Nuclear Energy: A Beneficial Solution For The Future

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When I first hear the words Nuclear Energy or Nuclear Power I immediately think of bombs, weapons, radiation, and danger. I associate the word nuclear with a negative connotation and a sense of fear. In school, I had learned about the war and how the United States had used nuclear weapons to bomb other countries to prevail to victory.

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However, this was all I had learned regarding this vast, complex topic of nuclear power. I now realize that nuclear energy has the potential to really benefit the earth and has many positive factors to it that are commonly overlooked. The future of Nuclear Energy is bright and should be expanded and given more attention to because it has the potential to greatly impact climate change; an issue the earth is immensely struggling with today. Nuclear power should continue to be used and further researched/funded because it is beneficial to reducing carbon emission, overall it is very safe and non-destructive, and is not only the cleaner option but also the cheaper option. The future of nuclear power should include being used for purposes such as generating electricity and medical advancements not only in the United States, but all countries around the world.

Nuclear energy is beneficial to the environment because it releases little to no greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon, are causing an increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, also known as global warming. Global warming attributes to climate change because it is causing glaciers and ice caps to melt which then leads to rising sea levels; all which are greatly hurting the earth and contributing to the large issue of climate change (Climate Change Primer par. 6). Nuclear energy can help reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. In 2014, it was recorded that 13% of the world’s electricity comes from nuclear power plants that emit little to no greenhouse gases (Good par. 4). This percentage should be increased as years go on because we should be taking advantage of this clean energy that nuclear power provides and expanding its uses.

Nuclear power plants are crucial to the world becoming a more ecofriendly place. When power plants are closed down, we turn to carbon, coal, and other natural gases to replace the energy that was once produced by nuclear power. This switch from clean energy sources to harmful ones, leads to immense increases in carbon emission.  The USC concluded that closing all of the nuclear power plants that are currently scheduled to be decommissioned or that are unprofitable would cause U.S. power sector emissions to rise by 4-6% (Piercy par. 2). The transfer from nuclear power to natural gases was seen first hand after the tragic event of Fukishima. After the nuclear power plant experienced a meltdown in Japan, the government decided to stop using nuclear energy altogether by shutting down already existing plants and cancelling the development of new ones. Prior to the accident in Fukishima, Japan had 54 nuclear reactors. Now they must rely on fossil fuels to produce the energy lost due to shutting down all these power plants, which is very damaging to the environment (The Nuclear Option, 00:07:26 – 00:07:50).

Another example of greenhouse gas emission rising due to a nuclear power plant closing was seen in California with the shutdown of the San Onofre Generating Station. Fossil fuels were used to replace the electricity that was once powered by the plant and data has shown a substantial increase in the amount of greenhouse gas emission following the shutdown of the plant. California has now ordered that the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant be shutdown in 2024, which has caused an uproar in environmentalists who fear this will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions as seen in the past (Nikolewski par. 9).  Nuclear power is a clean source of energy in California as it has accounted for 9.18% percent of the state’s power mix, without producing greenhouse gases (Nikolewski par. 8). Furthermore, nuclear energy is a great way in helping improve our environment. Nuclear power is not only a clean source of energy but also a reliable one. By shutting down power plants, cities are turning to fossil fuels to make up for the energy that was originally powered with nuclear plants. The future of nuclear energy should be to expand the number of nuclear power plants across the country, thus leading to lower levels of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere.

Some environmentalists are against nuclear power because they argue that it is not a renewable source of energy and should not be relied on. Uranium is a key component in the process of creating nuclear energy. However, uranium is not a renewable resource and the quantity of known uranium reserves with ore grades richer than the critical level of 0.01% is very limited (Diesendorf 8). This means that uranium is not going to last forever and is not a reliable source to invest time, research, and money into. With the current status of nuclear energy accounting for 16 percent of the world’s electricity production, the high-grade reserves would only last several decades (Diesendorf 8). Data shows that if we continue to advance nuclear power to the next level and try to use it for half of the world’s electricity, the high-grade reserves would only last around 10 to 20 years (Diesendorf 8).

Nuclear energy needs to be further researched and developed to combat these issues. Nuclear power is a good investment for many reasons and more reserves of high-grade uranium ore will be discovered, leading to longer lasting uranium to fuel power plants (Diesendorf 9). Even though nuclear energy is not fully renewable, it is still a clean and reliable source of energy. Solar and wind energy cannot keep up with the high demand for electricity. What happens when the sun doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow? A professor from Harvard University named Michael Aziz explained how there is not enough storage for wind and solar energy, so even if these sources of power grow rapidly, it will be a long time before it has a big impact (“The Nuclear Option,” 00:09:25 – 00:10:00).

