Something that has been at the forefront of the news lately has been the Fukushima nuclear waste disposal in Japan. While this of course is very detrimental to the planet there's something else I want to talk about today after we briefly touch on Fukushima, Chernobyl, and what exactly the environmental impact of nuclear waste is.
The environmental impact of nuclear waste
Let's first talk about just how detrimental the impact nuclear waste can have on the environment. First, let's define what nuclear waste is. Nuclear waste definitely can be stuff that would be disposed of at nuclear energy sites as well as whatever is left from nuclear weapons. but, nuclear waste is also the soil at nuclear test sites, the waste from extracting plutonium and uranium, and even the personal protective equipment used to ship, store, and use these things.
US nuclear energy plants are actually running out of room to store this waste. Many facilities also see contaminated groundwater, surface water, and soil. in order to restore the environment in these areas, the department of energy estimates a cost of 265 billion dollars over the next 75 years. This is not just an issue we are going to be facing in our time but as well as our children, grandchildren, and potentially thousands of years into the future. Even though we are running out of space many countries are still producing nuclear energy but why?
Yes, nuclear energy is considered a form of clean energy but that is because it produces much less CO2 than traditional forms of energy. let me know down below if you would like to see a future post on nuclear energy of course today we are focusing on nuclear waste instead.
According to this article from 2011, there is still a desire to dump this waste on remote islands in the South Pacific. This leads right into the issue with the Marshall Islands.
Let's first talk about Fukushima though. If you are unaware of what happened in Fukushima, in March 2011, Japan was hit with a very strong earthquake (9.0) and followed by a tsunami Which led to the Meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. if you are unfamiliar with the area, Fukushima is on the northeast coast of Japan. To this day, the Fukushima Fallout zone is still uninhabited by humans. All this time and Japan is still wondering what to do with their nuclear waste and treated water is stored in the tanks in Fukushima. The goal here was to clean up as much tainted water from the accident (which equated to 1.2 million tons) and then this year that water is to be treated to remove any radioactive material and then diluted with seawater and then gradually released into the Pacific Ocean. while this is still technically nuclear waste, this isn't nearly as bad as some might imagine. yes, it's not a perfect option, but many world leaders, not just in Japan, are running out of options for nuclear waste. but is this the right solution? That I can tell you but I feel like any nuclear waste in our oceans is a bad thing.
I am sure we have all heard of Chernobyl. but if not, in April 1986, there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in then the USSR, now Ukraine. the citizens were evacuated and this has had a major impact on Agricultural and natural ecosystems not only in Russia but also in Ukraine and Belarus and many other European countries as well. radiation in the form of radionuclides was found in plants, animals milk, meat, and even fish and wood. So why do I even bring up Chernobyl? That is because many people think this is the worst nuclear fallout the world has ever seen. but what if I told you there is somewhere on the earth more radioactive than Chernobyl and Fukushima...
That's right, the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands are their own independent nation and are a small atoll of islands with their claimed territory being mostly water. This atoll is located 5000 miles west of California in the Pacific Ocean. Many people know of the Drastic effects of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Many people know of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Natives to the island and Japanese fishing crew were exposed to very high radiation levels that were equal to that of those who are less than 2 miles from Ground Zero at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1946, the US conducted more tests in the Marshall Islands beginning with operation Crossroads. This was specifically on Bikini Atoll.
In 1946, the 167 people living on Bikini Atoll were asked to leave, being told that perfecting Atomic weapons could prevent future Wars. The residents were told they could return one day and were instead relocated to an uninhabited island with limited resources 125 miles away. The residents resettled in 1969 but were evacuated again in 1978 After High radiation levels were seen. but that's not all.
1979, the Runit Dome was constructed (some sources say 1977) on the Marshall Islands in order to hopefully store radioactive waste from this nuclear test. this dumb stores most of the contaminated debris and soil from these tests as well as nuclear waste from us soil itself. Yes, the US literally sent their nuclear waste here. Locals have nicknamed this Dome the tomb and this is still not the worst news.
The tomb is leaking
That's right, after 40 years this dome has been cracked and is leaking and is a threat from rising sea levels. So not only are the natives of the Marshall Islands subject to rising ocean levels themselves being an island nation, but now they're also out of very high risk of this nuclear fallout should this dome crack completely. Officials have even said that because the area is so radioactive that it would be hard to pinpoint the crack exactly meaning it is very very difficult to fix. Scientists predict that the Marshall Islands could be uninhabitable by the 2030s due to rising sea levels. That is less than 9 years away. And who's to say that this dome might not crack before then. I want to dive further into how climate change is affecting island nations the most but we will save that for another day.
Thankfully, right now, the leaking is rather minor. Only about .1% of the plutonium released during these weapons testings has been leaking. But, how long will the small amount remain? This all depends on sea-level rise, storms, seasonal tides, and other things out of our control.
I wanted to talk about a lot of things today all culminating in the environmental impact of nuclear fallout. obviously, we all know nuclear waste is terrible for our own health and the environment. all we have to do to understand this is to look at survivors from bombings in places like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, in the Marshall Islands as well as those who were around to see the Fukushima Fallout and the Chernobyl Fallout. We need to listen to these first-hand accounts so that we do not repeat history.
But what can we even do? Honestly, I don't know. Most officials say there is nothing to worry about And that it's not our problem. I'm sure we can pressure our officials into fixing the stone but that really is just a Band-Aid. I honestly didn't really have any action steps for us moving forward, I just wanted to share this message. I wanted to give a voice to this unheard story as this is a very tragic disaster for humans and the planet and no one is talking about it.
Yes, issues like what is going on with the dumping of Fukushima waste are important and we need to take it seriously but we need to look at the rest of the world as well. thankfully, Japan is diluting that nuclear waste before releasing it into the ocean. Even saying that it sounds crazy that that is a “good thing.” But, the nuclear waste in the Marshall Islands is leaking undiluted and is basically a ticking time bomb waiting for a typhoon or an earthquake to split that dome in half.
This is all sad yes but I think the saddest part is that this is not new news. locals and scientists have been warning us for years yet this remains a silent issue.
Nuclear fallout is nothing to take lightly. The cracking of this Dome has the potential to decimate the surrounding islands and perhaps even the whole ocean depending on how much it is and how far it goes we need to take this seriously.
I know, this is not my usual content. This is a heavier topic but something I feel very passionate about after living on a small island for 3 years and becoming an environmental activist. I want my channel in my blog to become a place where people can come for zero waste tips, yes, but somewhere where we can talk about these hard issues that very few people are talking about because they are important and our planet and limes are literally at stake.
Thank you so much for reading along, I appreciate your time and I hope that you learned something valuable from this message. let me know down below if you'd like to hear about nuclear energy. I certainly am interested to learn more about it after learning about this and learning that we are running out of room to store nuclear waste.
Since there honestly isn't much we can do as individuals about this cracking Dome, I encourage you to share the story and educate others on this pressing issue. The more people that know about this the bigger an issue if he comes in the more people will take it seriously. and of course, pressure our governments to do better and help stop environmental destruction.
Thanks again, and as always remember that the small changes you make have a big impact in the long run:)