Nuclear Energy & Safety Issue

I want to thank Professor David Yuen of the University of Minnesota for warning us that Asia nuclear reactors are facing a grave danger of being hit by future Tsunami. There are, in total 32 nuclear energy plants in Asia. Some are still under construction, spreading the wide danger zone of radiation leaks because of human error or natural disaster from India, China to Indonesia. Four nuclear plants in Southern China and one in Southern tip of Taiwan are predicted to be most at risk between now and the next ten years. Geologists have warned that those five nuclear plants are situated on the path of a towering tsunami wave similar to the one that struck Fukushima in Japan. Since last month Japanese nuclear crisis, I have gained some new knowledge about nuclear energy for peaceful use. I did my own research to find out the background in creation of nuclear energy. I learn that during the decades after the cold war, the Soviet Union and the United States of America had to make an important decision about what to do with their stockpile of weapon-grade Plutonium. They need to find ways to put surplus Plutonium into peaceful use instead of keeping them in a high-cost storage. Scientists and engineers had made a decision to mix weapon-grade plutonium and turn them into fuel for commercial power reactors. They produce new energy source from mixing plutonium and uranium to boil water. This mixture is called a mix-oxide, in short, it is called “Mox”. Six percent of the core of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant is made of “Mox”. Six countries besides Japan use ‘Mox” as fuel. Even when the United States government and the French Company “Areva”, came out to defend the safety of using “Mox”, few people believe them. I, myself, nervously watch the news every day on how the Japanese nuclear scientists and engineers monitor how “Mox” behaves in the process of a “melt down” of Fukushima Daiichi Plant Unit 3. In other study that I read, a nuclear melt-down and containment failure in the reactor that holds “Mox” could result in more cancer death than one in a reactor fueled only with Uranium. Plutonium has a long life span that could last thousands of year. The countries that store surplus Plutonium cannot yet find a good way to get rid of them. Even when keeping Plutonium in a safe storage plant, the management of the plant must hire heavy armed-guard to secure it from thieves for weapon use. Prevention of the danger of nuclear weapon proliferation, which can kill larger number of people, is as important as keeping safety standard and control of nuclear energy for a peaceful use. This is a major job of the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is good to hear that this year, the United States Atomic Safety Licensing Board has called the Shaw/Areva Group to present their case on the safety of “Mox” fuel. The Board monitors nuclear material control and accounting standard for Plutonium. One major future safety issue we should closely watch is how and where government and commercial companies build future nuclear energy plants. For safety, the plant should not be built at the fault-line of earthquake with potential tsunami disaster. A good thing that comes out of the Japanese disaster is that governments, companies and the general public are making their own assessments of the usefulness and the harmfulness in using Plutonium mixture as nuclear energy source, and in finding alternative energy source for the future.

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