The Destructive Cycle of Nuclear Power in Alaska, From Uranium Mining to Power Generation and Weapons Testing, and Nuclear Waste
Alaska has a history of nuclear experimentation, including weapons testing on Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Archipelago, unrealized plans to create a deepwater port near Point Hope (the subject of the book Firecracker Boys by Dan O’Neill), a nuclear reactor operating at the Fort Greely military base near Delta Junction from 1962-1972, and uranium mining at the Ross-Adams Mine in Southeast Alaska. More recently, uranium exploration has taken place near Elim, Alaska on the Seward Peninsula. State legislation was passed last session that streamlines the permitting of small nuclear reactors dubbed as “micronukes” for use in rural communities and to power remote mining operations.
Governor Dunleavy’s Administration is moving forward with proposed regulations on the siting of “microreactors.” There are serious health and safety concerns with micronuclear reactors, and they are a false solution for our energy needs and the climate crisis.
On Wednesday, April 26th at noon AKST, CHE-Alaska will be joined by Emily Murray of Elim and Dr. Edwyn Lyman with the Union of Concerned Scientists for a presentation on the impact of nuclear power on Alaskans and worldwide. Nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source and is touted as a safer alternative to power generation using fossil fuel. Our guests will discuss this claim from their own perspectives and research, including a presentation on the consequences of uranium mining and processing on environmental health, the disproportionate impact of uranium mining on Indigenous lands, risks associated with the operation of nuclear reactors, issues surrounding perpetual storage of spent nuclear fuels, and the ways in which nuclear power generation contributes to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Edwin Lyman and the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report on how “Advanced” Isn’t Always Better: Assessing the Safety. Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors in response to the ‘new and improved’ nuclear reactors being proposed by the nuclear industry.
Alaska Community Action on Toxics has worked on nuclear power and weapons issues in Alaska since the organization’s inception in 1997. This includes publication of two reports on the consequences of the Amchitka Island nuclear tests in the Aleutian Islands and an investigative report on the Fort Greely nuclear reactor.
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Related Resources and Readings:
Union of Concerned Scientists report “Advanced” Isn’t Always Better: Assessing Safety. Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors (Edwyn Lyman, 2021) – https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/advanced-isnt-always-better
Beyond Nuclear – https://beyondnuclear.org/
Union for Concerned Scientists – Nuclear Power Resources – https://www.ucsusa.org/energy/nuclear-power
Alaskan Nuclear Issues and History
- The Nuclear Reactor at Fort Greely (May 2000) An investigative report by Alaska Community Action on Toxics for Delta Junction, Alaska.
- Nuclear Flashback– Return to Amchitka (1996) A report by Alaska Community Action on Toxics.
- Nuclear Flashback Part II. The Threat of the U.S. Nuclear Complex (February, 1998) A report by Nuclear-Free-Weapons America and the Alaska Community Action on Toxics.
- Firecracker Boys: H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement (Dan ONeill, 1994) – https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Firecracker_Boys/LoRFCgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
- Ross-Adams Uranium Mine in Southeast Alaska (summary by Ground Truth Trekking) and reclamation project (Anchorage Daily News article)
- Amchitka and The Bomb: Nuclear Testing in Alaska (Dean Kohlhoff, 2022).
Emily Murray is the Vice President of the Norton Bay Watershed Council and a teacher at Aniguiin School in the Inupiat village of Elim, Alaska, where she works with students to conduct research about the effects of uranium on community health. Emily presented on CHE-Alaska in 2008 on the topic of Uranium Mining and Community Health: Environmental and Health Concerns about Proposed Uranium Mining in Alaska.
Edwin Lyman, PhD, is the Director of Nuclear Power Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, DC. He earned a doctorate in physics from Cornell University in 1992. From 1992 to 1995, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Studies (now the Science and Global Security Program). From 1995 to 2003, he worked for the Nuclear Control Institute. His research focuses on nuclear power safety and security. He is a co-author (with David Lochbaum and Susan Q. Stranahan) of the book Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster (The New Press, 2014). He is the recipient of the 2018 Leo Szilard Lectureship Award from the American Physical Society. He is also the author of recent Union of Concerned Scientists report (“Advanced” Isn’t Always Better) pertaining to changes in nuclear reactor technology (link to press release and report).