Facing up to the world’s energy crisis is a major challenge facing us in the 21st Century. Educating a global population to look towards alternatives to fossil fuels is a priority.
But continued use and expansion of nuclear power is not an alternative. Chernobyl, Fukushima, and now Washington – provide warnings of the danger of using nuclear fission to derive energy, and the further risks from long term storage of nuclear waste. The argument often offered is that nuclear energy is more cost effective than sustainable energy (such as solar, wind, tide, geothermal or wave energy) . Yet support for nuclear energy on financial grounds is flawed. EU calculations for financing nuclear expansion for mining of Uranium in the Ukraine ignores the cost of disposal of the toxic waste . Following Fukushima, the The World Bank estimated the cost of the nuclear crisis at $235bn (£144bn) making it one of the world’s most expensive disasters. The truth is that nuclear power in not cost effective when the cost of extraction of uranium and the cost of storage of highly dangerous waste.
Nuclear waste can continue to emit radiation for centuries, and it could potentially become unstable, if handled and stored improperly, setting off a chain reaction which could create a nuclear accident.
This waste will remain dangerous for millions of years, and we add to it every day.
From Greenpeace website:
“Plutonium 239 has a half-life of approximately 24,000 years. That means that after 24,000 years half of the radioactivity contained in the plutonium will have decayed. However, the hazardous life of radioactive waste is at least ten times the half-life, therefore these wastes will have to be isolated from the environment for 240,000.”
The current statement by the US government is that nuclear waste should be considered dangerous for 1,000,000 years, but I have not seen a reason for this number. A better number, because the standard can be easily understood, comes from the European Union. This is that nuclear waste should be considered dangerous until it is no more radioactive than naturally occurring uranium ore, which is 6,000,000 years.
It has been recently reported (BBC) that nuclear waste is leaking from tanks in Washington.
- Six underground storage tanks at a nuclear site in the US state of Washington are leaking at a rate of up 300 gallons (1,136 litres) per year.
- Nearly 200 ageing containers hold millions of litres of radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
- Established as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943, Hanford was home to the world’s first full-scale plutonium production facility.
- It was part of America’s bid to build the world’s first nuclear weapon during World War II.
- The site produced the plutonium for the bomb that was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Production at Hanford continued until 1989.
Clearing up this waste will be costly. The issue with nuclear waste is that serves no peaceful purpose, yet remains dangerous for many centuries and continues to emit radiation. No matter how we are reassured of the safety of Nuclear Power, accidents happen, and accidents are more likely happen when costs are cut, where profit is the motive.
If nuclear waste were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be used to make a dirty bomb, which could spread radiation over an inhabited area.
To add to risk for continued use of nuclear power is madness and total unnecessary. The truth is that our energy requirements can be met by wind, solar, wave, HEP, geothermal and tidal. While Germany is rejects nuclear power , the UK lags behind.
The UK is on a similar latitude and has additional resources Germany does not have. There is an enormous source of tidal power at the mouth of the River Severn, and miles of coasts surrounding our islands which could harness wave power.
Without doubt, we must halt the damage to the world’s climate by the use of carbon-emitting fuels. But to look from one disaster to another is ludicrous, and unnecessary. That we should risk accidents, from geological disaster or terrorism, a dependence on nuclear energy for the future is madness. The risk to life is so huge it should not be contemplated.
- REUTERS: Nuclear waste leaking from six tanks at Washington star nuclear site.
- BBC: Nuclear Waste leaking from Washington site
- Wiki How long does nuclear waste last for?
- BBC: Germany announces non-nuclear
- Think Left Some of the Scientific Evidence – Climate Change
- ITV Boost to Britain’s nuclear plans
- Labour Party: Ed Miliband: By Tackling Climate Change we can be better off together
- Think Left: The Energy Trap
- Renewable Energy, Specifically HVDC Power Grids
- EU: Ignoring safety risks in financing nuclear expansion in Ukraine
- South West Against Nuclear