Nuclear and Natural Gas…our Air and Water

All of our conversations about radiation and the quality of water and air made me think about where I have been living over the past four years. Before I move again, I want to make sure I do extensive research to the air, water and radiation impacts of the area in which I will be living.

In 2012, I lived in Cherbourg France, which had the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant near town.

Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant by night
Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant, France by night

In 2014, Puebla Mexico has a lovely Mt. Popocatépetl which is constantly spewing ash.

Mt. Popocatopetl, Puebla Mexico
Mt. Popocatopetl, Puebla Mexico

This last year, I lived in the town of Dunkerque France.

Dunkerque, France with the steam and pollution in the background
Dunkerque, France with the steam and pollution in the background

When I first arrived, one of my professors told me to buy bottled water. The water from the sink was not very safe and the take would not be the best.

Europe’s largest terminal for natural gas is situated in the port of Dunkerque. The pollution in the air was sickening to not only those who have lived there their whole lives but also new inhabitants such as myself. In the spring, everyone in my town came down with the same cough and wheezing. My students called it the “Dunkerque cough”. The sulfur dioxide in the air causes many respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing. I had lived there 7 months and was already experiencing the impact of inhaling these pollutants. It makes me angry and sad to think about the damage it is causing people long term.

This is a video of Dunkerque and it shows the beautiful coastline up to Belgium and then the natural gas plant that is located at the port. They call Dunkerque the “garbage can” of the north due to all of the smells from the plant.

This article piece covers “Transport and dispersion of atmospheric sulphur dioxide from an industrial coastal area during a sea-breeze event”. It talks about the acid rain in Dunkerque and the sea-breeze that helps push the pollutants keep away from the town. It is true that Dunkerque has a powerful breeze off of the English Channel; however, there were many days that I could hardly handle the lack of oxygen in the air. The smell was so strong that I could barely walk to class let alone run. This study states that the wind has shifted and the pollutants are now going into the town instead of out to sea. In Figure 2, it shows where most of the sulfur dioxide is settling. This is where one of my schools was located. They discus a “redistribution” of pollutants. I want to know for my friends sake, what the damage will be from all of these pollutants in the air.

Since living in each of these areas, I have grown more appreciative of my Pacific Northwest air but I also grow more concerned for the friends and loved one I left behind in these areas. I am glad we are discussing these various issues of air and water quality around the world as they are pushing me to further research where I have been and where I will go.