BNPP: Concerns, issues, objections

Francisco Y. Arcellana Jr. - The Philippine Star

(Last of two parts)

There are various methods of decommissioning: burial, dismantling and just pouring concrete over the whole damn thing. The last one I believe is what they did for the nuclear reactor #4 at Chernobyl, a nuclear plant concrete sarcophagus. Do we know how to do this? We will have to hire foreign technicians. How much would this cost? Now these are the obvious and hidden costs of rehabilitating, operating and maintaining the BNPP. Have they factored all these in the monthly electric bill of consumers?

Nuclear power is NOT CLEAN. Suggestions that this would be a good transition between fossil fuel-based plants and renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric is far from the truth. If you trace the nuclear fuel cycle – from the mining and milling of uranium where methane is released and you have radioactive uranium tailings, to transport, production and operation, to maintenance shutdowns and decommissioning – these all entail use of fossil fuels. The running of the cooling system requires an outside source of electricity from thermal plants, or on-site generators fueled by diesel.

An important and inescapable concern common to all nuclear power plants is a nuclear accident. A nuclear accident is catastrophic. The radioactive spread and contamination cross national boundaries. The effects on the gene pool persist for generations with increased incidence of congenital anomalies, leukemias and different forms of cancer to the survivors.

The last major issue, and up to this day is still an insurmountable problem, is the disposal of nuclear waste: the high level waste which are the spent fuel rods, and the low level waste in the radioactive water in literal swimming pools used to cool the rods.

There is no permanent repository of nuclear waste anywhere in the world. One prospect is the Yucca Flats, Nevada, where they plan to dig kilometers deep into this stable geological formation, maybe encase the solid waste in ceramic or glass then store it here. One remaining problem is keeping this nuclear burial ground, which would remain radioactive for thousands of years, away from curious future human civilizations. You would have to make a signage “KEEP OUT. RADIOACTIVE” that would also last thousands of years. This is almost a problem of biblical proportions. Your signage should probably last till the second coming of Jesus Christ.

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Dr. Francisco Y. Arcellana Jr. is a surgical consultant at the Capitol Medical Center. He was chairman of the National Organization Against Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons (No Nukes!) from 1984-86; International Councilor and Philippine delegate to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), an organization which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.


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