Nuclear waste, what’s the issue?

The Wall Street Journal has recently published an article about plutonium levels of the coast of San-Francisco. They claim that plutonium levels are a thousand times above the average on the sea floor. 50,000 containers of radioactive waste were dumped 75 miles of the coast of San-Francisco some 20 years ago and the study claimed this affected the eco system not just locally but globally. This was the first study of its kind.

When nuclear waste is properly disposed of it is placed into steel containers that are then placed inside a further cylinder made of solid concrete. These protective layers prevent radiation from leaking out and harming the immediate environment that surrounds it. This is a cost effective way of dealing with hazardous material, however there is still great debate about the dangers economically and environmentally that surround nuclear waste disposal.

One of the problems is the extent of time that the waste remains radioactive this is due to its long half-life. Nuclear waste continues to be radioactive and therefore dangerous for thousands of years. This causes a problem because if the steel containers that the waste is stored in are damaged then the volatile substance will leak out and have an adverse effect on the environment for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Ocean disposal of nuclear waste was actually implemented by 13 different countries but thankfully this ceases to be the case for obvious reasons. The hazardous effect that nuclear waste could have on animal and plant life in the ocean is tremendous. Exposure to the radionadides that nuclear waste contains increases the risk of damage to tissue, DNA and overall health of any living organism. It can also cause huge birth defects.

In 1982 the US government made a federal law that states that highly radioactive wastes must be permanently disposed of in a safe fashion, instead of just dumping in its raw form anywhere. This was one of the first laws passed on nuclear waste disposal.

Nuclear waste can come in many forms; it can be solid, liquid or gas depending on the number of radionadides contained in it. They can remain radioactive for seconds or millions of years. Thankfully nuclear waste disposal in our oceans is now illegal on the world stage. When correctly disposed of many people believe that nuclear waste has no negative effects and can be a great alternative to oil and coal driven power but this is still under great scrutiny and discussion.

Tom 🙂


One thought on “Nuclear waste, what’s the issue?

  1. Pingback: Fukushimas’ fishes: – Wave pollution goodbye…

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