The High Cost of Nuclear Energy

by Hardly Waite

In the early 1950s  a small nuclear testing facility called the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory was set up near the Mohwawk River in New York to be used for research involving nuclear weaponry.  The plant operated for less than three years, closing in 1953. Its purpose was to find methods for  recovering uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

In December 2007, DOE awarded a $69 million cleanup contract to Washington Group International of Oak Ridge, Tenn. Work began in September 2008. In April 2009, the federal government announced a $32 million stimulus grant to help pay for the cleanup.

The cleanup is still in progress, and last month (Dec. 2012)  hundreds of gallons of radioactive water spilled from a drainage pipe into the Mohawk River. A failed sump pump system caused tainted water — containing Cesium-137, Strontium-90, uranium and plutonium — to overflow into a culvert draining directly into the river.

Although officials in charge of the cleanup  said the spill did not present any immediate threat to public health, the elements in the spill are known carcinogens.

The issue is probably not so much that several hundred gallons of carcinogen-contaminated water were dumped into the Mohawk River so much as the bleak prospect of continuing to create virtually eternal wastes that are “cleaned up” by simply moving them from one temporary disposal site to another.

The more nuclear waste we create, the more our water supplies will suffer.

More information from the Times Union.