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< Back to question Is nuclear energy safe? Show more Show less

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 plants have the very highest safety standards

Despite some terrible early setbacks, nuclear plants are now some of the safest facilities on the planet. Particularly in the US, nuclear power plants have many safety and security measures to mitigate fallout, even in the case of disaster.
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The Argument

In the aftermath of a handful of nuclear disasters, much of the world is racked with paranoia over nuclear energy. The energy source bears the unavoidable association with nuclear weapons and has negative public perceptions about its safety. However, nuclear power plants are some of the safest facilities on the planet. Not only are they low-risk for workers and the surrounding communities, but the safety procedures, security, and infrastructure at power plants matches or surpasses nearly every industrial and government facility. The number of mortalities associated with nuclear energy facilities is substantially lower when compared to coal and oil production.[1] Additionally, the death and disease caused by the disasters at Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima-Daiichi are minuscule compared to public assumptions.[2] As environmental policy writer Michael Shellenberger points out, the cleaners at Chernobyl had a lower increase in mortality than someone who smokes cigarettes regularly. Most crucially, nuclear power should not be associated with nuclear weapons. While they may share an energy source, their applications and risks are worlds apart. Nuclear power plants have no risk of turning into nuclear warheads.[3]

Counter arguments

Human error was the cause of both the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, and not system or structural failure. The possibility of human error is unavoidable, and its consequences are too substantial to accept wholeheartedly. There is always a possibility for dangerous radioactive fallout when dealing with nuclear material, and even with the risks mitigated, the consequences of failure are massive. While there are risks associated with other forms of sustainable energy, they do not pose the same public danger as a nuclear disaster.


[P1] Public perceptions of nuclear power are overwrought. [P2] Nuclear power plants have incredibly high safety standards. [P3] Nuclear weapons and energy are separate entities. {C] Much of the public image of nuclear power is incorrect when compared to safety and health statistics.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Public fears stem from the scale of past nuclear disasters, and the potential health risks from radiation. [Rejecting P2] The major nuclear disasters at Chernobyl was caused by human error.

Further Reading

'Power to Save the World' by Gwyneth Cravens details the benefits and safety of nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source.



This page was last edited on Saturday, 26 Sep 2020 at 18:46 UTC

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