Nukewatch Quarterly Spring 2021
Five nuclear reactors in the United States will close in 2021— a record for one year — four in Illinois, and one in New York state. The shutdowns reflect a long-term shift from poison power to safe energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal and “negawatts” derived from efficiency and conservation. Over the next 30 years, 24 reactors are projected to close, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Shutting down nuclear reactors in the United States will slow the accumulation of radioactive waste and the industry’s push to move it away from reactor sites. Yet the dilemma of designing, testing, building, and enacting extremely long-term waste isolation remains.
Without a central federal waste repository, each of the country’s 56 operating reactor stations have to manage and guard their own waste — for decades. This ad hoc arrangement was intended to be temporary, so even the 36 US reactors that have closed continue to store their waste on site. This open air parking lot system poses risks from floods, earthquakes, sea level rise, and plane crashes, and it creates easy targets for groups who might want to use radioactive waste to harm human health.
In Japan where most of the power reactors remain closed after the Fukushima catastrophe, former prime ministers Naoto Kan and Junichiro Koizumi urged the current Japanese government to abandon plans to reopen reactors or build new ones. At a joint press conference March 1, Koizumi praised Japan’s abundant solar, wind, and hydropower electricity sources. “Why should we use something that’s more expensive and less safe?” — Kyodo News, March 1; and Houston Chronicle, Jan. 12, 2021