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Decommissioning is just the beginning of the huge nuclear legacy problem

Nuclear power concerns outlast decommissioning, Great Lakes Echo,   By Cameryn Cass 4 Feb 22,

Editor’s note: This is part of a package of two articles and a podcast about nuclear power in Michigan.

As Michigan and other states gradually move away from coal and other brown energy sources, there’s growing interest in carbon-free alternatives, including nuclear energy,

As Michigan and other states gradually move away from coal and other brown energy sources, there’s growing interest in carbon-free alternatives, including nuclear energy, which some advocates call a “clean alternative” that now fuels 30% of Michigan’s total electricity.

One nuclear plant in the state, Big Rock Point in Charlevoix closed in 1997 and has been fully decommissioned. In the spring of 2022, the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Southwest Michigan’s Van Buren County will close because of a “business decision.”

Michigan also has the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant in Newport, near Monroe, and the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Berrien County’s Bridgman, according to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

With Palisades and other plants in the Great Lakes region scheduled to shut down in the coming decades, more people are considering the long-term impacts of this energy source.

After decommissioning, radioactive waste remains on-site, said Susan Chiblow, an Indigenous environmental scholar in Ontario.

The waste stays in the environment for trillions of years, so calling nuclear power clean is propaganda, she said.

In short, risks don’t disappear when a plant is decommissioned, a process that can take up to 60 years, said Edwin Lyman, the nuclear safety project director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in Massachusetts.

Although closed plants no longer have to worry about accidents post shut-down, their operators remain responsible for managing the radiated materials and spent nuclear waste, Lyman said.

He said waste now stored on-site is vulnerable to security threats and climate disasters.

For five years, the waste is kept in large swimming pool-like structures where it’s mixed with water to keep it cool. Then, it’s transferred to dry casks, he said.

The U.S. Department of Energy is technically responsible for removing the waste, but it has nowhere to bring it, Lyman said.

“It’s going to be a long-term storage problem for any nuclear plant that’s shut down,” Lyman said……………………………

Thirteen states have banned construction of new nuclear plants.

In the Great Lakes region, Minnesota adopted its ban in 1994. ……

Because the Great Lakes account for one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, Chiblow and other environmentalists are especially interested in protecting it……….c

February 5, 2022 - Posted by | decommission reactor, USA


  1. Thanks Cameryn, the graphic is very . . . well, graphic. But Trillions of years is an exaggeration. Some of the longest-lived isotopes have a half-life of hundreds of thousands of years — taking them to about 4.5 Billion, which is about the age of the earth. Anyway, however long it is, it’s forever in human terms.

    ANNOUNCEMENT:. Frank von Hippel will present “Plutonium: How Nuclear Power’s Dream Fuel Became a Nightmare” on NEIS’s (Nuclear Energy Information Service) Night With the Experts Thursday, February 24, 2022 at 7pm Central time
    David Kraft’s NWTE Zoom Room:
    Thursday, February 24, 2022, 7pm Central time. This is a public meeting.
    Please watch for your Zoom invitations by email. For questions contact or David Kraft

    Comment by janboudart1gmailcom | February 5, 2022 | Reply

    • Yes – trillions – unnercessary – but as you say – it is indeed ”eternal” from our species’ point of view. Yes, I did the graphic – wotthehell. What does it take to wake people up ?

      Comment by Christina Macpherson | February 5, 2022 | Reply

      • Don’t know what it takes to wake people up. If you can, watch the Netflix movie “Don’t look Up!” But everything ends. People of the future already will have to deal with a lot of problems from radiation, no matter what we do now. In fact many people are already dealing with this suffering. I just keep trying to inform people of the basic facts. As ??? said, “Don’t be afraid of work that never ends.” Can’t remember who I’m quoting.

        Comment by janboudart1gmailcom | February 5, 2022

      • Yes. I have watched ”Don’t Look Up” It was brilliant , satirised so much, and was entertaining. At the same time, they were careful not to criticise NASA. Indeed, the solution advocated was to send nuclear-power rockets to destroy the asteroid. So – from the nuclear industry point of view, the film was problematic.

        Comment by Christina Macpherson | February 5, 2022

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