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Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012

READERS IN COUNCIL

First, a solution to nuclear waste


By FRED ALSDORF
Otsu, Shiga

The Dec. 7 editorial "Addressing the nuclear power issue" makes blanket criticism of the antinuclear parties, saying they "must present realistic proposals." Strangely, this is after the editorial notes Nippon Mirai's proposals of (1) getting rid of nuclear power in 10 years, (2) putting "a cap on the total amount of spent nuclear fuel," and (3) constructing "a dry storage facility to keep such fuel for 100 years." What is so unrealistic about these?

Moreover, Nippon Mirai has presented the only issue about nuclear power that — in the long view — really matters: the urgent need for a permanent storage facility for all nuclear waste.

Are you aware of how long spent nuclear fuel needs to be stored? Some facts: The "most common fissile nuclear fuels are uranium-235 and plutonium-239." The half-life of 239Pu is 24,100 years; 235U's half-life is 700 million years. Therefore, in human terms, spent nuclear fuel is eternally lethal.

In short, before any more reactors are brought online and more nuclear waste produced, Japan must find a solution, a technology for the lasting storage of these eternal poisons. One hundred years is not nearly long enough, but it's a tiny first step.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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