Nuclear power is an overall very safe form of energy. People tend to stray away from nuclear power because they associate it with catastrophic events such as Chernobyl or Fukishima and fear the dreadful effects of radiation. Radiation was the cause of many deaths during the Chernobyl incident because firefighters were exposed to high levels of radiation due to them rushing in to help soon after the incident took place, with very little protective gear (Ritchie par. 1). This nuclear accident also took place in 1986, when nuclear energy was very new, and people did not know how to handle it properly. The meltdown at Fukishima occurred in 2011 and no one was killed due to radiation from the power plant. People took the proper precautions and survived even though it forced them to move out of their homes. A nuclear engineer named Nathan Myhrvold stated that Fukishima could have been avoided altogether with modern advancements regarding the structure of the power plant so that it could have withstood a meltdown (The Nuclear Option, 00:24:03 – 00:24:18). An engineer at Oregon State, named Jose Reyes, invented what he called the AP1000 which is a more safe and efficient way to build nuclear reactors. This innovation has an emergency water reservoir to help prevent a meltdown for 72 hours without the use of electricity. This modern technology could have prevented the disaster at Fukishima (The Nuclear Option, 00:27:16 – 00:27:51).

With modern advancements in nuclear power plants, fear of radiation should not be the reason we are not going all out with nuclear energy. There are so many rules and regulations when building power plants to ensure the safety of the communities surrounding them. If people are against nuclear power because they fear the effects of radiation, they should be more focused on banning cigarettes. A smoker’s lungs receive more radiation every year than a US radiation worker! US radiation workers receive around 50,000 micro-sieverts per year while a smoker’s lungs receive about 160,000 micro-sieverts worth of radiation every year (The Most Radioactive Places on Earth, 00:09:30 – 00:10:15).  This is caused by the radioactive plutonium and radioactive lead in the tobacco that they are smoking. People are surrounded by radiation everyday and do not even realize it. Fears of the harmful effects of radiation should not be a reason people are against nuclear power. Radiation is a part of everyday life and people who run the power plants know how to ensure that no one is receiving more than the healthy amount.

Nuclear power plants appear to be unsafe and unpredictable because the news publicizes and focuses on major meltdowns. This only allows people to see the negative and rare aspects of nuclear energy, yet the damage is so intense that people are quick to turn against nuclear power altogether. When looking at the grand scheme of things, there have only been three major reactor accidents in the history of civil nuclear power (Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors, par.1). Two of these incidents did not kill anyone and new technologies have been invented to help ensure accidents like these do not happen again. These accidents are the only major incidents to have occurred in over 17,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation in 33 countries (Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors, par.1) yet this information is not made known to the public. Overall nuclear power is a very safe form of electricity as well as being a reliable source of energy. The risk of an accident occurring is low and declining due to the new advancements in technology regarding safer ways to generate nuclear power. This safe and reliable technology should be used in the future as our prime source of electricity and should be funded so that we may further research and develop all the possibilities nuclear has to offer.

People should not worry about their safety when it comes to nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) states that nuclear power plants maintain the highest standard for operational safety, security, cybersecurity and emergency preparedness (Safety, par. 1). So much attention and time is given to ensuring that nuclear power plants are safe for the people in and around them. Nuclear plants take pride in the fact that they not only meet the safety standards created by the government, but they exceed them (Operational Safety, par. 1). The NEI also wrote an article explaining how studies by the National Cancer Institute, the National Research Council’s BEIR VII study group and several other nuclear power related organizations all show that U.S. nuclear power plants effectively protect the public’s health and safety (Myths & Facts About Nuclear Energy, 7). This same article also compared people who worked in nuclear power plants to people who work at restaurants and concluded that nuclear power plants were the safe place to work due to all the rules and regulations in place (Myths & Facts About Nuclear Energy, 7)! Nuclear power is a very safe form of energy and its use should be increased as well as expanded in the future. The media needs to show the safe statistics about nuclear power because a main concern of people who argue against nuclear is that it is unsafe due to the major meltdowns that have been publicized.

Nuclear power is also a smart choice for the future not only because it is a clean form of energy, but it is also cost effective. Nuclear power plants are quite expensive to build, but once they are up and running, they are fairly cheap to run (Economics of Nuclear Power, par. 3). Although solar and wind energy are also affordable and renewable, they are not as reliable as nuclear, thus nuclear is the way to go and is the smart investment. Nuclear energy also produces the same amount of electricity for a cheaper price when compared to solar energy; nuclear plants can produce electricity for just four cents per kilowatt hour compared to solar energy’s sixteen cents per kilowatt hour (Good par. 11). It is also less expensive to operate a nuclear power plant when compared to a fossil fuel power station. There is also less risk of operating cost inflation within the power plants. Nuclear power plants are also a good investment choice because they are intended to last for over 60 years (Economics of Nuclear Power, par. 4). The World Nuclear Association has also stated that the U.S. saves $12 billion dollars each year for energy costs because of nuclear power (Good par. 8). Furthermore, nuclear energy is not only a clean source of energy for improving climate change, but it is also cost effective and worth the investments so that we may further research and develop nuclear power in our near future.

