Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Inconvenience of Nuclear Power

Despite nuclear fission’s promise as a power source that doesn’t exacerbate our planet’s greenhouse effect, we need to take a step back and focus on safety issues.

By: Vanessa Uy

Of all the incidents that fuel the passions of anti-nuclear activists, there’s none greater than the incident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station of April 26, 1986 that changed the entire world’s views on nuclear energy. Unknown to most of the world, the incident at the GKSS Nuclear Research Center in September 12, 1986 serves as a reminder to all of us the issue of safety on the commercial applications of nuclear power. Located in the Elbmarch Region of Schleiswig-Holstein along the Elba River near Hamburg has been dubbed as “Germany’s Chernobyl” due to the increased incidence of childhood leukemia in that region 4 years after the September 12, 1986 incident. A nearby nuclear facility, Krümmel Nuclear Power Station was later ruled out as the source of the radioactive contamination in Schleiswig-Holstein.

The two nuclear facilities are somewhat convenient scapegoats as the main cause of the “leukemia clusters” but there are evidence supporting this. Back in the late evening hours of September 12, 1986 eyewitnesses saw an eerie looking fire coming from the GKSS Nuclear Research Center facility which was described to be changing colors from blue to green to yellow.

In 1991, the Leukemia Action Group was established and with the help of the local government of Schleiswig-Holstein and some benefactors raised 5 million euros in funds to investigate the extent of the radioactive contamination of the region. Soil samples were collected around the area then send to be analyzed in various European laboratories accredited with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The soil samples show the presence of strange microscopic metallic beads that doesn’t occur naturally in the region. The readings of the soil for ionizing radiation were five times above normal levels. Household dust particles taken from low traffic parts of the house like attics were collected around the Schleiswig-Holstein region. After being analyzed, the presence of transuranic elements like plutonium and americium were detected.

Some government officials point the source of the contamination to the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident. But the experts later concluded that the mysterious metallic beads found near the GKSS Nuclear Research Center are core fragments from a fission reactor and can only be found in the immediate vicinity of a serious nuclear accident since they are too heavy to be carried by the wind. To this day, suspicions of a cover up / conspiracy persists on the true extent of the accident.

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