Monday, December 19, 2005

Nuclear waste found in Grozny is a warning

The discovery of a batch of cobalt-90 in the ruins of a factory in Grozny, Chechnya, should serve as a warning to those cavalier types who want to press ahead with more nuclear plant-building.

The material had been there for a decade and has raised radiation levels to 58,000 times above normal.

No one can say where it came from.

If Britain and other European countries opt for more nuclear power in the future, it will inevitably mean other countries besides China - already constructing 30 new plants - wanting to be copycats.

Not all countries have the same level of security, as this episode demonstrates.

Nor should the UK smugly think it couldn't happen here. A few years ago Japan sent back a shipment of waste from BNFL because the paperwork was incorrect.

Grozny's scene sounds like one from a 1980s dystopian movie: once a mighty industrial centre, its factories are now a wasteland of twisted steel -- many of them dotted with machine gun nests.

Almost all the city was destroyed by Russian bombing in 1999-2000 trying to reassert central control over separatist rebels, who still attack troops and police daily from within their radioactive cloud.

A taste of the future? Please, no. Even though it may be "better than global warming".

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