I have a confession to make. About six months ago – early June in fact – a friend sent me a photo of President Biden’s latest appointment to serve as assistant secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposal in the Office of Nuclear Energy. I saved it as part of my photos because I was fascinated.
Sam Brinton was his name. It was hard to ignore him. Not only was he appointed to a very important governmental post at age 35, he was (and is) a nonbinary, bi-sexual, gender fluid individual who has a mustache and mostly dresses like a woman. His trademark is outrageously high heels.
Nuclear engineer and LGBTQ activist feel like exclusionary terms to some of us older folks. But Sam was/is both. By the way, his pronouns are they/them. I apologize for using “him” in the previous paragraphs.
It was hard to argue with their credentials. They have (or is it has?) a dual master of science degree in nuclear science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some of the smartest people I know have gone there.
Apart from their apparent braininess, what intrigued me about Sam from the start was how over the top they was (or is it were?). The stunning feminine outfits, the red mohawk and bright lipstick, the mustache. All seemed in direct contrast with the seriousness of their governmental position.
I supported Sam’s desire to express their inner being. However, I wasn’t at all sure that the U. S. needed someone with a 40-megaton personae in charge of nuclear waste disposal.
I know about such things from my years working for a power company in Indiana several decades ago. Nuclear energy was, and still is, a big deal. Nuclear power is cheap and clean. The problem has to do with the bad name it received after a couple of high-profile and horrific accidents. Think Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl. Nasty stuff that radiation poisoning.
In 2002, the federal government established the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository for spent nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste products generated in the United States. The site is adjacent to the Nevada Test Site in Nye County, Nevada, about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, federal funding for the site ended in 2011. Maybe because it is reportedly located on a fault. But that’s another story.
I’m assuming Sam traveled there as part of the effort to re-think nuclear power in light of the Biden’s administrations emphasis on climate change. Although with this administration and its hesitancy to visit the immigration problems at our southern border, it’s hard to say if they made the trip.
They did travel, it seems. Which is why Sam is no longer in their government role. Along the way, they allegedly pilfered two suitcases belonging to women; one in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and the other in Las Vegas. (Maybe they was/were at Yucca Mountain).
They claimed it was a simple mistake. For someone as smart as Sam, I would say it was a pretty stupid mistake. And so was appointing someone with Sam’s flamboyant spirit to head a governmental agency that requires the most serious of thinkers.
Sam may be gone. But I’m not sure I will forget them and the sometimes-crazy world they represent.