Despite the belief that natural groundwater would flush out remaining uranium at former power plants, this turns out not to be the case.
The diluting effects of nearby rivers are furthermore far less effective than expected. In response to this issue, research is underway at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to understand why groundwater has remained contaminated at higher than expected levels.
The uranium sites are spread across the country in New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado, and some of them are rather remote and hard to get to. This is more or less expected for a nuclear power plant that could be the source of radiation, potentially causing a threat to public health.
Samples are gathered from the ground using drills and then x-rays are conducted to seek the intensity and the type of radiation that is present. Multiple drills around a property allow for one to gauge the manner in which the uranium has spread and its rapidity.
Given these greater than expected uranium levels scientists are turning even more voraciously against proponents of nuclear power, citing these new examples as proof that we do not yet understand enough to be expanding the nuclear power industry.
Aside from its astronomical expense, it causes serious waste management and health concerns, and is the source of major government subsidies which could be used for clean energy.