Nuclear power has been a hotbed topic for most of the past 50 years. After the catastrophic disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, public awareness of the dangers and shortcomings of nuclear power generation were at all-time highs. However, we’ve seen a worrying trend of disinterest in the past few years which is important to rectify. Nuclear power issues are more important than ever.
Most of our current concerns aren’t related to new plants. In fact, after the japanese disaster, very few (if any) nuclear plants are being built in America. That’s some victory, but it’s only one part of the equation. Many older plants are also now slated to be decommissioned. That’s good news in theory, but the reality is much more complicated.
The problem here is that once the public hears the word “decommissioned”, that’s generally as far as their thoughts actually go. In reality, a nuclear power plant can be even more dangerous after it’s been relegated to the junkyard than when it is fully operational.
That’s because when a nuclear power plant is in operation, it’s strictly monitored, and kept up to safety standards. While current regulations are far from perfect, they are at least followed systematically and with some degree of regularity. The process of decommissioning, on the other hand, is really not so well-planned. There isn’t a standardized procedure across the board, and there’s a startling lack of clarity in terms of the actual process of shutting the site down, containing radioactive waste, and transporting it to a site for disposal.
Plants in the decommissioning process have a track record of leaks, spills and scares. They’re also extremely vulnerable to attack or exploitation by terrorist forces or other security threats. When we take our eye off the ball, it moves quickly. See the attached article below for a incisive write-up of how one plant, Pilgrim in CT, is (or isn’t) dealing with the process of being decommissioned. It’s an important wake-up call for all concerned citizens, and an excellent piece to share among friends who may not be as attuned to these issues as you are yourself
The biggest things we need to speak up about are:
-protecting our decommissioned and in-process plants from security threats and risks
-demanding environmental scrutiny of the decommissioning and decontamination process
-asking real questions about how waste will be contained and transported once the plant is shut down
Your voices can be the difference between a transparent, functional process of decommissioning and a messy disaster that takes years to clean up, and which could cause untold (and still worse, unknown) damage to public health, land, and drinking water. If you know of a plant in your state that is in the process of being decommissioned, and want to find out more about what you can do to make a difference, get in touch at the Take Action page. We’ll connect you with others in your area to help you work effectively.
To read more about the waste crisis, see the article “Pilgrim’s Progress: Inside the American Nuclear Waste Crisis” from the New Yorker (readable freely online). If you live near a nuclear power site and want to reduce radiation levels inside your home, see this.