There has been a recent bout of positive press for the hurting nuclear energy industry, with props given by the likes of Barack Obama and Bill Gates, causing some to call it a nuclear "comeback." And while I agree with both our president and our most famous billionaire that nuclear will at some point it the future be a big part of the solution, a spate of recent events has drawn attention to the fact that though it helps on the carbon front, nuclear power is still very dangerous business.
Last year the Chalk River power plant in Ottowa sprung two leaks, spewing 7,000 liters of radioactive water per day into the Ottowa River and this month a similar mysterious leak at the Yankee Vermont plant is resulting in dangerous tritium contamination of the nearby Connecticut River. A full 25 percent of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. have leaked tritium, a known carcinogen.
Yes, these are old plants but they call attention to the fact when nuclear goes wrong it can go very wrong. Though there are some newer, safer next-generation nuclear technologies available, they are prohibitively expensive to bring online and still require highly radioactive fuel stocks.
There are many exciting developments in nuclear R & D (see my visit to LANL) which make use of downgraded nuclear fuels, but they are in the early stages of development, and that means we're not likely to see them popping up in the landscape anytime in the near future.
Also on MNN:
- Nuclear, Strike 1: TOXIC WASTE
- Nuclear, Strike 2: EXCESSIVE COST
- Nuclear, Strike 3: WATER DEMAND
- The 6 myths of nuclear energy exposed