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New Nuclear Reactors Will Produce More Radiation Along With More Electricity

By March 9, 2009

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A new generation of nuclear reactors designed to generate more electricity more safely than previous technology may actually produce radioactive waste that is more toxic and would be released more quickly in case of a nuclear accident, according to information contained in industry documents and brought to light by Greenpeace.

France and the United Kingdom are already on track to build new nuclear reactors using EPR technology, which are expected to generate 1,600 megawatts of electricity while using 15 percent less uranium and producing 30 percent less waste.

Meanwhile, other nations, including the United States, are studying the technology and may decide to construct EPR nuclear reactors. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he believes the United States will need to continue, and probably expand, its use of nuclear power to meet its energy and climate goals, but not until there is a safe and effective way to manage nuclear waste and to minimize the national security risks posed by nuclear power.

Safety features built into EPR reactors would make a nuclear accident less likely than ever before, but one study suggests that an EPR reactor or waste accident could kill nearly twice as many people as an accident at one of the atomic reactors they are designed to replace.

The study, conducted by independent nuclear consultant John Large, compared the consequences of an accident at the new EPR reactor being constructed in Normandy with one at an existing reactor in the same area. Large concluded that, in the worst case, the number of deaths would increase from 16,000 to more than 28,000.

EPR reactors are designed to burn nuclear fuel almost twice as thoroughly as atomic reactors, but that process also increases the toxicity of the nuclear waste EPR reactors produce. Various industry documents show that, compared to atomic reactors, EPR nuclear reactors would produce:

  • Four times more radioactive bromine, rubidium, iodine and caesium, according to a report by EDF, the French company that is planning to build four EPR reactors in the UK;
  • Seven times as much iodine 129, according to Posiva Oy, a nuclear waste company owned by two Finnish companies that build nuclear reactors; and
  • Eleven times as much caesium 135 and 137, according to the Swiss National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste.
The most troubling thing about these reports is not the specter of a potentially deadly nuclear accidentódespite some problems, the nuclear industry has a remarkably good safety record when it comes to operating reactorsóbut rather that the nuclear industry failed to put all of its cards on the table while selling EPR technology as a safer alternative to atomic reactors.

However large or small the risks, the people assuming those risks have a right to know exactly what they are.

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March 9, 2009 at 6:50 am
(1) JHV says:

A plain an simple fact is, nuclear power is a safe, efficeint and clean way of producing mass energy. Nuclear power has proven to be a cheap provider of energy. While forign countries around the world have embraced it, the greatest country in the world has denied it, I find that really the majority of US people actually are in favor of nuclear power. If we dont start doing what this country needs soon we are going to do the additional harm as we have done with industry and technology. It is time to use what we have at our finger tips to over come the mess we are in. These “nay sayers” have lost the long time battle about the down side of nuclear power but, it never ceases to amaze me with the unfounded and unrealized propaganda they come up with to try fool and lie to the public.

March 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm
(2) environment says:

At the risk of being lumped in with the rest of the “naysayers,” I think it’s only right to point out that this “propaganda” is neither unfounded nor untrue. Everything cited here comes from nuclear industry documents, which point out both the benefits and drawbacks of EPR technology.

If we’re going to expand our use of nuclear energy, which produces toxic waste that remains potentially lethal for tens of thousands of years, we deserve all the facts.

March 12, 2009 at 5:02 am
(3) guidoLaMoto says:

It must be a real burden to go thru life under the pressures of such overpowering super-egos. Would one of you Nay-sayers mind listing all the damage done to the world by nuclear reactors in the past 60 years? Put your answer betwenn those two lines. It will fit. — –

April 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm
(4) a says:

I’d like to see those documents cited. It is not enough to state that your information is good. There may be a very good reason why “one study” disagrees with all others.

June 26, 2009 at 3:44 am
(5) larosse says:

Such a joker.

Even Chernobyl accident will not kill more than a few thousand people (like 6000 at most).

I would love to see your “worst case” accident!

Just leave comment how many people are killed every year in car accidents.

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