Nuclear power has been a topic of discussion dating all the way back to the mid 1900s. The debate about whether or not nuclear power is sustainable has been a toss up, especially with events that have occurred in which influenced both sides of the argument. For example the accident at Fukushima in which a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and radioactive material was released at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which occurred after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This was considered to be the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl incident in 1986. This lead many people to the direction in which nuclear power plants were dangerous to the environment and the safety of those who lived among them. On the other side of the discussion, nuclear power plants do in fact create many benefits, believe it or not.
Although the nuclear disaster that occurred at Fukushima was an extremely horrific accident resulting in the death of many, there are several positives behind defending nuclear power plants. Considering the vast growing need for reliable energy, nuclear energy has been found to be the safest form of power that can meet those needs without having to rely on fossil-fueled alternatives (2 December 2011). Fossil-fuels emit so much pollution, thus would you rather continue to allow our planet to deteriorate or would you accept the fact that nuclear energy is a much safer decision. Nuclear energy is the only technology proven that can supply a large amount of power without emitting any carbon dioxide, making it more fuel efficient and reliable. Now several people have questioned why the use of coal power plants couldn’t be used as a substitute for nuclear power plants, but what people fail to realize is that coal power plants emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, and also what is changing the earth’s climate. Many environmental activists have uncovered the fact in which nuclear power plants are much more reliable and safer than coal power plants. Today, environmental activists point to plausible scenarios in which runaway global warming causes far worse damage to the Earth than if every nuclear plant-more than 400 of them as of 2010- were to melt down (2 December 2011). For needs of reliable and safe energy to be met, nuclear power plants are in fact on the top of that list.
On the contrary, the argument against nuclear power plants stems back to the main three accidents that were caused because of the plants,which date back in order of occurrence: Three Mile Island accident (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011). As the environmental movement came to light in the late 1900s, fears of leaks and meltdowns originated the question of whether or not nuclear power plants are safe, and with this being brought into conversations, many environmentalists wanted to eliminate nuclear power for good. Not only could nuclear power plants cause extremely dangerous environmental disasters, but the contaminants that lie within them could also be severely dangerous. Fears of the release of radioactive materials are exactly what many people are concerned about when discussing whether another nuclear power plant accident could occur, whether it would occur by natural disaster or something else. Another eye opening fear that has been brought to light was the discussion of whether or not these nuclear power plants could conceivably be a target for terrorists. Not only would this be a major factor in why nuclear power plants are not the best way to go about our energy needs, but you would also have to take into consideration how expensive it would be to continuously maintain and build these power plants. Those who are in favor of eliminating nuclear power plants would definitely not be on board with funding what they are fighting to get rid of, which brings to question who would voluntarily fund these nuclear power plants. Would the government be willing to try and tax people to continue to fund these nuclear power plants? Not only would you have to find some form of funding, but you would also need to find people who are willing to risk their lives working within these power plants. Yes this would be an outlet for people without jobs, reducing the unemployment rate, but the risks might just be too high to agree to work with. Have you ever wondered where all of this waste from the nuclear power plants is going? Well according to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1987, there is to be storage facility within Yucca Mountain that serves as a waste home for high-level radioactive waste, complicating people’s decision on whether or not to build nuclear reactors.
Taking both arguments into consideration, there are several pros and cons when discussing whether or not nuclear power plants are sustainable. After exploring both sides you have to question the reasoning behind whether or not people are too afraid of the consequences and past experiences to see the brighter picture or if people need to start thinking of the safety of others first and then choose to take a different path, which could be worse for the environment. The future of nuclear energy hinges on how we reconcile fears with needs (2 December 2011). What risks should we the people be willing to take for means of a more sustainable environment and life? Should we live in fear of what might, or should we travel along the path of new beginnings in hopes of nothing like past accidents to occur ever again? Is this a problem of morality and believing that people are far more important than nuclear power plants or a question of intelligence and how there would be no life to live if our world is no longer sustainable?
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