By Larraine Roulston:
Several years ago, Dr. Gordon Edwards, co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility stated, “There will come a day when this industry will be searching widely for host locations to bury its radioactive waste.” That day has arrived.
Radioactive waste is everywhere – the result of building nuclear weapons and power plants. This has been an ongoing challenge,
and still no one has found a safe storage site in the world. For far too long, we have been relying on nuclear power without considering the consequences of its high unmanageable costs, risks and ultimately toxic waste disposal.
After Fukushima, German officials declared they no longer would build nuclear power plants; however, radioactive waste still remains an enormous problem. For several years, Germany has been embroiled in a fight over who will pay for cleaning up the spent nuclear fuel from their nine remaining decommissioned plants. Fifty years after using nuclear power, this country is looking for a suitable waste storage facility that must be able to contain radiation for a million years.
The United States recently announced that it is looking into the environmental risks of importing Germany’s spent nuclear fuel containing highly enriched uranium to its Savannah River Site (SRS). This 310-acre location not only holds millions of gallons of high level nuclear waste from its South Carolina reactors that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from1953 to 1989, but also stores nuclear waste from many other countries. Despite already accumulating a large volume of nuclear waste, the SRS is in an area subject to frequent rainfalls, overlaps an earthquake zone, and has sandy soil with swampy conditions that make it vulnerable to waste seepage into the water supply. One report noted the following: “With the U.S. being the country of origin for much of the world’s nuclear material, this means all our nuclear chickens are coming home to roost.”
Tom Clements, president of the Savannah River Site Watch, a nuclear watchdog group said, “They’re proposing to extract the uranium and reuse it as a fuel by a process that has never been done before. On the German side, it is nuclear dumping and on the U.S. side the primary motivation is to make money for the SRS to continue operating the so-called H Canyon reprocessing plant.” He added that the SRS already has more nuclear waste than it knows how to deal with and should not be allowed to increase its volume. According to SRS Watch, the import may be a violation of the International Convention on Nuclear Safety as well as the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
Another consideration is the transportation of any highly toxic material. In the past we have had airplane crashes, train derailments, ships lost at sea, tanker collisions in harbors, and road accidents. With climate change as well — with unexpected flooding, tornadoes and such — the entire scenario has become an epic nightmare. We must put our money and research into alternative energy that will create jobs, and stop subsidizing nuclear power plants.
Energy conservation and efficiency also play a key role in our effort to become less power hungry and ensure a safe environment for generations to come. One household energy savings tip reminds us that clothes dryers use a lot of energy. As an alternative, hang your laundry outside for the fresh smell of summer air. For rainy days and winter weather, invest in a clothes rack.
Larraine Roulston authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost series at www.castlecompost.com