Nuclear Power: The forgotten energy source

by Markian Borkowsky on February 18, 2014

Nuclear Power: surprisingly it is a bigger deal than you would think

            Turn on your television; flip to any news channel and there will probably be a story about the effects of global warming and our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. While many Americans agree that the use of fuel sources like coal and oil are not sustainable, the energy debate seems to be shifting towards the implementation of more solar and wind power. However, it seems that more and more the idea of implementing additional nuclear power to meet out energy needs is outlandish. Why is that while we as a society push for a “green energy” revolution, we completely forget about a vital energy source that has been around for over 40 years (Thinkquest).

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Picture taken from http://us.arevablog.com/tag/areva-epr-reactor/

 

Many critics of nuclear power argue that the energy source is not safe, produces too much waste and is not reliable. Global events like the nuclear reactor explosion at Chernobyl, Ukraine and Fukushima, Japan and even Three Mile Island here in the U.S. have provided excellent ammunition for critics to rip through supporter’s argument (Fiona, 3). Even in the recent news, questions of radiation affecting human health still pose a debate. What many critics do not discuss is that nuclear power makes up 19.3 percent of United States power generation, which makes the U.S. the world’s largest supplier of commercial nuclear power (NEI). Also, environmentalists agree that compared to other sources of energy, nuclear power is the safest and least harmful form of energy. This is because while nuclear waste is produced as a bi-product of nuclear reactions, the oil and coal industry rely on destroying the crust of the earth through extraction to fuel power production. The unforeseen health effects of coal and oil are also much more wide spreading, as many pollutants produces through the burning of fossil fuels pollute streams and lakes. These polluted areas have been documented to cause birth defects, multiple forms of cancer, and upper respiratory diseases in large populations (ANS). When correctly regulated, nuclear power has no adverse health impacts on the general public. Also, technological advances in nuclear waste disposal have allowed for more safe containment and isolation of radioactive materials (Thinkquest).

The above graph highlights that while nuclear energy is not only safer than other energy alternatives, the costs of shifting the carbon burden is dramatically than many other sources of energy. This is because the production of electricity from many renewable sources lack the efficiency and energy output that nuclear power possesses. The production of diesel cars for example takes large amount of plastics, metals and computer components to manufacture. Energy is needed for complex supply chains and transportation of these materials. A nuclear power reactor, on the other hand once constructed needs small amount of minerals and water (for cooling components) to maintain optimal energy output. By looking from this argument, nuclear power is also the most practical means of energy production (ANS).

With all of this information in mind, what does the future of nuclear power in the United States look like? Unfortunately, since 1974, there have been no new nuclear power reactors built in the U.S. Some people’s dream of having a nation similar to France, which derives over 75 percent of its electricity form nuclear power, will not occur for many years to come (NEI). In my opinion, the largest misconception about energy consumption is the environmental and subsequent health impacts it has on the general public. I firmly believe that burning of fossil fuels is inherently a public health issue. When millions of people’s lives and health are directly influenced by the pollution of a coal-mine or oil refinery miles away, something needs to be done (Fiona, 3). I would love to see a future America that embraces nuclear power instead of pushing it away, an opinion only popular because of misinformation. Having fewer pollutants and less carbon pumped into the air could radically improve air, water, and ground pollution levels across the country. As I stated before, the future of nuclear power is yet to be decided. Understanding the debate of nuclear power, however, will allow more Americans to formulate their own opinions and might bring the forgotten power source back into the spotlight.

 

 

 

Work Cited:

1. “ANS / Public Information / Nuclear Matters.” ANS / Public Information / Nuclear Matters. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.

2. Harvey, Fiona. “Renewable Energy Will Overtake Nuclear Power by 2018, Research Says.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.

3. “Nuclear Energy Institute – NEI Site.” Nuclear Energy Institute – NEI Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2014.

4. “Nuclear Energy.” ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.

 

 


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