Nuclear power is not only useful in generating electricity; it also has a lot of practical value such as being used in agriculture, fertilizers, medicine and therapy. We need to understand that radiation is not always a harmful thing to humans. In the medical field, radiation is used on a day to day basis to help diagnosis and treat diseases such as cancer. The World Nuclear Association stated that Diagnostic procedures using radioisotopes are now routine (Radioisotopes in Medicine, par. 1). Nuclear medicine is a crucial component to the medical field and uses advance technology such as radiation to provide diagnostic information about the functioning of a person’s specific organs, or to treat them (Radioisotopes in Medicine, par. 1). Radiation/radioactivity are very useful when handled in the correct way. People tend to hear the term radiation and get worried or scared that this will hurt them because of all the news about people dying or being hurt due to radiation from the bombs, or nuclear meltdowns. When in reality we should be publicizing radiation or radioactivity as a good thing in today’s society because it is used in about one third of all procedures in modern hospitals (Medical Applications, par. 1)! These procedures are among the best and most effective life-saving tools available, they are safe and painless and don’t require anesthesia, and they are helpful to a broad span of medical specialties, from pediatrics to cardiology to psychiatry. (Medical Applications, par. 1). These are key reasons as to why nuclear power should definitely be seen in our future in order to make it safer and to advance medical technology/medicine even more than it is today. These amazing advancements/applications seen in the medicine field should be a key reason the United States as well as other countries are more than willing to further fund nuclear energy so that it may be seen as a big part of our future.

Nuclear power is also used in therapeutic ways. Many of the nuclear powered therapies are used to relive pain in patients, such as people battling against leukemia. Patients being treated for leukemia may be experiencing bone pain due to having been through a bone marrow transplant. A therapeutic procedure requiring strontium-89 and (increasingly) samarium-153 are used for the relief of cancer-induced bone pain which has been seen as very effective in patients (Radioisotopes in Medicine, par. 30). Another effective and very useful form of therapy is known as targeted alpha therapy (TAT) or alpha radioimmunotherapy. This type of therapy is used for the control of dispersed cancer cells. TAT has been seen most effective for treating pancreatic, ovarian, and melanoma cancers (Radioisotopes in Medicine, par. 32).

Surgical procedures can be a very tramatic and terrifying experiance for some people to go through. Nuclear science has made non-invasive procedures that are able to look over different parts of the body and diagnose all different kinds of conditions a reality. Examples of these non-invasive producers include x-rays, MRI scanners, CAT scans, and ultrasounds (Medical Applications, par. 5). Nuclear medicine has been developing and advancing over time and has been very successful in most developed countries (Medical Applications, par. 8). Thus, we must continue this trend and keep pursing nuclear power and all it has to offer.

Advancements in nuclear power have also been able to help fight against deadly viruses such as the Zika virus found in Brazil. Ionizing radiation has been used to sterilize male mosquitoes so that when they mate with females, they bear no fertile offspring. This results in a reduction of the mosquito population, thus an effective technique to reduce the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes (The Many Uses of Nuclear Technology, par. 43). Nuclear power has also been able to help prevent food-borne diseases as well as increase the shelf life of certain produce. A technique called food irradiation exposes foodstuffs to gamma rays to kill bacteria which results in the food not spoiling as quickly, controls for pests, and decreases the likelihood of food-borne diseases (The Many Uses of Nuclear Technology, par. 27). The future of nuclear power has the potential to eliminate deadly viruses and keep food fresher for a longer period of time; both advancements that would greatly impact third world countries which is why nuclear power should be a priority to keep around for future generations.

Overall, nuclear power is a very beneficial resource for numerous reasons. Nuclear power has the ability to make the world a cleaner place by producing electricity without emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon. Nuclear power is also a very safe form of electricity since there have been technological advancements in the way we build nuclear power plants so that they can withstand a meltdown. There is also many safety laws and regulations in place by the association known as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), so that the people who work in and live around nuclear power plants are ensured safety to the best of their abilities. Nuclear power also has many practical applications such as being used in agriculture, therapy, and most importantly medicine. Nuclear power is a crucial component in the medical field today along with helping the earth combat global warming and climate change; both main reasons why we must further fund, develop, and research Nuclear energy. The future of nuclear power should be seen all over the world and be funded/expanded in all countries to ensure that everyone is benefitting from all nuclear energy has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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