What dangers do aging nuclear plants pose to the environment?
Much attention has been focused on the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the dangers posed by radiation leaking from the plant. Many people thousands of miles from Fukushima are concerned about how the radiation being released may affect them or their children. I share those concerns. However, there are other dangers that should receive our attention as well.
An investigation done by the associated press published 2 years ago showed there had been leaks of radiation at a shocking 75% of U.S. nuclear plants. The most common material released was tritium and the most common cause was corrosion in piping in aging plants.
The corrosion of piping also raises other issues. Much of the piping lies underground where leaks can go undetected for years. One plant may have as much as 1 mile of underground piping. Usually this piping is encased in concrete, but after decades of use, corrosion is inevitable. This also raises the issue of piping used in cooling systems leaking and causing overheating of the fuel cores themselves.
These aging plants post a serious danger. The utilities that operate them depend on them for energy production and have little incentive to spend the money to replace aging piping. Unfortunately, often nothing is done until disaster strikes. New Orlean is a good example. It was known that New Orlean’s levee system could prove inadequate in the face of a major hurricane. Nothing was done until afterHurricane Katrina devastated the city.
The aging nuke plants in the U.S. pose a very real danger. Let’s hope this issue is addressed before there is a major leak or worse.