No country has the solution to nuclear waste. Nuclear is no preventer of global heating – in fact, it’s quite the reverse
- uranium mining and
- conversion of ore to uranium hexafluoride
- construction and
- fuel reprocessing
- waste management
- rehabilitation of mining sites
- transport throughout all stages.
In the words of Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace Germany, “not a single country can claim that it has the solution to manage the most dangerous radioactive wastes.”
Several storage facilities, the NGO argues, are on the verge of saturation, and spent fuel sitting in the power plants is at risk of overheating, sometimes without emergency generators for cooling. Deep geological disposal is not a credible option for Greenpeace.
The World Nuclear Waste Report agrees that, apart from the current construction of a permanent repository in Finland (see box), there is still no real solution for the waste. It points out that it is even difficult to quantify global nuclear waste, as various countries apply different definitions.
But waste is not the only objection of some experts to this new “nuclear gold rush.” Although electricity production itself does not emit GHGs, the rest of the associated processes do. According to the list compiled by sustainability expert Manfred Lenzen of the University of Sydney, GHGs are emitted in all the stages of the nuclear power cycle: uranium mining and
milling, conversion of ore to uranium hexafluoride, enrichment, fuel fabrication, reactor construction and decommissioning, fuel reprocessing, waste management, rehabilitation of mining sites, and transport throughout all stages.
Other experts point to an additional risk caused by climate change itself. According to energy expert Paul Dorfman of University College London, two out of five power plants operate on the coast because of the need for cooling water, and at least a hundred are only a few metres above sea level. As the oceans rise due to global warming, their safety could be compromised; although the Fukushima disaster was caused by an
earthquake, it was a good illustration of what happens when a nuclear power plant is flooded.
Inland power plants are also at risk, in this case because of the opposite, the risk of drought in the watercourses that provide cooling water. Perhaps science and technology will eventually solve the major hurdles of nuclear power (see box), but they will hardly put an end to a controversy that continues to rage.
Open Mind 15th Nov 2022
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