Plastic bags and nuclear waste

Plastic bags, invented around 1960s have become indispensable in our lives for shopping, groceries, organizing home items, garbage collection. The low production cost and convenience brought to us by the plastic bags do come with environmental concerns that as a kind of litter they can last centuries to degrade and improper disposal can lead to land/water pollution. The more sensible use of plastic bag of course is to reuse it multiple times before final disposal, or have good recycling scheme, both reducing the demand of producing new plastic bags and their waste volume/mass.

If we replace the words ‘plastic bags’ with ‘nuclear fuel’ in the above paragraph (and a few other words of applications), we can clearly draw analogies between the two. Nuclear energy is seen as a relatively cheap and clean source of energy. Yet it does cause environmental concerns as its spent fuels last thousands of years. It is however little known to the public that, nuclear spent fuel recycling technologies do exist and methods to ‘burn off’ long-lived radioisotopes can reduce the toxicity of nuclear wastes to hundreds of years.

Nuclear energy though technically more complex, is just another invention by our society to increase our standards of living, like plastic bags have done. The intention is good yet the consequences of our actions weren’t entirely known from the beginning. Only by first recognizing and admitting the problems (long-lived and toxic nuclear wastes), then we can properly tackle them and show that nuclear energy can be safe and sustainable, and play a key role in giving an energy boost to propel our society forward into the future.

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