Nuclear waste overboard

Rusting barrels of nuclear waste dumped by UK between 1950 and 1963.

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Nuclear waste overboard

Nuclear waste

Nuclear waste is produced at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining and enrichment, to reactor operation and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Much of this nuclear waste will remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years, leaving a poisonous legacy to future generations.

Nuclear waste is often just dumped with little thought to safe storage.

Decommissioning nuclear facilities will also create large amounts ofradioactive wastes. Many of the world's nuclear sites will requiremonitoring and protection for centuries after they are closed down.

The global volume of spent fuel was 220,000 tonnes in the year 2000, and is growing by approximately 10,000 tonnes annually. Despite billions of dollars of investment in various disposal options, the nuclear industry and governments have failed to come up with a feasible and sustainable solution.

Most of the current proposals for dealing with highly radioactivenuclear waste involve burying it in deep underground sites. Whether thestorage containers, the store itself, or the surrounding rocks willoffer enough protection to stop radioactivity from escaping in the longterm is impossible to predict.

An example of where industry plans have been exposed as flawed is the proposed dump site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, US. After nearly 20 years of research and billions of dollars of investment, not one gram of spent fuel has so far been shipped to the site from nuclear reactors across the US. Major uncertainties in the geological suitability for waste disposal at the site remain, with on-going investigations into manipulation of scientific data and the threat of legal action by the State government.

In addition to high-level waste problems, there are numerous examplesof existing disposal sites containing low level waste which are alreadyleaking radiation into the environment. Drigg in the UK and CSM in LeHague, France being just two.

Currently no options have been able to demonstrate that waste will remain isolated from the environment over the tens to hundreds of thousands of years. There is no reliable method to warn future generations about the existence of nuclear waste dumps.

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The latest updates

 

Complaint against AREVA for illegal storage of nuclear waste

Blog entry by JulietteH | 4 November, 2010 1 comment

On Tuesday, at 3pm, Greenpeace conducted a citizen inspection at the entrance of the railway terminal in the small town of Valognes, France. Activists carried out radiation measurements by monitoring the passage of trucks that have...

Nuclear scandal comes to the European Parliament

Blog entry by Justin McKeating | 7 October, 2010 1 comment

© Philip Reynaers / Greenpeace An international scandal came to the steps of the European Parliament today as Greenpeace delivered four consignments of nuclear waste to MEPs. The waste is harmful and exceeds European environmental...

The European Commission is being misled over safety of underground nuclear waste disposal

Blog entry by jmckeati | 15 September, 2010

Highly radioactive waste from nuclear power stations could poison ground waters A new study released today shows European leaders are being misled over the safety of underground disposal of highly dangerous nuclear waste which...

AREVA’s talk on spent nuclear fuel can’t be trusted

Blog entry by jmckeati | 7 July, 2010

Some readers may remember AREVA’s unbelievably patronising nuclear waste cartoon … ‘By treating me and recycling me into MOX fuel,’ says the cute little spent fuel rod, ‘there’s less waste to watch after and...

Public pressure stops French nuclear waste export to Russia

Feature story | 29 May, 2010 at 21:00

AREVA, the French nuclear energy company, admitted Friday that their contract to ship nuclear waste to Russia has been halted four years early, ending this July. Transports we have tirelessly highlighted, taken action against and lobbied to...

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