Stop Wasting Time--Create a Long-Term Solution for Nuclear Waste

Posted by K R on

April marks the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear power disaster, the explosion and fire at a reactor at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. It forced more than 300,000 people to flee and created a zone tens of kilometers wide where radiation levels remain hazardous to this day. A severe reactor accident is unlikely in the U.S. and other countries with safer facilities. But we face another danger that is in many ways more threatening than a meltdown: the steady accumulation of radioactive waste. The U.S. has dithered over this clear and present danger for decades, irresponsibly kicking the can down the road into the indefinite future. The spent fuel produced by nuclear power plants will emit harmful radiation for hundreds of thousands—even millions—of years. Some 70,000 metric tons of it are now stored at 70 sites scattered across 39 states. One in three Americans lives within roughly 80 kilometers of a storage site. The waste, hot from radioactive decay, is held in deep pools of water or in “dry casks” of concrete and steel that sit on reinforced pads. Accidents or terrorist attacks could drain the pools or crack the casks, with the risk that the exposed waste could catch fire, spreading radioactive soot across the surrounding countryside and into food chains in a Chernobyl-like catastrophe. As the years go by and waste is packed into overcrowded pools and pads, that risk will only grow. Read More: Scientific American

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