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Is nuclear energy safe? Show more Show less
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The place of nuclear power in our energy provision is one of the most intricate debates in modern energy policy. In the aftermath of a handful of high profile and high-risk nuclear disasters, many are wary of expanding the use of the controversial energy source. Paradoxically, it also presents one of the most sustainable and efficient forms of energy concurrently with debates surrounding climate change and environmental responsibility. Can the energy source be a viable and safe path forward?

Nuclear energy is safe Show more Show less

Modern advances in reactor design have rendered nuclear energy safe.
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Nuclear energy is sustainable

Nuclear energy is one of the cleanest forms of energy for the environment. Not only does it emit no greenhouse gasses, but the amount of energy produced is orders of magnitude more efficient than coal and natural gas.

The Argument

Climate change and the environment are some of the primary policy concerns internationally. While much of the talk about reducing harmful emissions and greenhouse gasses revolves around solar, wind, and hydro energy, nuclear energy also needs to be a part of the conversation. Due to misconceptions and paranoia, nuclear energy is not often discussed as a path forward for environmental sustainability. In addition to producing massive amounts of energy, nuclear power plants are incredibly clean. According to Duke Energy, nuclear plants emit infinitesimal degrees of radiation to the surrounding area. In fact, one X-ray irradiates a patient more than a year of working at a nuclear facility.[1] Additionally, they produce zero greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Nuclear waste is also partially reusable and has only produced 90,000 metric tons in the US since plants first started operating in the 1950s.[2] By contrast to coal, which produces nearly 25 percent of the US's electricity, produced 140 million tons of ash in 2014 alone.[3] We need environmental responsibility, and not considering nuclear energy needlessly excludes a viable option for a cleaner future.

Counter arguments

There have been very few nuclear disasters, but the consequences are so massive that it outweighs the benefits. Both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, two of the most infamous nuclear accidents, were caused by human error. Even if the safety procedures and equipment are perfect, there is no guarantee that a human operator will not make a mistake. In the case of the Chernobyl disaster, the reactor released 400 times the amount of radioactive material as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.[4] This release was then carried across Europe and created hazardous health risks to the surrounding area. The radiation released affected an indeterminable number of people in the surrounding area, likely increasing their risk of cancer and other diseases.[5] Undeniably, nuclear energy has benefits. But the safety risks, no matter how small, of reactor failure, outweigh those benefits. Its time to leave nuclear power in the past.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Nuclear energy needs more consideration as a clean energy source. [P2] Nuclear plants produce very little radiation and no greenhouse gasses [P3] Plants produce very little waste compared to other energy sources. [C] In addition to being very clean and safe to operate, nuclear power plants produce a low volume of waste to manage, with a portion of it being reusable.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Plants produce very little radiation up until there is an accident or failure. Chernobyl spread deadly radiation across Europe.

References

  1. https://nuclear.duke-energy.com/2019/01/23/debunking-9-myths-about-nuclear-energy#:~:text=Facts%3A%20Nuclear%20energy%20is%20one,greenhouse%20gases%20when%20generating%20electricity.
  2. https://www.gao.gov/key_issues/disposal_of_highlevel_nuclear_waste/issue_summary
  3. https://www.epa.gov/coalash/coal-ash-basics#:~:text=Coal%20ash%20is%20one%20of,ash%20was%20generated%20in%202014.
  4. https://www.chernobylgallery.com/chernobyl-disaster/radiation-levels/
  5. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/higher-cancer-risk-continues-after-chernobyl#:~:text=Nearly%2025%20years%20after%20the,adolescents%20at%20the%20time%20of

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 9 Sep 2020 at 16:32 UTC

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