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Zero Emissions Nuclear Energy Threatens the Ocean

Publication Date: November 6, 2019

Sunset with "No Water No Future" sign

At Rider, we are lucky to be able to drink and shower in clean, filtered water. We often do not realize how much of a luxury this really is. However, we recently experienced a small taste of what it is like to not have access to safe water, in light of the filtration dilemma through Trenton Water Works. 

Senior political science major Antonio Lombardi states that is seemed like nothing of this nature would affect us at Rider, but that was simply not the case. 

“I was surprised about how long it took before this issue became known to the public,” said Lombardi.

For years, the clothing industry has been disposing of their waste into local waterways, polluting the primary sources of drinking water for thousands of people, as seen in the documentary film, RiverBlue. The waste is riddled with toxic dyes that not only poison people, but the organisms in the water as well. The beautiful coral reefs commonly seen in commercials and pictures are slowly becoming nothing more than a memory as ocean acidification is killing them off one-by-one. 

It seems that we do not learn from history as Japan is currently on track to dump more than one million tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant stores over one-million tons of contaminated water in over 1,000 tanks on land but is running out of space. Oftentimes, water on site becomes contaminated when used to mediate disasters such as the tsunami that occurred in March 2011. In a case like this, large quantities of water were needed to prevent three reactor cores from melting, but then that water needed to be stored for an indefinite amount of time. Storage space is looking to run out by 2022 and local fishermen, who have spent years building their businesses, are already outraged.  

“Because of the large amount of uncertainty about the impacts and that there is some evidence of the potential negative effects on the larvae and adults of marine organisms and dumping large quantities of tritiated water from Fukushima is not a good idea,” according to Dr. Paul Jivoff, a biology professor at Rider.

Why is nuclear power listed as a sustainable energy source when there is the possibility of a disaster like this? The reasons are relatively simple. Nuclear energy protects air quality as it is a zero-emission energy source and its overall land footprint is small, producing more electricity than any other clean air source. It only becomes problematic over time when situations like that in Japan occur. This is not just a minor hiccup, it is a monumental disaster. Japanese officials are still awaiting a report from experts on how to best handle the situation but it is not looking good. The new Environmental Minister of Japan, Shinjiro Koizumi has recently spoken about permanently shutting down all nuclear reactors in the country to prevent another disaster. That currently remains an idea since they are needed to meet national climate objectives. 

“There should be full transparency on the issue. The people should have a say in what happens to the water and be included on the decision, whatever the solution” says Lombardi.

 While Japan seems like it is worlds away from Rider, we are still relatively close to nuclear power plants.  As an example, there was a partial meltdown of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, which resulted in a subsequent radiation leak. This event occurred on March 28, 1979. It was the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history.  Tragedies like this are only avoidable if we work together to improve upon past mistakes. Rather than repeating history, we need to learn from it and be cautious about the impact we have on our environment. At the end of the day, we will be the ones that pay the price, but if we face these challenges together we will see a better future. 

Alina Bardaji

Eco rep

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