18. All states shall prioritize the long-term control and safe storage of radioactive wastes, with public review.

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Introduction

First, we should clarify what we mean by “radioactive wastes,” as distinct from some risks that are addressed in other planks of this platform.

Radioactivity can cause a lot of human misery. For one thing, under certain circumstances it can explode. Hence we devote planks 1 and 2 to measures intended to prevent the creation of nuclear bombs and certainly their detonation in a nuclear war.

But radioactive substances can also explode, not as bombs, but in nuclear reactors that are meant to generate electricity. So plank 17 focused primarily on the need to prevent nuclear reactors from exploding and melting down.

Finally, even without any explosion, the radiation from fissile elements can damage living cells. Ordinarily we want to avoid contact with radiation, though occasionally physicians deliberately irradiate cancer cells precisely to destroy them. This plank, number 18, will address these non-explosive effects of radioactivity.

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Adam Wynne

Has there been further research into using high-power lasers to transmute radioactive waste? An article published in 2003 by New Scientist indicated that the Vulcan Laser at the University of Strathclyde had begun researching ways to transmute radioactive waste to reduce its half-lives. Of interest was Iodine 129 with a half-live of 15.7 million years which could be transmuted to Iodine 128 with a half-life of 25 minutes. The laser is the size of a “small hotel” and a million billion watts – producing gamma radiation. One of the concerns is producing enough energy to use the laser to transmute… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An alarming article from 12 July 2018 Angela Bischoff for the Bulletin: “The more than 760,000 spent fuel bundles stored at the Pickering nuclear plant are the legacy of 50 years of reactor operations with no long-term waste management solution in sight. This waste contains dangerous radioactive elements and enough plutonium to construct more than 11,000 nuclear warheads. Laid end-to-end, the radioactive fuel bundles stored at Pickering would stretch from Kingston to St. Catharines. More than half the waste that Ontario Power Generation has been quietly piling up at Pickering nuclear plant is kept in open water pools. One of… Read more »

Adam Wynne

A significant amount of low level radioactive waste was buried less than 150 meters from Lake Ontario near Port Hope. “Share this The Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) represents the Government of Canada’s commitment to the cleanup and safe, local, long-term management of historic low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) in two Southern Ontario municipalities – Port Hope and Clarington. The waste is the result of radium and uranium processing in Port Hope between 1933 and 1988 by the former Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear Limited and its private-sector predecessors. The PHAI is based on community-recommended solutions for the cleanup and safe long-term… Read more »

Ruth Needham

Canadian Plans for Nuclear Power Emergency
Canada does have some plans in place for situations where a leak or other safety emergency occurred at a nuclear power plant. For example, here is a link to the plans for intervening if something bad happens in the Point Lepreau reactor. (See photo of the reactor.)
https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/ps-sp/pdf/emo/Nuclear/PointLepreau-NOEM.pdf

THE CONVERSATION Sharing Data can Help Prevent Public Health Emergencies in Africa Global collaboration and sharing data on public health emergencies is important to fight the spread of infectious diseases. If scientists and health workers can openly share their data across regions and organisations, countries can be better prepared and respond faster to disease outbreaks. This was the case in with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Close to 100 scientists, clinicians, health workers and data analysts from around the world worked together to help contain the spread of the disease. But there’s a lack of trust when it… Read more »