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Danger for decades? Even closing infamous nuclear power plant TMI won’t eliminate hazards via York Daily Record

Will TMI be more or less dangerous after it closes? Depends who you ask. One thing is for sure: The risks won’t go away entirely.

When Three Mile Island partially melted down on March 28, 1979, the danger was immediate and came from within.  the plant. A failure — either mechanical or electrical — led to the 1979 disaster, the highest-profile nuclear power scare in American history.

If the plant closes, as it’s currently slated to in 2019, that exact scenario won’t happen again. But without a federal plan to remove nuclear waste from the site, danger will continue to lurk at TMI for years, decades or centuries.

[…]

Hazardous nuclear waste will be stored on site for a long time

There’s little disagreement here: Three Mile Island — like all nuclear power plants — will continue to house dangerous nuclear waste for the foreseeable future, whether or not the plant begins the decommissioning process in 2019, as currently planned.

[…]

Lochbaum paints a less hopeful picture: He said that a site like TMI could be housing hazardous waste for decades or centuries.

There’s disagreement about how hazardous that waste is

A concerned scientist like Lochbaum would say that the nuclear waste stored in these locations has the potential for massive harm.

He compared the radioactive waste to a dirty bomb and suggested an incident could impact people who live several miles away from the site.

[…]

Nuclear waste is stored in two primary ways: Submerged in water or placed in a fortified cask. In either case, the NRC says that breaching these storage devices would require an attack of incredible precision or a natural disaster of incredible strength.

The agency stresses that if either of those unlikely scenarios were to occur, the potential impact of nuclear waste is far less than what exists at an active nuclear plant.

Risks lessen, but so does security

An active nuclear power-plant has far more destructive potential than nuclear waste alone — that’s not contested by either the government or the UCS.

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