Nuclear energy has been a very controversial subject from the discovery of Uranium's awesome usage in the 1940's right up to the nuclear power plant failures in Japan just a few months ago. Even though Uranium has many horrible uses such as nuclear bombs, it has many useful uses as a very effective energy source. Nuclear power should be used more openly in the United States rather than limiting the use of it. Nuclear power is one of the cleanest energy sources. Nuclear power is much cleaner than coal and many other fossil fuels. Nuclear power can reduce the need of fossil fuels. Uranium produces more energy than fossil fuels and costs about the same. Nuclear power plants produce small amounts of waste. Nuclear power does create nuclear waste but this is less waste than that of fossil fuels.
Nuclear power is one of the cleanest energy sources that the United States can use. This energy does not emit any smoke or carbon dioxide like its fossil fuel counterparts emit. Fossil fuel plants are responsible for about 84 percent of the United State's energy needs (Bradley, Fossil Fuels). Since nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide, it does not contribute to the "greenhouse effect" or global warming (Darvill). Also, nuclear power plants evade over 650 metric tons of CO2 that other fossil fuel plants produce. This is equivalent to the output of all emissions that cars give off in the United States in one year (Cameron). Nuclear energy does not pollute the environment. This energy source evades more than half a million tons of nitrogen oxide that other fossil fuel plants give off. Also, it avoids more than one and a half million tons of sulfur dioxide (Cameron). 84 percent of United State's power comes from fossil fuel plants that emit these dangerous substances. If these plants are replaced with nuclear plants the "greenhouse effect" would be dramatically reduced.
Nuclear power plants are not only good for the environment but are safe for the public. The nuclear society has learned from nuclear disasters of the past to create better and safer plants. The Chernobyl accident occurred on April 26 1986 in Chernobyl, Soviet Union. Engineers wanted to conduct an electrical experiment with one of the reactors but it went horribly wrong and the plant over heated and began with a meltdown (Rhodes). What was learned from this disaster was that nuclear containment structures are needed to keep nuclear power plants safer in case of a meltdown. Without this structure radiation will leak and infect miles around the plant and kill many people such as what happened with Chernobyl (Rhodes).
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A more recent event of a nuclear disaster would be the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. After a massive earthquake offshore, this nuclear power plant automatically shut down and turned on the backup generators cooling the reactor. This earthquake caused a 40 foot tsunami to go over the tsunami wall of the plant and take out the backup generators, with the buildup of heat explosions now happened cause radiation to leak out miles around (Bailey). What should be learned from this disaster is to make more rugged backup systems and bigger tsunami walls where tsunamis are prone to hit. However, their is an instance where emergency systems have prevented a nuclear disaster.
The worst nuclear disaster in American history is the Three Mile Island accident that occurred in New Hampshire on March 28, 1979. Due to mechanical and operator failure a partial core meltdown occurred. Emergency cooling systems then took action and cooled down the reactor to a safe level (Stencel). Also, nuclear power plants can be built in areas that are low populated or not populated at all. This eliminates the risk of big population death in case of an accident or terrorist attack. Throughout history and present time, much has been learned about how to keep nuclear power plants safe. The next generation of nuclear power plants should be built because they will be much more advanced because of events learned from the past.
Even though nuclear power plants are safe, they do produce a toxic waste, but in small amounts. Nuclear waste (in mass) is 100,000 times less than that of fossil fuels (Martin etal). Even though it does create less waste than fossil fuels, nuclear waste in more radioactive. However, if nuclear waste is disposed correctly, such as in safe containers and in safe places such as, deep below ground it is still a better alternative to fossil fuels. Also it takes about 100,000 years for nuclear waste to be at safer levels for people to be around or for it to be reused as something else for a substitute (Martin etal).
Still compared to fossil fuels, nuclear power is radioactive but fossil fuel waste contains very dangerous metals that can harm the environment, animals, and humans. Their is a reprocessing process that takes nuclear waste and turns it into more fuel for nuclear power plants. This process takes the Plutonium and Uranium from the nuclear waste so that it can be reused again in another reaction (Lagus). Their is a lot of controversy over this method however, and this is due to cost versus product made, but with depleting Uranium levels, this is a very good method to continue using. Even though nuclear power plants produce some waste, it is substantially less then fossil fueled plants. This is best summed up by this quote; "All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk" (Regan).
In conclusion, nuclear power should be used more openly in the United States instead of limiting or removing the use of it. For the amount of energy that the United States needs, nuclear power seems to be the answer. Compared to fossil fuels, nuclear power makes 100,000 times less waste, and makes no pollutants (unlike fossil fuels). Nuclear power has its bad points such as disasters, but the world learns from these disasters to make even better nuclear power plants. In the future, more nuclear power plants should be made because of how clean, and safe they are.
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- Darvill, Clara. "Energy Resources: Nuclear Power." Andy Darvill's Science Site: Home. Web. 05 June 2011. http://www.darvill.clara.net/altenerg/nuclear.htm.
- Lagus, Todd. "Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Policy Analysis." WISE, 4 Aug. 2005. Web. 4 June 2011. http://www.wise-intern.org/journal/2005/Lagus.pdf.
- Rhodes, Richard. "Chernobyl | Nuclear Reaction | FRONTLINE | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. PBS. Web. 04 June 2011. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/chernobyl.html.
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- Sevior, Martin, Ivona Okuniewicz, Alaster Meehan, Gareth Jones, Damien George, Adrian Flitney, and Greg Filewood. "The Science of Nuclear Energy." Nuclear Power Education. University of Melbourne. Web. 24 May 2011. http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclear power/TheScience Of Nuclear Power.
- Stencel, Mark. "Washingtonpost.com: Three Mile Island." The Washington Post: National, World&D.C. Area News and Headlines - The Washington Post. Washington Post, 1999. Web. 24 May 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/tmi/tmi.htm.
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