While work continues to gain control over Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants scientists are discovering that even with the best laid plans the future for residents is in the distant future.
The plan as it is unfolding is to encase the entire plant in concrete for over 50 years to allow the radioactive material within the reactors to decay to safer levels before dismantlement of the core and containment buildings can begin. At that point the materials will still be highly radioactive and they will need to be stored in some location for thousands of years.
This is the major drawback of Nuclear Power. Although it is a usable source of energy the material remains radioactive for thousands of years even after it has lost value for production of energy. In addition the buildings that contain the reactor and the core will become radioactive. So even in the best conditions where normal shutdown and dismantlement of a power plant is planned the task is neither easy or safe.
A power plant in Vermont which is of the same type is now being requested for dismantlement by state residents. The cost to close the plant has now exceeded 1 Billion dollars and any delays will push the cost higher over time. The six Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants will each cost many times more then this and cleanup of the local area may not be completely possible.
Areas 30 miles from Fukushima are now reporting higher then safe levels of radioactive materials which will render farm lands unusable for an undetermined time which will exceed generations. Once the reactors are under control an area of 30 miles or more may remain unusable for living for hundreds of years.
When factoring the cost of Nuclear Power the costs of accidents and normal disposal of materials is almost never considered. Although disasters like this are very rare they will continue over time. Even if no accident occurs the decommissioning of a Nuclear Power Plant means radioactive materials including the buildings that contain the reactor need to be store for thousands of years.
Eventually better methods will be found to deal with problems that will exist for thousands of years but many scientists believed that the progression of a workable solution would have been found by now. As fossil fuels become harder to find understanding we will eventually run out of them as our primary method to produce electricity and travel we will need to find a solution.
We may find in the future that this short burst of living fast is not sustainable.
Whether it is the initial or eventual cost most forms of energy production are harmful to our environment and to ourselves. With rising populations, increased demand for food and other products we will find a point where demand can not be met.
Unfortunate accidents like the one at Japan’s Fukushima Power Plants bring this reality to the forefront.
If one plant can cause so much devastation we must rethink our future before it becomes our children’s present.