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The Ultímate Pollutant Nuclear Power co...

The Ultímate Pollutant Nuclear Power co... image
Parent Issue
Day
12
Month
July
Year
1974
OCR Text

The Ultímate Pollutant Nuclear Power continued trom page 1 1 curred. Trucks bearing radioactive materials have been involved in accidents, and in once instance, a train carrying radioactive materials derailed in Wingate. North Carolina. Containers bearing wastes have broken open while in transit, The AEC reported that during 1968, j there were 36 iosses of radioactive mater' ial. In only 5 casfes was the material recove red. When the fuel elements reached the reprocessing plant, they are chopped up and separa ted from the unreacted fuel, which may be used again. In addition, nuclear reprocessing plants have waste discharges themselves. fake, for instance, Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS)ofWestValIey.N.Y. Loca ted on a 3,300 acre state-owned site, about 30 miles from Buffalo, New York, NFS dumps its waste into the nearest stream - Buttermilk Creek. In 1968.scientists from Cornell University went "under the fence" and got samples from the holding ponds and the creek wliich showed 36,000 to 100,000 times the maximum permissibie radioactivity. The New York State Bureau of Nuclear Engineering has detected a concentration of radionuciides, such as Strontium-90 and Cesium-127 in fish and wildiife around the facility. There are 389 datry herds within ten miles oí NFS. About 240 square miles of nearby land is used as a source of public water suppiy. One public supply is within 5 miles, six more are within 10 miles. The New York State Public Health Departmenfs Radioactivity Bulletin lists water radiation levéis near NFS at ten times the AEC limit. And even it it wanted to, New York State or ;my other state, cannot set stricter radiation disposal limits than Üie AECset federal limits. In a dispute between Minnesota and the Northern States Power Co., which owns a nuclear power plant in Monticeüo, Minnesota, the Supreme Court ruled, in April 1972, that states can't set stiffer limits than the federal government. A dozen other states had filed friend-of-the-court briefs, supporting the state of Minnesota's stand. HIGH-LEVEL WASTE DISPOSAL S;rontium-90 and Cesium-1 37 are two deadly fission producís. They both have half-lives of around 30 years, but some experts feel that they should be isolated from ihe human environment for 1 .000 years. The operation of a modern 1 ,000 megawatt nuclear power plant for a year, generates enough of these substances to equai 1 ,000 Hiroshima atom bombs. By 1980, it is esiimated that one trillion "curries" of Strontium-90 will be in storage. One gallon of this substance containing a mere 500 curries is enough to threaten the health of several million people. Another fission product is plutonium, the most cancer-causing element known (it has a half-life of 240,000 years). This means that it must be isolated from the human environment for that period - at least! Disposal, when one talks about nuclear waste disposal, is siniply a euphemism for perpetual guradianship. This guardianship must be foolproof - and it isn't. Already there have been serious incidents at disposal plants. The biggest disposal area in the world is at Hanford, Washington. It endoses a stretch of the Columbia River and a tract of country covering 650 square miles. The radioactive liquid wastes are kept in tanks constructed of carbon steel resting in a steel saucer to catch any leakage. They are enclosed in reinforced concrete and the whole construction is buried in the ground, with only the vents showing. Each tank has a rnillion gallon capacity. The Hquid boils from its own ity so there must be a continuously amatained cooling system in each tank. In addition, Üie vapors generaled in the tanks have to be condensed and scrubbed; otherwise, radioactive gas would escape from the vents. More than half a miilion gallons have leaked from the storage tanks at Hanford, with the more recent leaks being the er ones -- 70,000 gallons three years ago and 1 1 5,000 gallons last July. The tanks themselves are 20 to 30 years oíd, and a report from their civilian contractors in conjunction with the Illinois Institue of Technology states that, "the self-boiling tank structures are being stressed well beyond accepted design limits." They also postúlate the life span of the tanks at 30 to 40 years at the outside. The 1 15,000 gallon leak, nearly onethird of the 29-year-old tank's contents -- was not detected for severa! days, and released plutonium, strontium-90 and eesiurn directly into the ground. POISON DUCK Despite the AEC's assurances to the contrary, there has been contamination