Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Opinion: Investing in More Nuclear Power Can’t Be Our Solution to Climate Change

Construction underway to expand the Plant Vogtle nuclear generating station in Georgia. Courtesy Department of Energy

If you live in Orange or San Diego County, hopefully you’re aware that San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has been turned into a nuclear waste dump for the foreseeable future. If you live on planet earth, you’re wise to be tracking domestic and foreign moves to increase reliance on nuclear energy.

The United States ushered in the atomic age in 1945 by dropping a uranium bomb on Hiroshima and a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki. We now have 3.6 million pounds of these and other lethal radioactive elements sitting on the beach at San Onofre in temporary canisters, scheduled to remain there indefinitely.

No one has figured out how to safely dispose of deadly nuclear waste. Yet, to combat the climate crisis, the United States and the world propose to create more of it by extending the life of existing nuclear power plants and building new ones. Has the world learned nothing from the catastrophes of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima?

Since San Onofre closed down in 2013, controversy has swirled around the dry waste storage systems selected by the plant’s operator, Southern California Edison.

As is true of all U.S.’s nuclear plants, San Onofre wasn’t designed for nuclear waste storage after decommissioning. The Nuclear Waste Act of 1982 mandated construction of a deep geological repository to store the nation’s spent fuel for the hundreds of thousands of years it remains deadly. However, as hopes for a repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain collapsed out of concern about groundwater contamination, talk turned to creating “interim” storage sites in Texas and New Mexico, though those states are balking at the prospect too.

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