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Radioactive groundwater

April 30th, 2013

The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Tainted Water Poses New Risks at Japan Reactor,” shows why nuclear power is unsuitable for human use — it is unforgiving of mistakes for thousands of years.

While proper use of nuclear plants may be currently feasible, when procedures are not followed, advice ignored and technical problems arise, it is human nature to take shortcuts to fix the situation. This is exactly what has led to the new crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Instead of taking prudent safety precautions, Japanese engineers relied on their ability to pump groundwater into the sea. Yes, the cleansed water would still contain tritium, but tritium is a common waste product of all nuclear reactors.

But the water from Fukushima Daiichi has hundreds of times more tritium than common, and a public outcry ensued.

The current plan relies on storing the radioactive water that is used to keep the cores cool, and they are running out of space. Now, they are planning to cut down a local forest to build more tanks. And the water keeps accumulating and is starting to leak from some underground storage pits.

Everything about the Tepco nuclear plan has been jury-rigged to prevent another meltdown, but these tangential problems can be just as contaminating. What they do next remains a conundrum.


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