The single biggest danger in nuclear power generation is that of radioactivity escaping the confines of a reactor.
However the limited number of "active" nuclear fuel rods in the reactor core is just part of the radioactivity threat. The real under-estimated (and under-reported) radioactivity hazard is nuclear "waste".
For example, while the bright lights of mass media are focused on the potential meltdown in 4 of 6 reactors at the beleaguered Dai-ichi Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, what has largely escaped public are tens of thousands of radioactive spent fuel rods in "storage" at the compound. Moreover, the radioactive spent fuel rods are stored without anything near the multiple layers of concrete and metal containment found in a reactor.
Spent rods too require constant water circulation to keep them from heating up and catching fire. Since the plant lost power, it is believed that the water in the spent rod pools are either boiling, or already completely dry.
If it's true. It is beyond bad news...
Let us turn our attention to India now as the big nuclear power companies from the US and Europe eye lucrative contracts in the country... I recently received from two close friends (Thank you, Ramesh and Shibu) the same disturbing powerpoint presentation on the known harmful effects of nuclear power generation - especially around India.
I really could not think of a way to take up this subject without making the arguments either too simplistic or too complex to convince someone who may already believe the propaganda that nuclear power is the ultimate energy panacea for New & Improved India... The up-and-coming economic superpower of the 21st Century!
Now apparently, we are in eminent company... Dr. P. Balaram - a top Indian scientist, a Director of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, and member of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Scientific Advisory Council - described the events in Japan as "a wake-up call" for India.
Backed by more than 50 prominent figures, he has called for a moratorium on all future nuclear projects in India.
Hopefully, this group of scientists can do what the powerpoint presentation tried: to educate people and the powers-that-be that nuclear power has a greater downside than emitting carbon dioxide.
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