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How not to dispose of nuclear waste June 5, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Environment, News, Nuclear Power.

There are still no long-term storage sites for high-level nuclear waste anywhere in the world. At a time when many countries, First World and developing, are looking to build more nuclear power plants this should surely be a major concern for all of us.

My friend Petrus commented the other day, that this is a bit like taking off in an airplane while knowing that the airport at your destination hasn’t even been built yet.

Atomic energy pundits assure us that these are merely technical issues that will be solved in due course and should not detract us from thinking that nuclear power is the best thing since sliced cheese. I guess in terms of Petrus’ analogy, they are suggesting we stay in a holding pattern above our destination until the damn runway has been  laid down already.

The nuclear industry has given us a number of very telling examples of how not to store high-level nuclear waste. Here’s the latest case, taken from The Ecologist Online:

Tanks holding nuclear waste in the Russian Arctic are in danger of exploding in a spontaneous chain reaction, an environmental group has warned.

Bellona, a Norwegian group which campaigns against nuclear power and advocates clean energy generation, described the tanks as ‘a powder keg’ with a burning fuse.

A report distributed by Bellona states:
‘Ongoing degradation is causing fuel to split into small granules. Calculations show that the creation of a homogenous mixture of these particles with water can cause an uncontrolled chain reaction.’

The three tanks are reportedly filled with 21,000 spent nuclear fuel rods and are sited at Andreeva Bay, on the Russian Kola Peninsula. Until recently, they were thought to be dry, but new investigations have shown corrosive salt water leakage.

Both Russian and Norwegian authorities said that there was ‘no danger’, but that steps were being taken to improve the storage facilities.



1. Andrew Hockly - June 13, 2007

Hi Andreas
Yes, they are slipping in what looks like 3 or even 4 stations on the same impact study. Oyster Bay, Koeberg, a new site in Natal and quite possibly near Port Nolloth on the West coast. Of course, they are obviously to supply the aluminium smelters. Question would be, without the smelters, do we have enough power-I am sure there would be.
The other plan is the solar option, the first one being built just outside Upington currwntly which will obviously be the spin on the renewable side. Why dont they just build 20 or 30 of them? Would definately be sustainable.

2. Andreas - June 13, 2007

I’m so with you on the solar front, Andrew.

3. Rory Williams - June 13, 2007

While we sit in that holding pattern, this is what I worry about: cracked pipes and faulty controls. It can happen. It does happen.

4. Andreas - June 15, 2007

Wah, that’s scary stuff Rory.

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