Three weeks ago I went to the only remaining operating nuclear power plant in the Netherlands and looked at radiation levels around it. I got quite some personal messages after that article, both mentioning that the images were interesting and that there are several other radioactive facilities in the Netherlands besides power plants that also might be interesting to visit.
I don’t really know where I wanted to go with the previous article. Sometimes I like to just visit interesting places and learn more about them, followed by me writing a post here. These posts are basically my excuse to drive somewhere without ‘wasting’ my time.
But when driving to the Borssele power plant, I also thought about some what-ifs. Quality Geiger counters are quite expensive, and I had to order mine from Ukraine. Not a lot of them will exist in the Netherlands, especially owned by private citizens. So what if I found some alarming radiation levels? With so few people owning these, the chance that a radiation level went undetected must be higher, right?
After that last trip, I learned about the National measuring network Radiactivity, the data of which you can see on the European Radiological map. (After accepting the cookies in the top, you have to refresh the page for the blue button to show up to continue.) A network of over 150 measuring points keeps track of levels of gamma radiation - with 12 locations also measuring alpha and gamma radiation. I tried to track down the exact location that media reported about 2 years ago having the highest radiation levels in the Netherlands, but couldn’t find it.
So even though I have been to Chernobyl and know about how safe radiation actually is and how low the levels are even there, that thought of “what if I detect high radiation levels” kind of suprised me. Besides the fact that that would be an interesting phone call to officials, part of the thought might also be rooted in some irrational fear. With the national measurement network it also turned out to be totally unnecessary.
But the presence of this network, the several radioactive facilities and nuclear power plants and their safety rarely get talked about. I decided to follow up the previous post and visit almost all of the other remaining nuclear installations in the Netherlands. The only one I didn’t visit was the URENCO in Almelo because of time constraints. With these pictures, I hope to show how low the radiation levels are at all these places. All locations I visited after the previous article were the same or lower than the background radiation levels in the surrounding area. (I started measurements a few kms before arriving)
First, the defunct power plant in Dodewaard. Shut down in 1997 and with its last fissionable material removed in 2005, this power plant is scheduled to be demolished in 2045 to contain any minor radiation sources inside until then. With double fencing around the perimeter, multiple cameras, and a guard post up front, the location is heavily secured even though it is not functional anymore.
Compared to a lot of other countries, everything in the Netherlands seems very new and kept up. Old buildings generally get demolished very soon, but with this building the plan is to keep it standing for 40 years after 2005. In typical Dutch fashion, the building is heavily maintained even though it is disused, with brand new fencing and even a garden company maintaining the premises. There is one clue that this facility is actually unused: The fence outside the water outlet.
The Petten High Flux reactor is much smaller than the Power plants, and is used as a research reactor. An entire campus around it is inaccessible and fenced of, so catching a glimpse of it is only possible when you walk the dune road next to the campus.
Taking a horse path takes us the closest to the fence we can, allowing me to take this measurement:
The Research reactor from the Reactor Institute Delft can be approached to closest and is also the smallest:
I guess what can be learned from this post is that radiation is even more safeguarded than I previously thought. To solve the Climate change issue, multiple papers already came to the conclusion we need nuclear energy as an intermediate source of energy before we can fully transfer to renewables. The next big election is up, and the party “Groenlinks” - one of the parties most pressing on solving climate change - is against using nuclear energy. I don’t think we will have any new nuclear power stations soon here, but at least we learned something more and made these measurements more accessible.
If we want to change the feeling of dread about Nuclear power plants that lives in a lot of people, we have to share what normal background radiation levels are, and show that even just outside these facilities those levels are the same. (If you want, you can share these pictures and use them wherever you want, please place a link to this site) And we also need to inform everyone about safeguards that are already in place, including one of the most dense background radiation measurement networks in the world.