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7 Reasons Why Nuclear is Neither Safe nor Clean


Posted on : 2:15 PM | By : Nic | In :

I found this article on Digg, about mini nuclear plants that are smaller than a garden shed and can power 20,000 homes.  The design is 50 years old, so it is tried and true and considered safe for students.  They simply bury the thing in the ground and refill it every 7-10 years.

So the family debate is... tiny nuclear is okay?  This has been an ongoing discussion because both candidates support nuclear as a supplementary 'alternative' energy solution since it appears cleaner than things like coal.  At this point, nuclear is pretty safe from catastrophe, especially in miniature form. The two problems lie in the uranium mining, and the waste.

Uranium mining is tricky business. The uranium itself is radioactive, and the ore gives off radon gas.  It has to be handled with gloves because it is toxic chemically, and they have to use water to keep radioactive dust from going through the air.  A mine has to be certified and inspected by the government to meet certain standards, but these just have to be kept at 'acceptable levels'.  Mining also creates radioactive waste which is either mixed into a slurry and pumped back into the ground and covered back up with dirt, or built into a concrete structure.  Any equipment must also be buried because it is contaminated.  The truth is that the whole area, groundwater, air, soil is just destroyed because after the mine leaves, they don't maintain the site.  This isn't something that happened in Russia in the '50s.  This happens now, and communities across North America have to fight for their air and water quality.  They have to fight to not get cancer. 

And don't let people tell you it's emission free.  Besides all the toxic gases released during mining and refining, greenhouse gases are emitted throughout the process as well.  Not to mention you have to refill the reactor every so often, so the process continues on and on.  What happens to the radioactive material when they have to replace it?  It turns into nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste has to be store somewhere safely for millions of years.  Everyone thinks of big metal drums with little biohazard stickers dumped into lakes, and this really is true.  Mostly they are popped into temporary storage ponds.  To be fair, nuclear energy isn't the only thing that creates radioactive waste.  It is estimated that in the past 20 years just the oil-producing industry of the US has created 8 million tons of radioactive waste (Krivtsov, A.I., 2006, Geoenvironmental Problems of Mineral Resources Development, in Geology and Ecosystems, Zekster, Marker, Ridgeway, Rogachevskayarochmaninoff, & Vartanyan, 2006 Springer Inc.).  Part of the problem is that when people started to produce this stuff, they figured that a long-term solution would be found eventually.  But it never was.  Up until 1970 the US just dumped it into the ocean.  Out of sight out of mind, right?

So here's the 7 reasons:
1. Not only are uranium mines in our backyards, they are often put in third-world countries with little or no protection for the safety of the people.

2. We know the dangers or uranium and how ineffective the safeguards are to protect the environment, and yet nothing really changes to make mining 'safe'.

3. Once the uranium mining operation is gone, the residents are left to cope with the aftermath of leeching radioactive materials in their groundwater and soil, and the destruction of the natural area.

4.  Nuclear energy is not renewable because it has to be refilled with a substance that is pulled out of the earth and doesn't 'grow' or renew itself.  

5.  Nuclear energy is not clean because the entire process from mine to waste releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and even toxic gases into the air that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

6.  There is no long term solution for nuclear waste.  Putting a barrel full of deadly sludge in a pond where it will stay that way for millions of years, long after the barrel disappears, seems idiotic and medieval to me.   

7.  Accidents happen all the time.  When dealing with such a dangerous material, human error is always a problem.  It doesn't matter how safe they say it is, it's still a dangerous, radioactive poison.

The reason I don't support nuclear energy is the same reason I don't use regular makeup.  The government allows certain levels of poison into our lives.  Yes, makeup contains formaldehyde, which can burn your eyes and throat, make you cough and wheeze and irritate your skin.  And it happens to be in a product you put on your face.  In the long-term it has been linked with leukemia.  But, the government says that I can be exposed to it at an acceptable level.  Why?  Because you are free to NOT use something.

I would rather live without electricity than live with nuclear.  Fortunately I live in British Columbia which rules out nuclear energy.  You want to see some Canadians actually get angry?  Come to BC and tell someone that nuclear would be a good thing.  lol.

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