John Oliver's Nuclear Waste Segment - What it Gets Right & Wrong


John Oliver, formerly of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," tackled the expansive issue of nuclear waste and its dangers on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight." The episode aired on August 20th, 2017 (content warning: explicit language). The comedian made some very good points (and jokes) about the health impacts of this frequently hushed-up issue. We take a look at what Mr. Oliver and his team did well, and what wasn't quite right.

What was right:

  • This is an immense problem that has been around for decades and decades—and we still don't have an ideal solution for all the waste we've created as a nation.
  • Radiation from nuclear waste is a public health threat. That's why physicians and other health professionals are concerned about safe storage of nuclear waste.

What isn't right:

  • Mr. Oliver uses the metaphor that we "built a house and forgot to build a toilet." We're always going to need toilets, but we don't have to make any more nuclear waste. The most responsible option is to stop creating radioactive waste and instead get our power from clean, renewable sources.
  • Yucca Mountain in Nevada is not a feasible site for a permanent nuclear waste repository. Hundreds of national and state environmental groups and Native American tribes agree that hardened on-site storage of waste is a better, safer option than Yucca Mountain.

What you can do: write a tweet using these talking points and mention John Oliver (@iamjohnoliver) in order to send the message to both the folks on his TV team and his followers are properly informed about nuclear waste issues.

Call your Congressperson and ask them to oppose Rep. Shimkus' bill (H.R. 3053) to continue down the Yucca Mountain path.

Call your Senator and ask them to oppose Trump's nominations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who have clear biases in favor of Yucca Mountain.