League continues green movie series
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:00 PM
"Into Eternity" (2010) was the third film of the Green Issues Summer Movie Series, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Wabash College Library. This movie is a Finnish documentary concerning the long-term storage of the radioactive waste from electric power generation using nuclear reactors.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontco.org or send a message to LWV, PO Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.
The material that is left over after much of the Uranium in the core of a nuclear reactor is consumed is a mixture of many different chemicals, most of which are radioactive. This waste material remains radioactive, and thus dangerous to living organisms, for more than 100,000 years. It is estimated that there is more than 200,000 tons of this material currently in the world and the amount of this dangerous waste is growing at more than 5,000 tons per year. Currently, this waste is stored in temporary storage, usually near the reactor that produced the waste. Because of the heat and the chemical reactivity of the material, these temporary storage sites require constant monitoring and maintenance. It is important to find a way to store permanently this dangerous radioactivity waste so that future generations are not harmed by it.
The Onkala Project, described in the movie, is a project in Finland to store the radioactive waste from the four Finnish nuclear power reactors. Onkala means "Hiding Place". It was designed in 2002, begun in 2004 and is not yet in operation. A deep shaft in solid rock is being dug in northern Finland which be filled with the radioactive waste, covered up and never opened it again.
Similar projects have been considered here in the U.S where there are 104 nuclear power reactors and about 60,000 tons of radioactive waste. Currently, there is no site in the U.S. for permanent storage of nuclear waste. After a lengthy design and study, the consideration of a long-term storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was recently stopped.
The movie focused on the difficulty of guaranteeing the safety of these sites for unfathomable times such as 10,000 or 100,000 years. Can we be sure that no earthquake or volcano will move the waste to the surface of the earth? Can we assume that when we bury the waste no future civilization will stumble upon it or search it out? Should we try to prevent them from knowing about it? Should we try to inform them about the danger of the site? If we must warn them, how do we communicate this warning to them? What language might they understand or what symbols would communicate to them to stay away from this site? Do we have an obligation to communicate with all future civilizations or just with the next generation, obligating each generation to pass on the warning to the generation after them?
After the film a discussion was held which moved among several questions. Should we move ahead with developing the use of nuclear power before we have investigated and determined a method to store the waste that will be generated? How do we balance long-term concerns as raised by this movie against more immediate concerns such as those surrounding the change in the climate over the next generation? This focuses on the choice between nuclear power with its long-term waste and burning fossil fuels with its carbon emission. We must be concerned about the next 50 to 100 years as well as the next 1000 to 10,000 years. Is it possible to be responsible to both of these futures? More information about the film can be found at the film's website, www.intoeternitythemovie.com.
The Green Issues film series will continue into the fall with the showing of "The Strange Disappearance of Bees" on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Korb classroom, Wabash College Fine Arts Center, on South Grant Ave. The League of Women Voters and the Wabash College Library offer this series at no cost, and all are welcome to attend.