--Behnam Taebi is assistant professor of philosophy, focusing on issues of ethics and nuclear power, at Delft University of Technology.--
Across much of the world, nuclear power continues to spawn controversy. For instance, concern over the Fukushima site continues, and a risky, unprecedented operation has just begun to remove thousands of fuel rods.
Meanwhile, despite the landmark international deal agreed on Sunday that saw parts of Iran’s nuclear programme frozen for six months, some critics wonder whether the deal contains sufficient non-proliferation safeguards. Iran’s case is particularly relevant because it establishes a precedent for the twenty new countries that are planning to join the ‘nuclear club’ in coming decades.
Despite the intensification of debate over pros and cons of nuclear energy, it is overwhelmingly likely that more plants will continue to be built world-wide. This will mean increased nuclear waste for decades to come.
This waste, which has been accumulating for over 50 years already, will remain highly radioactive for many thousands of years. Safe disposal is thus a massive challenge for humanity that has yet to be addressed.