Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crystal River Adds New Facet to Nuclear Industry Slow Meltdown

Nuclear waste sites in the U.S.
Source, US Department of Energy

Over the last two decades, I've been following the slow decline of the nuclear power industry.  I am not a fan of nuclear power for one big reason:  nuclear waste.  There is no single repository of nuclear waste in this country and the waste from the plants, particularly old fuel rods, are hazardous for generations.  Some of the waste must be maintained in carefully plumbed water storage containers to keep it cool.  I do not trust safety systems and security to keep nuclear waste from bad people over the long term and I believe that the waste provides a risk to the world in the form of dirty bombs or accidental contamination through carelessness.  The map to the left shows the locations of high level nuclear storage facilities.  When it comes to nuclear waste, I believe in the precautionary principle:  if there is a risk of harm to the environment or people, the activity should be avoided.

Oh and there's Chernobyl and Fukushima.  Approximately 300,000 people were relocated as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the 1980's.  Scientists are still determining the long-term implications of the Fukushima disaster.

I know that many environmentalists see nuclear power as a green source of energy and one of the few options we have to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution.  I see nuclear energy as a problematic source of energy due to the long-term pollution and waste issues.  Nuclear waste will be around for hundreds of years.  I just do not have enough trust in history that our world's societies will provide a safe system for the protection of nuclear waste for that long.
Crystal River nuclear power plant.  Click for photo credit.

Many people agree with me and as a result, there has been a very steady decline of the nuclear energy industry in the United States.  Many plants have been closed and many are slated for closure.  Within this context, the Crystal River Power Plant north of Tampa has had a series of problems that make its viability questionable.

The largest problem with the plant is a mechanical one.  There is a hole in the containment dome over the reactor.  It's been known since 2009, but has not been repaired.  The total cost for the replacement, including replacement energy cost and fees, could be close to 6 billion dollars according to the Tampa Bay Times.  Imagine the green energy infrastructure that could be built for that money!  Local columnists question the business ethics of the nuclear industry involved with the Crystal River plant and their seriousness about maintaining the plant.

Time will tell the fate of the Crystal River plant.  But it is just another piece of evidence of the slow decline of the nuclear energy industry in the U.S.


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