Hanford Nuclear Site, seen from across the Columbia River, Washington

Per NWNL tweets and a recent Forbes Magazine blog,it seems the Columbia and Mississippi watersheds could be liable to nuclear disasters similar to Japan’s today. Nuclear plants in the Mississippi River Basin are subject to earthquakes (due to New Madrid Fault) and thus floods from broken levees. And on the Columbia River, Hanford Nuclear Site’s systems are susceptible to broken dams, terrorism and grid failures. Metal stress and fatigue are also risks.

Japan’s tragedy has clarified differences between nuclear fuel for commercial energy versus the more powerful, toxic plutonium used for weapons. MOX (today’s threat in Fukushima’s Reactor 3) is a combination of both: oxides and reused plutonium fuel from US and former-USSR weapon stockpiles.

In the combined interests of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and the need for more energy, the US deemed it worthwhile to develop MOX (See 2001 Congressional Record). It is to be tested at Hanford and 5 TVA nuclear sites - in plants not designed for MOX usage. (See Heart of America NW News and Salem-News) In 2005 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s final environmental impact statement expressed concern over building the MOX fuel factory at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site.

The Fukushima experience suggests, for the sake of our watersheds and life on earth, that the world exercise caution as it continues to explore the use of nuclear energy.

Due to heavy snows and intense rains, many New Jersey rivers have been flooding. The Raritan River was spared the worst, yet NWNL was zig-zaging from one closed bridge to another to document ecological benefits to rural flooding. In the more northern rivers, urban residents were displaced and property damaged. But where floodplains can receive overflows, the micorflora (bacteria and fungi) cleanse the water and the sedimentary deposits nourish soils and floodplain biodiversity. The more diversity within these ecosystems - the more stability. Unseen, below ground, flooding replenishes our aquifers, critical reserves of clean freshwater.

The Sustainable Raritan River Collaborative, of which NWNL is a member, focuses on management approaches such as riverine restoration and urban riverside parks that allow absorption of floodwaters which continue to intensify with climate disruption.

This spring, NWNL will release a short documentary film by Associated Pictures, introducing this watershed and Sustainable Raritan River Collaborative.

On the other side of the world, northern Ugandans in the Nile River Valley are at risk of serious food and water shortages due to a drought attributed to La Nina. The water levels of the Nile and its tributaries are falling and people downstream have to wait several hours for wells to fill up or walk for miles to gather water. Oxfam has stated this could become a major humanitarian emergency. They are currently trucking in water to pastoralists and buying their weak cattle that can’t get enough water. Low water levels in the Nile are also affecting electricity generation. Ironically the 2010 torrential rains that rotted crops are aggravating loss of harvests.

NWNL has offset its flying, driving and office carbon footprint for another year, via a donation to Terra Pass. Why don’t you check into this for yourself!

NWNL Future Projects

The following are being developed. NWNL would appreciate any thoughts or ideas you might have!
Watershed Photography Workshops
Student Watershed Photography Contests

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