As most of you, our followers and viewers, know, Fairewinds Energy Education has real concerns about nuclear waste abandonment as nuclear corporations begin the process of decommissioning and dismantling nuclear power plants. Sponsored by the Lintilhac Foundation, Fairewinds issued a major report about decommissioning Vermont Yankee in March 2015. Beyond Nuclear, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, and Vermont Citizens Action Network invited Fairewinds Energy Education to speak at the United States premiere of Decommissioning Our Nuclear Power Stations: Mission Impossible? in Montpelier, VT, Wednesday, June 3rd.
I attended this Arte France documentary production that examines the ongoing decommissioning process of shutdown nuclear reactors in France, Germany, and the United States. The film is frightening as it shows the harrowing reality of how unprepared the nuclear industry and governments throughout the world are to decommission and dismantle these nuclear power plants that are aged beyond operational safety regulations, and no longer economically viable.
Nuclear waste remains highly radioactive and dangerous for thousands of years.
Accurately researched, this Arte France documentary makes it apparent that 40-years ago, the designers of these nuclear reactors had no idea how to safely break down and dispose of the highly radioactive material and waste produced while in operation. Most disturbingly, no progress has been made in determining how to protect such waste for the necessary 250,000 years required.
Director Bernard Nicolas takes his audience to the failed German nuclear waste abandonment site, Asse, where engineers experimented with salt mine storage to contain nuclear waste. In 2004, the Asse site suffered ground movement and water seeped into the salt mines causing the walls to collapse. Radiation is now escaping from this failed site and workers are racing against time to inject concrete into the collapsed areas to stifle the radiation leak before the walls move again.
Another failed attempt at nuclear waste containment in France used asphalt to trap toxic contaminants. This resulted in the release of hydrogen fumes that now present a high risk of explosion should it meet with oxygen. Currently, experts cannot and do not agree on what is the best method for nuclear waste disposal. It does not exist.
This leads to a major issue of generational transfer of risk. Not only is this highly toxic, radioactive waste passed down from generation to generation without a proper solution for disposal but the physical dismantlement of nuclear sites takes decades for completion with the weighty transfer of responsibility passed on to workers without proper experience and knowledge.
Currently, Vermont Yankee utility owner Entergy has promised 60-years of decommissioning oversight. Fairewinds has pointed out that the number 60 has no basis in science and is a very arbitrary number, but without going into that too much, let’s look at the fact that in 60-years many of us will no longer be around. Already, Entergy has transplanted Vermont Yankee workers to other nuclear sites around the country, stripping VY of staff familiar with the site, its surroundings, and equipment. It is safe to say that within the 60-year time frame, an even newer set of workers will take over decommissioning work with even less familiarity of how the plant was originally operated, where the plant’s weaknesses lie, and overall knowledge of quirks particular to Vermont Yankee.
The handling of radioactive waste is not to be taken lightly, the very fact that the world has no solution as to how to contain and dispose of this toxic material is proof that extra care, extra effort, and complete competence is necessary during decommissioning and dismantlement of a nuclear power plant.
Read more at Generational Transfer Of Risk