of the Columbia River, partially resulting from Hanford's practice of dumping diluted waste directly into the water. A 1969 study showed that eating half a pound of duck from the Hanford reservation would result in an exposure three times the present federal limit. People who swim, sunbathe or water-ski on the Columbia could obtain a dose of 53 milligrams - 10 times the dose the AEC says it will put into effect as a standard for nuclear power plant workers sometime later this year. Other waste leaks have occurred at a similar facility at Savannah River, South CaTOHna; where the storagetaTilcs are Iocsf ted on the same level as the water table. At least one of the seven reported leaks caused radioactive waste to actually enter the water table. Once the waste was lost in the water table, it was impossible to trace and no pne knows exactly where it is or what to do about it. At the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) near Idaho Falls, Idaho, plutonium was buried ín ordinary steei drums. despite warnings that they would leak. In 1970, the Federal Water Quality Administration released a study which showed that radioactive wastes from NRTS have indeed entered the ground water. The NRTS is located on the Snake River plain, in southeastem Idaho, which is underlain by the Snake River aquifer, one of the world's most productive ground water reservoirs. The reservoir feeds into the Columbia River system (part of which runs through the Hanford Reservation) and contaminatiön poses a serious threat to water supplies for much of the Pacific Northwest. The scope of the nuclear waste problem is staggering. At the Hanford Reservation alone, more radioactive pollutants are stored than would be released during an entire nuclear war. Already, future generations have been given a nuclear garbage legacy which must be carefully guarded and kept out of the human environment for thousands of years. At present, we have technology which wiil last for decades of containment only - and even that is imperfect as evidenced by the already severe mismanagement of nuclear wastes and their pollution of the environment. WHAT CAN BE DONE? Despite the documentable dangers and unanswered risks to world safety described in this article, the S40 billion a year nuclear power industry continúes to push its product as hard as it can, aided and abetted by the industry's cohorts in the Federal Government. This year threequarters of the Federal budget for energy source development will go to underwrite nuclear power plants, expected to grow from the present 30 to over 900 stations by the year 2000. Other energy sources that are safe and cheap are beirtg all but ignored. The power corporations, the media in which they advertise, and the Federal Government are conspiring to minimize the dangers inherent in tlieir nuclear game plan, in order to contain the public outrage they knowwill develop if this information gets widespread attention. This year Nixon has even proposed a bilí which would effectively elimínate the public hearings that were formerly required before any plant construction could begin. Citizens groups are now trying to get Congress to enact a moratorium on nuclear power plants. But ultimately, only a far-reaching transformation of the American social system, which takes power away from self-serving industries and their cohorts in government, can solve the problems of this planet-endangering recklessness, all in the name of blindly increased profits. For futher information on what you can do to pressure Congress and your local power company you can contact: Friends of the Earth, 529 Commercial St., San Francisco, CA 941 1 1 ; National Intervenors, 153 E. Street SE, Washington DC; The Task Forcé Against Nuclear Pollution, 305 High Street. Moorstown, NJ 08057; or the Citizens' Committee for the Protection of the Environment. 71 Pine Ave,Ossining,NY 10562. The information in tftis article was taken from: "The Clear and Present Oanger, a Public Report on Nuclear Power Plants", available from Environmental Alert, 1543 N. Martel, Los Angeles, CA 90046; "Catch 24,000" by Roger Rapoport, Ramparts magazine; and "The Nuclear Power Issue", by Daniel F. Ford, Jan. 1974, from the Union of Concerned Scíentists, PO Box 289, MIT Branch Station, Cambridge, Mass. 02139. The bulk of this article was taken from Liberation News Service. NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS in the UNITED STATES Consumer Power 's Nuclear Plant at South Haven, about 150 miles from Ann Arbor, has been shut down since last August a f ter leaking poisonous radiation through its exhaust pipes and into Lake Michigan. Consumer fs problems are ty pical ofthose at the other 30 plant s scattered across the U.S.