Nuclear Power: Good or Evil?
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 9000-33000 innocent people died as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Russia in 1986- the deadliest nuclear accident to date! Since the inception of nuclear energy, a sense of danger has always been inherent due to the extremely radioactive nature of uranium which if emitted, hangs over the land as the fog cloaks the English moors. When the human body is exposed to high levels of radioactivity, deformities can form, and the rate of cancer increases dramatically. Because of the imminent hazard regarding nuclear energy, politicians and scientists alike have debated whether to increase or decrease funding for the research and development of nuclear reactor programs. What is nuclear power? Basically, rods of uranium are treated so that it heats water into steam and this steam turns turbines, which convert the mechanical energy to electricity. By studying sources of the energy, evidence indicates that nuclear energy is dangerous; safer alternatives exist, and the power affects the country in a negative economic manner. Therefore, the author is against the aggrandizement of funds towards nuclear energy programs. Obviously the strongest argument against funding for nuclear energy is the danger that is present in the reactors. As Scientific America reports, 32 % of nuclear power plant workers are subjected to unsafe radioactive conditions and dangers when building the reactors. Then, once the plants are built and in operation, there is a high risk of a meltdown. Contributing to the high risk is human error, as made evident by the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania, which had catastrophic effects. Also, History Channel reports that 57 meltdowns have occurred in the United States since the incident of Chernobyl. In order to be safe, events such as the 2011 meltdown in Fukishima Daiichi in Japan must not occur again. Not only are nuclear power plants dangerous to operate, but disposing of the waste is difficult. According to Green World Investor website, the United States has collected 50,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel from the 104 reactors. Originally, the government plan for the spent fuel was to dispose of it at Yucca Mountain, a sacred Native American site on the Nevada California border, but New York Times reports that this arrangement was scrapped in 2010 due to budgeting costs. Instead, the nuclear waste is stored in temporary sites which are not safe enough for long term storage. However, even it was approved, Yucca Mountain and the surrounding area would be unable to be inhabited and due to its proximity to the San Andres fault line, the location would be prone to earthquakes.
Rather than placing the population in danger from developing nuclear power, funds can better be spent on alternative power sources. According to Natural Choice website, wind energy was popularized by T. Boone Pickens in 1989! Even to an oil mogul, wind seems to be found as an attractive source of energy. To power the future, wind energy must be used because it is so sustainable and non-polluting. In addition to wind energy, Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project determined that one hour of sun exposure to the earth, if the energy is collected, is enough to meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year; and a half year of exposure provides as much energy as the total amount of non-renewable resources on earth! Instead of funding expensive and dangerous nuclear power, the country needs to spend more money developing solar and wind energy.
Besides the dangerous aspect of nuclear power and the alternatives that exist, nuclear power is also not an economically sound solution for the United States. As Scientific America reports, each nuclear power plant costs about $10 billion dollars to build. In addition, there’s the cost of trained professionals, nuclear fuel rods, security for the plant, maintenance fees, and reimbursements for homeowners in a wide radius around the plant whose homes and properties are now worth nothing. Although supporters of nuclear energy may claim that the uranium used in the process is renewable, the idea is simply not economical. The Economist found that although 95% of the nuclear fuel rod is able to be reused, the cost of the energy created from the old fuel is less than that of actually converting the old fuel rods into reusable energy. Therefore, since the United States has a $16 trillion dollar deficit, the government must focus upon safer less expensive energies. Obviously, nuclear energy is not the right path for the country because alternatives such as wind and solar are safe and use renewable resources. Economically, these energies make more sense than nuclear energy. In addition, is it fair for the younger generation to pay an unnecessary debt? Can the United States jeopardize the welfare of innocent people by making more radioactive uranium available for terrorists to steal? With the Fukushima Daiichi accident as a reminder of the volatile and unsafe nature of nuclear power, the United States government must not allocate funds for additional development of nuclear energy. Simply put, Robert D. Glynn Jr., the CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), exclaims that “To order a new nuclear plant today, you’d have to be crazy!”