic overlays showing that by DOE's charts an earthquake fault in the Blue Ridge mountains obligingly stopped at the North Carolina border.
Gov. James G. Martin (R) of North Carolina said that DOE had made its selection on the basis of rocks, not people.
Gov. Rudy Perpich (D) of Minnesota spoke of flawed and outdated data, "geographic bias and technically questionable conclusions."
Two governors from other states that have also won the dubious distinction of being on the short list, New Hampshire's John H. Sununu (R) and Georgia's Joe Frank Harris (D), did not appear. Each has a special problem. Sununu, an advocate of nuclear power, is nervously awaiting the opening of Seabrook, New Hampshire's fiercely contested nuclear plant. Harris also has a plant under construction.
DOE has been taken aback by the passion that its announcement of Jan. 16 for the "east of the Mississippi" site recommended by the Nuclear Waste Deposit Act of 1982 has engendered, especially in New England.
The western choices, Washington, Nevada and Texas, were calmly accepted. Hanford, the Washington site, is familiar with nuclear activity, and Nevada's Yucca Flats does nuclear testing. Texas seemed hospitable, although resistance is on the rise.
But New Hampshire and Maine rose up and grabbed their pitchforks. The public meetings on the sites went on in some cases all night, and DOE representatives were greeted with hostile roars and primal screams about the destruction of "our stone walls, our birches, our pines."
Vice President Bush, a summer resident of Maine, where a grass-roots movement called "CANT" (Citizens Against Nuclear Trash) has collected thousands of adherents and dollars, has become an unwilling connoisseur of antidump passions.
Sununu, aware that his outraged voters may begin to look again at Seabrook and the generation of still more poisoned trash, is trying desperately to separate the two issues -- although some thoroughly aroused Granite Staters tell him that it is as hopeless as trying to divide the milk from the cow. Seabrook will generate 1,120 metric tons of high-level waste by the year 2020.
The nuclear power industry has been in decline since 1979, when Three Mile Island came dangerously close to meltdown. One hundred plants are in operation around the country, and 20 more are being built at almost prohibitive costs, much of which must be assumed by ratepayers.
The fierce fight over the waste, which can be toxic for 100,000 years, should have occurred during the '70s, the heyday of nuclear power expansion. With the gasoline shortage and rising oil prices, all assumed that something would turn up. It didn't. The connection between "clean, safe, quiet power" and radioactive trash has been made and the industry could be faced with agitation to close down existing plants.
"Citizen response is directed not only at disposal siting issues but also at nuclear waste generation," warned Perpich. Earl said Wisconsin has two nuclear plants scheduled for decommissioning, and would never have another.
To the dismay of Bush and other Republican presidential candidates, the waste dump will become the major issue in the first primary state -- unless DOE takes back the Ace of Spades at preliminary decision time next year.
Western members of the committee urged the distraught governors not to let the furor over waste-dump sites turn into a war between east and west, exhorted them to be objective, to share patriotically and philosophically the poisoned national burden.
That is not likely.