Is Nuclear Power a Safer Alternative Energy?
Nuclear power has always been somewhat of a controversial concept, despite it giving us a plethora of fun super-hero and monster films. While this seemed a playful take on the effects nuclear power can have on lifeforms, it didn’t exactly appease the green parties of the world. So, why is this? Why is there still such a taboo on nuclear energy when it produces zero carbon emissions? Below I’m going to talk about the misconceptions surrounding nuclear power, and effects it has on our green and blue planet.
How it Helps Us
- As of 2017, currently 1 in 5 homes and businesses in the U.S. obtain their electricity from nuclear energy, and that number is only expected to rise during the next 10 years.
- Nuclear facilities emit fewer radioactive materials than traditional coal-burning plants.
- Nuclear power plants and facilities are able to produce energy at a 91% efficiency rate 24/7, and almost zero carbon emissions are produced during the process.
- Not only to nuclear power plants run 13% of the world’s electricity, they also barely emit any greenhouse gases.
- Uranium is the main element nuclear power plants run on, and this element is so energy-rich that something as small as a button holds as much pure energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, over 1,750lbs of coal or the equivalent of 150 gallons of oil
Despite some of these facts being quite scary – it’s been estimated that nuclear facilities have actually saved 1.84 million lives since its introduction, as they’ve prevented other facilities that release harmful pollutants and emissions from getting the green light for further investment and production.
Uranium is so efficient that its capable of producing consistent electricity for roughly 18 months, and afterwards, about a third of the fuel spent is removed and replaced with fresh uranium.
What seems to distress people is the controversy surrounding what happens to the spent fuel, as if handled incorrectly, it can be potentially dangerous due to its high radioactivity. The vast majority of this spent fuel is kept on-site at reactors in strictly regulated ‘cooling pools’, or big dry-casks. Though, as these storage facilities begin to fill up, the nuclear plants have to search elsewhere for storage, and it’s not exactly easy to find such storage areas. The two most common disposals of the waste are via deep cavern burial and blasting it into space!
‘But, I Still Don’t Trust Nuclear Power!’
Okay, so if we didn’t use it, where’d we go from there? While rolling around in fields of fresh grass with the wind turbines and solar panels powering our world is a nice idea, this isn’t currently a feasible reality.
Hinkley Point C has recently been given the green light for construction, with the project receiving backing from numerous corporations, both big and small. Damian Teevan of Mteevanhire is one of the many smaller business owners that believes Hinkley is a step in the right direction:
“I for one welcome the change, nuclear power is something we need to embrace until the more eco-friendly water, wind and solar options are able to compete with our world’s electricity and fuel demands. It will also open up many jobs for the people of England, something that’s been a growing issue for over 10 years now.”
Look at it this way, the standard coal plant burns 1.4 million tons of coal each year, and coal alone uses 44% of our electricity and is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. there are currently 572 coal plants active in the U.S., which means that over 800 million tons of coal are burnt into out atmosphere every year, and that’s just coal! Here are just a few problems the results of coal use have on our planet:
- Global warming
- Toxic air emissions
- Acid rain
Coal Kills, Nuclear Cleans
In 2010, CATF (Clean Air Task Force) conducted an air pollution study and found that coal-fired power planta accounted for over 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and 1.6 million lost workdays in the U.S. annually. To think that these deaths could be avoided in favour for cleaning and more efficient energy alternatives is shocking, CATF also calculated that from the aforementioned results, the total monetary cost of these health impacts is near £100 billion every year.
Give Nuclear a Chance, At Least For Now!
Until we find a better and more efficient form of energy, nuclear is by far our best choice. Hopefully one day people will become more accepting of its capabilities, and it may even stand tall amongst the ‘green energy giants’ such as the wind turbine, hydro, and solar energy. Surprisingly, nuclear factories are only currently found in 31 states across the U.S., which isn’t that much in comparison to the amount of coal factories (1,308 coal-fired power generating units, circa 2012).
Whilst nuclear power will not ‘cure’ climate change or global warming, it does provide us a cleaner and far more efficient source of energy. So, until we find a better form of energy to power our planet, why not give nuclear a go?