U.N. highlights pressing green issues

Feb. 13, 2012 at 4:14 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A U.N. report identifies soil depletion and the rising number of end-of-life nuclear power reactors as pressing environmental issues, officials in New York say.

The United Nations' Environmental Program Year Book 2012, released Monday, discusses the status of key environmental indicators and compiles the most important events and developments of the year.

"The yearbook spotlights two emerging issues that underline the challenges, but also the choices, nations need to consider to deliver a sustainable 21st century -- urgently improved management of world's soils and the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a U.N release.

"Superficially they may seem separate and unconnected issues, but both go to the heart of several fundamental questions: How will the world feed and fuel itself while combating climate change and handling hazardous wastes?"

The report said 24 percent of global land area has declined in productivity over the past 25 years due to unsustainable land-use, and soil erosion rates are about 100 times greater than the rates at which nature can form new soil.

"The thin skin of soil on the Earth's surface is often one of those forgotten ecosystems but it is among the most important to the future survival of humanity," Steiner said.

The yearbook also highlights the problems of safely decommissioning the growing numbers of nuclear reactors reaching the end of their original design lives.

Of the 138 civilian nuclear power reactors shut down in 19 countries, decommissioning has only been completed for 17 of them, the yearbook said.

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