星期日, 1月 24, 2021
Home PV Project Nuclear enigma just won't go away

Nuclear enigma just won't go away

Thousands of canisters of highly radioactive waste from the world's most nuclear-energized nation lie, silent and deadly, beneath this jutting tip of Normandy. Above ground, cows graze and Atlantic waves crash into heather-covered hills.


The spent fuel, vitrified into blocks of black glass that will remain dangerous for thousands of years, is in "interim storage." Like nearly all the world's nuclear waste, it is still waiting for the long-term disposal solution that has eluded scientists and governments in the six decades since the atomic era began.


Industry officials hope renewed worldwide interest in nuclear energy will break a long, awkward silence surrounding nuclear waste. They want to revive momentum for scientific and political breakthroughs on waste that stalled after the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, which raised worldwide fears about radioactivity's risks to human and planetary health.


So far, though, recent talk of a nuclear renaissance has focused on the "front end," or reactor construction. Engineers are designing the next generation of reactors to be safer than today's – and they're being billed as a solution to global warming. Nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide, blamed for heating the planet.


Few people have been talking about the "back end," industry-speak for the hundreds of thousands of tons of waste that nuclear plants produce each year, and the lucrative, secretive business of storing it away.


Waste "is the main problem with this so-called nuclear rebirth," said Mycle Schneider, an independent expert who co-authored a recent study for the European Parliament casting doubt on a global nuclear resurgence. He says government efforts to revive nuclear energy will stall without a "miracle" solution to waste disposal.


Workers at the waste treatment and storage site on France's Cherbourg Peninsula, run by industry giant Areva, don't see a problem.

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