CBS News has a startling report on a toxic leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, which they call "the most contaminated nuclear site in the country." According to CBS, the Hanford site was where the plutonium that was used for the nuclear bombs used in World War II were produced. And in the decades since, it has been the dumping ground for nuclear waste from the defense industry.
Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York, explains the scope of the problem:
Radioactive waste is a "witch's brew of chemicals," Kaku said, explaining it contains the most dangerous chemicals known to science like plutonium, enriched uranium, nitric acid and solvents. "We have 56 million gallons worth of this toxic stuff," he said. "To get this into perspective, to get your head around this, imagine 80 Olympic-sized swimming pools containing the most toxic substance known to science of which two Olympic-size swimming pools have leaked right into the ground and eventually into the water table and, perhaps, even into people's drinking water."
It is worth-noting that this nuclear waste is from the United States military and was stored differently from waste from nuclear power plants. I'm not entirely opposed to nuclear power, but am not confident we have safe enough systems for any storage of nuclear waste, but for the sake of clarity it is important to note that these leaks are the result of worn out storage systems that were engineered in the 1940s. For that reason, it would be good for anti-nuclear activists to put more pressure on ridding the world of nuclear weapons and cleaning up these actively leaking sites, which has a higher chance of destroying the environment, rather than opposing nuclear power, which has a lower-grade level of risk. But in any case, the underlying problem is the same with any storage of nuclear waste. Storage systems can fail and what we consider adequate for one generation, may become a life threatening health crisis for the next.
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