Thursday, September 27, 2007

Forget About Greenhouse Gases Part 2.

The nuclear energy industry will kill us all.

NRG Report:

"I’m excited to see an investor-owned company submit the first combined operating license application in nearly 30 years, and I hope it is the first of many to come,” said United States Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), who serves as ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee."

The trouble with nuclear power is not that the plants are going to blow up and coat us with radioactive dust as it circles the globe for two and a half years as the dust from Krakatoa did, or that the plants will inevitably melt down like the one in the movie, The China Syndrome, or like Chernobyl, no, we have learned things from those events and from 3-Mile Island, about how to engineer multiple fail-safes.

Rather the threat comes from three prongs of the devil's trident:
one, the used fuel rods must be disposed of. They are typically encased in concrete and "stored" (dumped) in a facility in Nevada, or formerly dumped into a deep hole in the ocean, where inevitably they corrode and the radioactive waste leaks into the environment.

two, the mining and processing of the raw uranium, pollutes the mine environment hugely. The tailings are piled in huge mountains of waste material which leeches into the groundwater by rain which necessarily falls on the mounds of tailings. Mineworkers in northern Canada have higher rates of cancer than other citizens and die younger, typically, of cancers.

three - One 2700 megawatt plant in Texas - thousands of miles from the nearest source of Uranium - won't threaten the world's safety, but the report linked above speaks of an endless chain of nuclear power plants to replace America's dependence on oil - which will result in trucks and trainloads of nuclear material - used fuel rods and new fuel rods - criss-crossing the country on their way to and from power plants from coast to coast. If you have seen a semi-trailer of hazardous material spill on a highway, say, caustic soda, or diesel fuel, you know what a mess it causes, but in a day or two at the most it is cleaned up and traffic resumes like it never happened. The threat is short-lived. However, nuclear fuel rods have a half-life* of 25,000 years. This may necessitate the digging up of entire roadways for hundreds of metres around a spill to remove the radioactivity - which creates a bigger waste problem as this material - contaminated asphalt - must be safely disposed of.

*Half-Life - radioactive material dissipates half its mass in a period of time known as a "half-life." In the case of Uranium 238 isotope used in fuel rods the half life is 10,000 years. One ton of fuel rods will dissipate naturally to a half ton of mass in 10,000 years, to a quarter ton in another 10,000 years and so on.

"A large nuclear reactor produces 3 cubic metres (25-30 tonnes) of spent fuel each year."

The US Energy Authority say the waste material site in Nevada is secure. This authority is less than fifty years old. The whole country is only 231 years old. How can they claim it will be secure for 100 centuries ???

"As of 2003, the United States had accumulated about 49,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear reactors."

The country-side surrounding Chernobyl is deadly to all life for thousands of square kilometres. That's one.

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