Saturday, May 25, 2024

Sites with radioactive material more vulnerable as climate change increases wildfire, flood risks


Dozens of active and idle laboratories and manufacturing and military facilities across the nation that use, store or are contaminated with radioactive material are increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather. Many also perform critical energy and defense research and manufacturing that could be disrupted or crippled by fires, floods and other disasters.

There’s the 40-square-mile Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where a 2000 wildfire burned to within a half mile (0.8 kilometers) of a radioactive waste site. The heavily polluted Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Southern California, where a 2018 wildfire burned 80% of the site, narrowly missing an area contaminated by a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown. And the plutonium-contaminated Hanford nuclear site in Washington, where the U.S. manufactured atomic bombs.

“I think we’re still early in recognizing climate change and ... how to deal with these extreme weather events,” said Paul Walker, program director at the environmental organization Green Cross International and a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I think it’s too early to assume that we’ve got all the worst-case scenarios resolved ... (because) what might have been safe 25 years ago probably is no longer safe.”...more

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