Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Ever Present Dilemma of Nuclear Waste

Trey Smith

There is an eye-opening article posted at Scientific American, Hanford Nuclear Waste Cleanup Plant May Be Too Dangerous, that underscores the elephant in the room when speaking of nuclear power. To generate this form of energy, waste is created too and this waste is about as toxic as toxic can get. And here's the thing: We still haven't figured out how to store it safely!

The problem they are encountering at Hanford -- a superfund site located in central Washington state -- is that the waste itself may prove to be too dangerous to clean up. If that isn't bad enough, it also is proving too dangerous to store. This vile substance currently is stored in so-called containment tanks and, because of its corrosive nature, many of these tanks are leaking. And so, it must somehow be moved to, at the very least, new containment tanks, but the process of moving it may prove to be too dangerous as well.

So, it would seem that we have created a problem that is tantamount to being between a rock and a hard place. Almost every strategy tried or conceived of is fraught with danger -- the sort of danger that could kill millions and leave the western United States and parts of Canada (at the very least) uninhabitable for hundreds of years.

One would think that rational actors would understand that this is an intractable problem and this understanding would lead these rational actors to shut down nuclear plants all over the world because these operations are creating ever more amounts of dangerous toxic waste. Of course, this is not happening. In fact, many folks are pushing for a greater reliance on nuclear energy and more nuclear energy means more nuclear waste -- life-threatening waste that we don't know what to do with!

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of utter insanity. We are voluntarily creating substances that could end life as we know it and we KNOW this, but we keep doing it anyway. What could be more insane than that?

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