The United States is still fighting the cold war. Thousands of its citizens had to take shelter last week because of the threat of radiation from nuclear weapons. But the opponent is no longer the Soviet Union. The enemy now is the legacy of an arms race and decades of government indifference to the mess that has been left behind. On 9 May, the roof collapsed in a tunnel that houses highly radioactive waste at the US Department of Energy’s sprawling Hanford site in Washington state. The tunnel is one of a pair that together shield 36 radioactive railway carriages, once used to carry nuclear fuel for reprocessing to plutonium. Radiation monitors showed no signs of airborne contamination after the collapse, so workers at the site were released and the hole was filled with fresh soil. The incident is yet another alarming reminder of the risks posed by pollution at nuclear-weapons facilities in the United States and around the world. It could have been much worse. And without serious and sustained efforts to clean up these ageing facilities, one day it will be.
Nature 17th May 2017 read more »
Just like coal companies, America’s nuclear power industry is having a tough time. It faces slowing demand for electricity, and competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables. And now, touting itself as a form of clean energy, the nuclear industry is lobbying state legislatures with a controversial pitch for help. “Nobody’s in the mood for a bailout,” says anti-nuclear activist Eric Epstein, as he considers where to put up a poster in the Amtrak station in Harrisburg, Pa. It has the iconic image of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer, and saying, “I want you to stop the bailout of nuclear power in Pennsylvania.” Around the country, five nuclear plants have retired in the past five years, and another five are scheduled to close within a decade. In Pennsylvania, the Three Mile Island plant — which still has one functioning reactor — is having trouble selling its power because it’s more expensive than other sources, like natural gas.
NPR 16th May 2017 read more »