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Do we need nuclear power for sustainable energy production?
Nuclear waste is regularly
released into the environment
The water used to cool nuclear plants warms up, when that water is released to the ecosystem it changes the thermal balance of the river it came from,
most fish and plants communities.
Small amounts of radioactive waste can contaminate huge areas (e.g. Fukushima and the Pacific basin), with unpredictable consequences ecologically or to people.
Several nuclear waste deposits in
spilled and contaminated the environment.
Water inflow into the German nuclear waste storage facility at
threatened the integrity of the mine.
Tritium is by far the most common nuclide effluent. It is a natural product of cosmic rays bombarding the Earth. Tritium has a concentration in natural hydrogen of around 1e-19. It has a biological half-life of 10 days and the
medical history of tritium exposure
has resulted in only minor injuries.
We can study the effects of
natural fission reactors, such as the Oklo site,
to see that in practical terms fission products do not tend to leech into the surrounding rock strata.
Ca137 dillutes over the huge area of the Earth's oceans. Chernobyl emitted a large amount of radiation (Fukushima was mostly contained because of its superstructure), but nuclear weapons testing resulted in 30 times the amount of Cs137 currently present on the Earth's surface.
Levels of Cs134 and Cs137 are rarely detectable in the ocean food chain and at a level requiring 1000kg ingested to equal the dose of a cross-continental flight.