Examining Risks of Nuclear Waste Disposal

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Date(s) - 6/24/200812:00 am


Dr. Bernard Cohen discussed his Marshall Institute Policy Outlook, Radioactive Waste Disposal: Nature’s Way vs Government’s Way. The current government solution to radioactive waste (radwaste) disposal is to place it in high-tech underground storage chambers designed to prevent or greatly delay contact with groundwater, which is the main potential conveyor of radioactivity into the human environment. Evaluating the risks from this untried procedure involves large scientific uncertainties and estimating probabilities for various unpredictable geologic futures. The risk estimates have thus been easily vulnerable to attacks by political opponents, resulting in long time delays and massive expenditures, leaving the entire program in danger of collapse.

Dr. Cohen pointed out that Nature has its own way, proven by millions of years of experience, for managing radioactive materials in the ground. Adopting Nature?s way for managing our radwaste thus leaves very little uncertainty in the risk analyses, and these lead to the conclusion that all of our forever accumulating radwaste will never cause as much as one death per year in the U.S., less than 0.01% of the of the number now caused by wastes from coal-burning electricity generation.

Bernard L. Cohen is Professor-Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy and of Environmental and Occupational Health at University of Pittsburgh. He has authored six books, over 300 papers in scientific journals, and more than seventy articles in non-technical journals. He has presented invited lectures in the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and South America. His awards include the American Physical Society Bonner Prize and the Health Physics Society Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award. He has been elected Chairman of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society, and Chairman of the Division of Environmental Sciences of the American Nuclear Society.

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