Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear, at Mothers for Peace media conference re: Diablo Canyon, June 15, 2022
Electricity is the fleeting byproduct from atomic reactors. The actual product is forever deadly radioactive waste, a curse on all future generations. The risks include to our health, safety, security, environment, and pocketbooks.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized highly radioactive waste has “the capacity to outlast human civilization as we know it and the potential to devastate public health and environment.”
The Government Accountability Office has described it as “one of the most hazardous substances on earth.”
It would be wise to stop making it, at Diablo Canyon’s twin reactors, by 2025 at the latest.
Irradiated nuclear fuel removed from Diablo’s cores contains a myriad of hazardous radioactive isotopes, each with different half-lives and hazardous persistence. These include radioactive substances such as Cesium-137, with a 30-year half-life and 300-year hazardous persistence, There are long-hazardous fission products, such as Iodine-129, with a 15.7 million-year half-life, and 157 million years of hazard. And there are actinides, such as Plutonium-239, with a 24,000-year half-life, and 240,000 years of hazard.
The most immediate and severe hazard is direct exposure to an irradiated assembly at a nearby distance in the absence of radiation shielding. A recently discharged irradiated assembly would give off more than 10,000 Rems per hour, or 100 Sieverts per hour, in the form of external penetrating radiation. A person standing within three feet of this assembly would receive a lethal dose within minutes. For the next century, it would give off life-threatening doses at this distance. Long-term health damage from lower doses includes cancers, other diseases, and lasting genetic damage, such as congenital abnormalities and chromosomal disorders, this could impact multiple generations. Radioactive hazards, if wastes escape containment, will remain a threat, downwind of storage, downstream of disposal, up the food chain, and down the generations, for a million years.