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June 18, 2010 / Mridul

Nuclear Energy as a Clean Energy? We Don’t Have ANY Technology to Treat Nuclear Wastes

Even low-level radioactive waste is a growing problem, with few licensed repositories to dispose of it. The problem dates from the early 1980s, when Congress said that the federal government would take care of high-level waste, like spent fuel from nuclear power plants, but that the states would have to find sites for low-level material, like the radiation sources used in cancer treatments and industrial X-rays, and filters used in nuclear plants.

In reality, both the federal and state efforts mostly failed. There is no national disposal spot for the spent fuel, and for 32 states, no place to send their low-level wastes. Around the country, the inventory of low-level wastes with no place to go is growing by about 10,000 cubic feet a year.

Yet another reminder why the large-scale use of nuclear energy should not be a part of the new energy policies of governments around the world. We do not posses any technology that could neutralize or treat the harmful, toxic and radiation-emitting nuclear wastes. Dumping them after dilution or any other technique so that it meets the standards for storage in any given place which is ready to take this toxic waste for burial is not at all a solution.

The truth is that we do not have a solution to the problem of nuclear waste management. And that is only one of the problems related to nuclear power plants.

Security of such installations has become one of the major concerns in the recent past with fears of terrorists getting access to nuclear materials from poorly guarded nuclear power plants. Then comes the problem related to its use of non-peaceful purposes. Iran and North Korea are already too hard to handle for the world, it is not hard to imagine what would happen if there is a nuclear power race in the Middle East as many countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE. Keeping a tab on the activities of so many countries is not any easy job and add to that the strategic and geopolitical tussles.

Even in terms of resource availability going nuclear is not a wise option. Several countries including India and the United States could feel te pinch of short supply in the short to medium term. Additionally, with only about two dozen supplier countries the rest of the countries will be completely dependent on them for fuel. As is the case with OPEC. So nuclear energy hardly contributes to the concept of energy independence rather it seems to continue the status quo, that is, energy resources monopoly.

And finally the constant danger of spill and leakage. We have seen that even the developed countries have witnessed nuclear accidents and there have been several reports from various countries about irresponsible behavior on the part of the utilities to check safe discharge of contaminated process water.

We cannot wait for another nuclear disaster to occur, be it a geopolitical or an environmental disaster. It is better that we continue to look for cleaner and safer modes of energy generation which provide long-term solution to the problem of rising energy demand.


One Comment

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  1. Dr.G.G.Rajan / Apr 10 2011 11:55 am

    Role of Nuclear Energy :
    Nuclear Energy is now in the back seat after Japan’s tragedy.This can happen any where in the world.No design can be earth quake proof, as the force generated during an earth quake is beyond one’s comprehension.A business re-engineering analys will reveal tall buildings are risky and may collapse during an earth quake.Extra protection for nuclear facilities is imperative than disposal of nuclear wastes.The intellectual calibre of Nuclear Plant designers, without providing proper nuclear waste treatment technology is now clear.Also the organizations which have selected this technology is more money oriented than the safety of the plant / personal and public.

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