Sunday, March 13, 2011

DAY 161 - Nuclear Reactors and Community Health

Nuclear plant in Arkansas - courtesy Topato at Flickr
The disasters this week in Japan have created immediate suffering, and the need for immediate aide and assistance. The earthquakes and tsunamis will take years to recover from.

As I write this entry, we know that at least one nuclear reactor at Fukushima Daiichi is melting down. Depending on the ultimate outcome of the one or more nuclear reactor melt downs, Japan could face 60 years or more of contamination and risk.

It is 25 years since the reactor melt down and explosion, the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster in history, at Chernobyl. Some of the radioactive degradation products are still forming and will not peak until 2050.

Certain radioactive elements (such as plutonium-239) in “spent” fuel will remain hazardous to humans and other creatures for hundreds of thousands of years. Other radioisotopes remain hazardous for millions of years. Thus, these wastes must be shielded for centuries and isolated from the living environment for millennia.

In many fields, including medicine, risk benefit analyses are carried out to aide in decision making. This kind of analysis has been done regarding the utilization of nuclear power, but the decision to use it does not agree with my analysis.

In the short run, nuclear power is relatively cheap. In the long run, like 100,000 years, we can not even begin to predict the monetary costs of containment of radioactive wastes, which can only grow, to the distress of fiscal conservatives and those of us who foot the bill.

Nuclear energy is not, depending on ones definition, clean. It is clean if one does not count the enormously dangerous radioactive materials, utilized and spent, that must be completely contained at all times, and, for all intents and purposes, for all time.

Then there is the issue of safety. Suffice it to say, there is no energy production system known to man that is more dangerous than nuclear power.

I hope that Japan’s nuclear disasters turn out to be relatively minor. I also hope that we, the community of man, will see that nuclear power has a very poor risk benefit ratio, and is not a healthy choice.

I understand that lots of us want cheap power, but we have all heard, “if something seems too good to be true; it probably is.”


  1. Thank you for weighing-in Jenn!
    I think we will all need to speak up and be visible about our views on getting rid of these dangerous plants.