Peter Burns, director of the Energy Frontier Research Center, has been studying the risks and effects of nuclear fuel disposal and containment for decades. Last week, he published a review in Science that demands that we offer more research attention to big problems like nuclear safety, not post-mortems on single accidents.
“At the end of the day, if you have enough reactors operating in the world, sooner or later you will have another accident,” he says. “This is why we need to spend effort to understand the actual processes that take place during a core-melt accident and understanding the release mechanisms of radionuclides so that we can reduce the risk of the next accident that takes place.”
Accidents will take place, and because nuclear fuels are designed to work within the controlled, ordered environment of a nuclear reactor, we don’t have a complete understanding of how they could spread throughout the environment.
His review isn’t a call for a moratorium on nuclear energy, it’s a call for more attention into the fate of these fuels, and better policies for communicating this information to the public.
We’ve learned a lot about what caused the Fukushima disaster one year ago yesterday, but we still stand to learn much in the way of preventing another.