When using the wrong type of cat litter can cause a nuclear explosion, you know you have a real problem.In 2014, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant located 2,000 feet below the New Mexican desert had a barrel of radioactive waste explode after contractors packing the drum used wheat based rather than clay litter to solidify the liquid waste. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/11/nuclear-waste-wipp-new-mexico/506117/Although this accident has a comical undertone, what is happening with our nuclear waste in America is no joke.
The biggest problem is that nothing is happening to remediate this ongoing and ever growing issue.The Wall Street Journal compiled a list of 517 sites the Department of Energy considered for cleanup. So far, 29 sited have been deemed successfully remediated, 24 are in progress, and 43 were considered to have “potential for significant radioactive contamination.” http://projects.wsj.com/waste-lands/In 1982, the federal government wanted to centralize nuclear waste in a singular permanent location by 1998.
There was some talk about setting up a facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but nothing ever happened as the state’s residents pushed back at the idea of having a back yard filled with decaying nuclear waste products. Currently, there is over 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste stored at nuclear power plants across the country. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/16/the-yucca-mountain-nuclear-waste-dump-a-political-hot-potato-is-back.htmlAfter the Yucca Mountain plan imploded, everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten about these sites that cause severe concern for nearby residents.
The Department of Defense at one point said we should just leave these sites alone, and allow them to decompose on their own. Depending on the material, the radioactive half-life of some compounds was around 30 years, although these areas are not livable for much longer than that time. However Plutonium-239 has a half-life of twenty-four thousand years. If enough of this is found, a bomb can be easily made from fragments found in these areas, making them of utmost importance to be secured and remediated. A very worrisome area needing remediation is located on Runit, a tiny island in the Marshall Islands. Between 1946 and 1958, the U.
S. exploded 67 nuclear weapons in tests. When it was time to end the nuclear testing, the problem to clean the area loomed. The solution was to dump as much waste into one of the test’s resultant craters, including large fragments of plutonium from an unexploded bomb. Other, less radioactive materials were dumped into the directly into the lagoon. This dump site, often called the Runit dome, is unsecured, full of viable plutonium, and stored at a site not fit for the current standards of a municipal dump for household trash, nonetheless radioactive waste. It is no surprise that the radiation levels on the island are still off the charts.
Studies in 2011 showed severe deterioration of the dome, and high levels of radioactive groundwater. Scientists also are concerned of the severe typhoons typical of the area eventually breaching the dome. The rising tides caused by global climate change are also eroding the dome, which will eventually find itself submerged.
http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/files/2016/09/Gerrard-2015-06-Americas-Forgotten-Nuclear-Waste-Dump-in-the-Pacific.pdfWhat the solution will be to this vast problem is up to anyone’s guess as our government continues to ignore our ever-increasing inventory of nuclear waste. The one thing that is clear is we can no longer hide our heads in the kitty litter and pretend this problem doesn’t exist.-Maria Dampman