opinion

COLUMN: Should we have a meltdown about nuclear energy?



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Cooling towers at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant stand in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Tribune News Service

The world is incredibly demanding when it comes to energy. Many continue pushing for clean energy that is effective, and nuclear energy is a great option since it's highly efficient and produces little pollution.

This conversation is no longer as black and white as it once was. Scientific developments have made nuclear energy a viable option. Still, many people fear the effects of nuclear energy, especially after nuclear tragedies.

One positive aspect of nuclear energy is its cost efficiency. It does take a sizable amount of money to build and maintain nuclear power plants, but it’s still a cheaper option when compared to energy from coal, oil and gas. In particular, it’s much cheaper than green energy gained from renewable resources. Solar energy, for example, is one of the most expensive sources out there.

Surprisingly enough, nuclear energy creates much less pollution than most energy sources in use today. In fact, the environment would benefit greatly if many of our energy sources were replaced by nuclear power plants. Coal releases much more pollution into the air. The more nuclear plants we build, the less coal plants we need. This results in less pollution being released into the air.

Now, this doesn’t mean nuclear energy creates absolutely no pollution. It still produces nuclear waste, but it's just not as polluting as other sources.

Another aspect that is extremely important is whether nuclear energy is considered renewable. In short, it’s not. There is a finite amount of fuel for nuclear reactors in the world.

It would take a decently long time to deplete these nuclear resources. At the current rate of consumption, the world’s supply of economically accessible uranium will run dry in about 230 years.

However, if scientists uncover the secrets of nuclear fusion, the very atomic interactions that power our sun, the energy we receive will be practically how likely it is.

Naturally, nuclear energy poses a great threat to national security. The more we develop nuclear energy, the more it becomes available to the world. This can lead to nuclear assets being possessed by corrupt leaders who would potentially turn them into weapons.

Then, there are terrorists who would aim to target these power plants in order to inflict massive damage to the area and its inhabitants. They can cause this damage at numerous points in the nuclear energy process — from the uranium mines all the way to the nuclear reactors themselves.

It’s true, tragedies can happen. The effects of these tragedies can still be seen in Fukushima and Chernobyl to this day. Earthquakes, tsunamis and human error are all part of this world, and they’re bound to occur at one point or another.

Personally, I believe nuclear energy is a viable and effective option. The world demands energy now more than ever, and we’re only going to demand more and more. The world needs energy, and, when done right, nuclear energy can equally provide without as much pollution as other energy sources.

Admittedly, nuclear waste isn’t the best byproduct of this method, but it is certainly less threatening than the waste that other energy sources render.

When it comes to potential terrorist attacks, all we can do is tighten security and maintain a close eye on our power plants. If we refuse to progress to greater technological advancements because we’re afraid of terrorists, then they win.

Technological advancement naturally comes at a cost. When people began using electricity, buildings would sometimes become engulfed in flames due to electrical fires. If we would’ve stopped using electricity because a few places were destroyed, then we’d still be living in the Dark Ages. All throughout history, mankind has always taken leaps of faith in order to achieve greater heights.

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