Friday, March 08, 2013

A Caesium-137 Story

Caesium-137 is an interesting element because it's anthropogenic which means that it doesn't occur naturally anywhere on earth. Unlike uranium, which you can mine for, caesium-137 is 100% human made. Until we started testing nuclear weapons, it is believed not to have occurred on earth for billions of years. The result of fission, radioactive materials can be made and used for power generation and weapons. And as a result of our scientific ambitiousness, we have tonnes of nuclear waste, spent fuel rods and failed power plants emitting a range of radioactive materials, including caesium-137, the "most problematic of the short-to-medium-lifetime fission products" and each of us has a little plutonium in us. 

We're constantly told that nuclear energy is a "clean" alternative to coal or gas etc. but considering the accidents (disasters) at Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, etc. etc. do you feel like you might have enough caesium-137?

Yes, us humans are ingenious. We will always come up with some way to fix things. Like how we figured out how to safely store radioactive wastes or even transform uranium into plutonium -Great! More nuclear weapons supplies! Wait...We didn't figure out how to safely store nuclear waste...

It's above my pay-grade to suggest we stop producing it altogether but here's another guy who believes that might actually make sense. Could it be true that we would account for all the cancer and mutation and contamination by making it too costly or illegal to process radioactive materials the way GE does right in my neighbourhood? His optimistic view that the nuclear industry is dead is worth watching:

PS-Germany is phasing out nuclear. Why aren't we?

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