Halting the Revival of Nuclear Energy
While some will argue that nuclear energy should be revived, consideration of this will show that there is no justification for nuclear energy being revived. Instead, there are too many unresolved issues associated with nuclear energy and too many other energy options that do not have the risks. In either case, nuclear energy remains as an option. However, while significant risks and problems exists and while there remain to be better energy options, there is no reason to actually pursue the revival of nuclear energy.
Ansolabehere himself points out the many alternative options for generating electricity while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. These options include: increasing the efficiency of electricity generation; using renewable energy sources such as wind, solar energy, biomass, and geothermal; capturing carbon dioxide emissions and treating them; and increased use of nuclear power (Ansolabehere 196). Comparing all of these options, nuclear power seems like one of the least attractive options. This is especially true considering that the renewable energy source option is not really just one option, but contains many possible options for generating electricity. The problems with nuclear energy will be discussed shortly. For now, it is important to note that nuclear energy is far from being the only solution to an energy problem. With this in mind, there is little reason to suggest that nuclear energy needs to be revived. Ansolabehere (p. 196) would be likely to argue against this point since he considers that “it is likely that we shall need all of these options.” However, there is no justification that all of these sources of energy will be required. Again then, there is no reason to suggest that nuclear energy is necessary.
The next issue that needs to be considered is the problems related to nuclear energy generation. Ansolabehere (p. 197) notes four major unresolved problems: costs, safety, proliferation, and waste. While these are general categories for the problems, they really describe more than just four essential problems. For example, safety is an overall problem, but can also be divided into separate problems including safety to workers and their health, safety to the surrounding community, and safety to the environment. The same is true for proliferation which Ansolabehere (p. 197) describes as “the possible misuse of commercial or associated nuclear facilities and operations to acquire technology or materials as a precursor to the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability.” This complicated description essentially refers to the potential for nuclear power plants to increase the risk of nuclear weapons being used, including their potential use in terrorist attacks. This potential risk exists in more than just one way. For example, nuclear power plants themselves could become terrorist targets, the fuel or waste material could be used to create weapons, or the increased jobs in power plants could give more people access to nuclear technology, which could then be used to create nuclear weapons. In addition, problems would also exist outside of the nuclear power plant itself, with the suppliers of the nuclear material also being a possible target of attacks or a source of materials for weapons. This shows that what Ansolabehere suggests as one problem is really a whole range of problems.
Another important point to note is that the possibility of nuclear power plants becoming a source of nuclear weapons and becoming terrorist targets is only a possibility. In contrast, storage of nuclear waste and the safety of nuclear power plants is a current problem that already exists for the power plants in operation. Grossman (p. 206) notes that current nuclear power plants were not designed for more than 40 years of use and are considered hazardous. Grossman (p. 207) also notes that the government is currently planning to store nuclear waste in the Yucca Mountains, an area that is near 32 earthquake fault lines and has a high likelihood of both earthquakes and volcanoes. Another important statistic noted by Grossman is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considered there to be a 45% chance of a “severe core melt accident” (p. 208). This information shows that there are significant safety concerns with the current use of nuclear power. Based on these issues with current nuclear power, there is no validity to the argument that nuclear power needs to be revised. Instead, it seems more necessary to eliminate nuclear power completely, rather than increase it. Grossman (p. 209) argues that renewable energy technologies are available and could be utilized, which would “render nuclear power completely unnecessary.”
Ansolabehere (p. 197) also notes that the argument is not that nuclear energy should be used immediately, but that the “nuclear option should be retained.” However, there is a difference between retaining an option and pursuing an option. In fact, the nuclear energy option will be retained without anything being done to revive nuclear energy. That is, nuclear energy will always be available as one possible option for generating electricity. However, as long as there are many other options and as long as they have far fewer issues than nuclear energy, there is no justification to actually revive and pursue nuclear energy. Instead, the focus should be on pursuing the other energy options that have fewer safety issues and far less severe potential consequences.
Ansolabehere, S. “The Future of Nuclear Power.” In Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Environmental Issues. Ed. Thomas A Easton. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005, p. 192-204.
Grossman, K. “The Push to Revive Nuclear Power.” In Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Environmental Issues. Ed. Thomas A Easton. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005, p. 205-209.
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