Should We Rely On Nuclear Power?: Pro

John Coupin, Staff Writer

Nuclear power has long been considered a potential source for energy on our planet. With non-renewable energy sources like coal and oil running out quickly with humans’ rapid consumption of power, scientists strive to discover the next alternative or renewable energy source that can fuel our world for decades. One of these energies is nuclear power, but it comes with multiple risks, as seen in the past in Chernobyl and most recently, in Japan.

As the world population exponentially grows and continues to industrialize, there is a conflict between how to produce energy in the most efficient way while inflicting as little harm on our planet as possible. Despite the crisis in Japan, nuclear power still is the world’s best hope in producing large amounts of emission free energy.

In the U.S., coal and petroleum contribute roughly 40% of our total energy. Not only is using nonrenewable resources in the long run unsustainable, but its destruction to the environment and global effects are becoming more apparent.

Last year, the U.S. consumed 965 million tons of coal for the production of electricity. The extremely toxic sulfur dioxide is causing millions of new cases of respiratory cases every year and 500,000 cases of premature death. Coal should clearly remain a fuel of the past, yet demand and consumption continues on an upward trend as we start this new millennium.

Sure, wind and solar power are “green energies,” but it is not an economically feasible option, because it only contributes .5% of our national energy. These technologies are expensive to develop and produce so why not use a clean energy that has proven its worth for the past 50 years: nuclear energy.

Nuclear Power has the highest net energy ratio of any fuel that produces electricity. Once a nuclear plant is constructed in the U.S. it can typically produce 1000 MWe, which can give power to about 1 million homes.

America has shown the world its ability to organize and accelerate mankind with innovative technology. Between 1970 and 1989, America constructed 105 nuclear power plants. This is definitive proof that America has the ability to quickly grow its nuclear power which would greatly help the U.S. switch to a releases no emissions. Unfortunately, we haven’t built a new nuclear power plant since 1990.

Those who oppose the revamp of America’s nuclear power industry say that it is too much of an economic burden and because of the current nuclear crisis in Japan. Despite their claims Nuclear energy has affected far less people than coal and petroleum products have.

Also the overall production of nuclear costs 1.76 cents per kilowatt-hour while the next cheapest form of power is 2.21 cents per kilowatt-hour. From the crisis in Japan, the world has observed and learned from the crisis in Japan the grave consequences of placing nuclear reactors in areas that are susceptible to seismic activity.

With America’s vast land territory, we shouldn’t have any problems finding places for nuclear power plants that are adequately sheltered from natural disasters.

New plans in the U.S. suggest building more amounts of small nuclear power plants that will be more scaled down and therefore easier to control if one should fail. Rather than placing multiple reactors in a closely confined area, like in Japan, the U.S. has the ability to spread them out decreasing the possibility that if a failure of one reactor occurs it would leave us unable to maintain other reactors nearby.

Also, critics of “the dangers of nuclear waste” exaggerate the potential risks. One nuclear report claims that all of the commercial nuclear power to date in the U.S. could fit within a single football field and be only three feet deep. That is an insignificant amount of waste compared to the tons of industrial waste that accumulates yearly. Also, in the past two decades, more than 5,000 spent fuel elements have been transported in special casks without one reported accident causing a harmful release of radiation.