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According to the World Nuclear Association, radioactivity from nuclear waste will take 1,000 years for the amount of radiation to be equal to that which is already naturally occurring and safe for the environment. There are three classes of nuclear waste, low and intermediate-level wastes resulting from cleaning reactor cooling systems, fuel storage ponds, etc. These lower class wastes are considered less of a problem, as the disposal of each is less time consuming. Neither have anywhere close to the radioactive life as the third type of waste. This third type of waste, referred to as high-level waste, is caused by the ‘burning’ of uranium. This is gives our world a large supply of electricity. Though the problem then presents itself, there is highly radioactive waste left over from this process. This short paper is in response to APSC- Tackling Wicked Problems. Wicked Problems discussed in the reading were defined as, “…an issue highly resistant to a solution.” (p.3) Enclosed and buried piles of nuclear waste, that will continue to be harmfully radioactive for 1,000 years certainly falls into the definition of a wicked problem.
Annually, 200,000 m^3 tonnes of low and intermediate level radioactive waste is produced worldwide. While high level radioactive waste produced is around 10,000 m^3 / 12,000 tonnes. Currently our generation is leaving behind a problem that will linger for the next 1,000 years plus additional time and space depending on how much longer our society continues to utilize nuclear power. The reading states, “attempts to address wicked problems often lead to unforeseen consequences.” (p. 4) Nuclear power is still a rather new way of supplying power. No one foresaw nuclear meltdowns actually happening when plants were being built. Though we have seen in recent years unforeseen events such as earthquakes can cause irreversible damage to an area with a nuclear power plant. Radioactive waste buried underground, that will be unsafe for the next 1,000 years is certainly a wicked problem. I have often heard people say “One day will have a use for all of that waste.” Unfortunately, we’re bargaining that future generations will have solutions to our problems. Yet, just like unforeseen earthquakes, we can’t possibly know if there will ever be a safe use for nuclear waste.
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