Energy

Irradiated future

Are we stumbling headlong into a radiated future ?  Nuclear waste requires investments spread out over several decades for its removal and millennia, if not hundreds of millennia, for its treatment. What is the responsibility of societies who have been using this energy for such a long time?   Nuclear energy generates radioactive waste, regardless whether it is used in military, medical, industrial, or research settings. This consists of residual radioactive materials as well as radiated or contaminated tools, equipment and infrastructure used in this process. The majority of waste is generated during the preparation, fabrication, use in the reactor, and post-radiation management of the fuel in nuclear reactors. Nuclear waste is classified according to its use and the length of time for which it will remain radioactive. The most highly radioactive waste, which will take the longest to become inert, is generated mostly by the nuclear power industry. Its management is the most problematic. Unlike the overwhelming majority of countries that use nuclear energy, France decided to reprocess its spent fuel. Its reprocessing at the plant in la Hague in Normandy consists of separating this spent fuel initially made up of uranium oxide into three parts: 1% plutonium, which forms during the radiation process in the reactor, 95% uranium, which is impoverished by passing through the reactor, and 4% of “final waste.” The latter consists of what...

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The Myth of Energy Independence

The Myth of Energy Independence      In France, the uranium needed to operate the country’s nuclear reactors is imported mainly from Niger and Kazakhstan. This dependence calls into question the myth of energy independence that civilian nuclear power had promised, as well as its image of providing “clean” energy.     Georges-Besse d’Eurodif Enrichment Facility, France, no date, Bernard LAPONCHE Fund. All rights reserved.     During the first oil crisis in 1973, the development of civilian nuclear power in France was based on an official discourse that centered largely on energy independence. The stated objective of the Messmer Plan was, through its “all nuclear, all electric” approach, to make France completely independent; however, this relied on securing uranium supplies. When the French nuclear power industry was born at the end of the WWII, France still exercised sovereignty over territories whose reserves guaranteed it a long-term supply for its military and civilian programs. Access to these resources, which also held the promise of very lucrative exports for the extracting industries, was the main focus of the CEA’s prospecting policy in France’s colonies in West Africa and Madagascar. This was especially true of Gabon, where deposits were discovered in the east of the country in 1956 under the direction of Jacques Mabille, an engineer from the Corps des Mines.     EXCERPT FROM: GABRIELLE HECHT  “AFRICAN URANIUM: A...

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