Nuclear reactors use uranium as its fuel. Radioactive wastes are released into the environment at every stage of the fuel cycle—starting first at mines, then at mills where enormous piles of tailings are left behind, during chemical conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication and finally when it is fissioned inside a nuclear reactor. The radioactive waste left after fission is among the most toxic materials that humans have ever created.
Nuclear reactors routinely release radioactive into the environment as a part of every day operation.
Nuclear power plants do not have to blow up or melt down to release their radioactive poisons. During routine operation, they release pollutants into the atmosphere and into the rivers, lakes and oceans that provide the reactor with cooling water.
It is impossible to operate a nuclear reactor without routinely releasing radioactive materials into the environment. No economically feasible technology exists to filter out all the radioisotopes, including tritium (radioactive hydrogen) and radioactive krypton and xenon gases, some of which convert into radioactive strontium and cesium.
Some radioactive wastes are released into the environment from a nuclear power whenever the concentration level of radioactivity in the water is below the level that monitoring equipment is set to detect. The U.S. government has approved this level to be “permissible.” But “permissible” does not mean safe. It means “as low as reasonably achievable” – that is, as low as the nuclear industry claims it can afford to achieve.
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