Great Lakes beaches have always been popular for tourists. But in the 1970s and 80s, they were also prime real estate for nuclear power plants because there was lots of water to cool the reactors. Now there are nine nuclear plants on the lakes – but cheaper energy sources are forcing some to shut down.
Nuclear power produces one fifth of the electricity in this country. It’s a carbon emissions free source of energy, but the industry is in trouble – aging reactors, high overhead costs and cheap natural gas are threatening to shutdown more and more reactors. And that’s not even considering the ongoing problems of what to do with nuclear waste.
Palisades Nuclear Power Plant is one of the nuclear plants currently threatened with shut down. It’s located in Covert, Mich., on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Rosemary Thurber lives about five miles from there, and when she found out Palisades plans to close next year, she was relieved. The 45-year-old plant is one of the oldest in the country and has had several emergency shut downs.
But there will be lingering reminders of Palisades after it closes. The corporate owner will have to tear down the buildings and clean up the site. That can take up to 60 years.
“The job is cleaning up radioactive contamination of the environment that has built up for years and decades. This is very dangerous and hazardous contamination,” says Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a group that wants to see these plants shut down.
Once the cleanup is done, all that will be left are large, steel cylinders filled with radioactive waste. They’ll stay there until the government builds a permanent storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. That’s a troubling legacy for area residents like Neiss.
“I’m sure it’s as safe as they can possibly make it,” Neiss said. “But to know that it’s sitting there on the beach is not a comforting thing.”
Read more at Nuclear Power Industry Meltdown