1 Dec 2013

Nuclear waste is in your back yard

If we build more nuclear power stations, what happens to the waste? Where is it going for the thousands of years it will need to become safe? Once upon a time we used to drop it in the sea, in canisters. We have no idea what’s happening to it now, but the odds are that some of it will leak and cause havoc.

The popular theory is that we bury our nuclear waste underground, instead. That is less insane than throwing it into the sea. However, unless we come up with some method for keeping an eye on it, buried waste is just as capable of leaking. Given time, it can leach radioactive material into the groundwater, and from there, it can enter the world. The one thing nuclear waste has a lot of, is time in which to cause problems.

There are theories about which kinds of geology will be the safest places to store nuclear waste. The thing about theories, is that you don’t know if they were any good until you’ve tested them. The test here, will be burying nuclear waste and leaving it to future generations to discover if we made a good guess or not. That’s not a choice I’d feel easy about making.

So, let’s assume the theory about burying is good, and let’s assume we have figured out what geology to use. The next logical step would be to survey the UK, and work out where would be the safest long term site, based on what we know. We aren’t doing that. The decision of where to bury will be political. It may well involve bribing or coercing a community to take the waste, for reasons that have nothing to do with the best and safest choice.

No one wants nuclear waste dumped in their back yard. If you have a look at the fallout from any nuclear disaster, you’ll notice a thing. When something goes wrong with nuclear power, the area of impact is vast. It doesn’t matter which bit of the UK you pick for waste, if something goes wrong, it’s in our back yard. A few hundred miles won’t make any odds at all. We will all be living with it, and so will our children, and our children’s children. There is no ‘away’ when it comes to nuclear waste, and there is no solution, based on current technology, that guarantees us long term safety. We still have to deal with the waste as best we can, which would suggest creating more for the future really isn’t a clever idea.

The decisions we make about how to handle nuclear waste for the long term must not be about short term politics. We must make these choices based on the best scientific evidence we can get, and the best reasoning we are capable of. There is no point getting protective of our own precious bit of landscape, because if we get this wrong, it will affect us all.

For more information about nuclear issues, check out… http://stroudcommunity.tv/the-future-of-radioactive-waste-and-nuclear-safety-in-gloucestershire/

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