Is Nuclear Energy As Scary As We Think?

One topic from the first presidential debate between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden was the state of the environment and climate change. Biden criticized Trump for pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords. Trump retorted that The Paris Climate Accords were “a disaster.” He was not exactly wrong. The Paris Climate Accords have lengthy and strenuous environmental regulations that primarily hurt small businesses. After the United States left the Accords, our carbon emissions continued to decrease, although at a lower rate than what the Accords indicated as optimal, partly due to increased natural gas production. 

Still, the United States managed to decrease carbon emissions without the tedious regulations that stifled business. The solution to climate change does not have to include solutions that will hurt our economy. After all, if we solve climate change but destroy our economy in the process, we will have exchanged one crisis for another. 

We may live in a capitalist society, but I’m not sure how many people are willing to destroy the Earth for a profit. These days people are more environmentally conscious than they were decades ago. In the age of information and cancel culture, much of the public would not support a company that heavily pollutes the environment. 

That being said, should we even be concerned with the United States’ pollution? China puts out more carbon dioxide than the US and EU combined. India has ranked lower than the United States in every cleanliness and pollution statistic – and these are much larger countries than the United States. To be fair, China has recently initiated measures to curb their carbon dioxide output. We should be trying to make our country green, but perhaps we should have China and India do more to control their own pollution. 

Regardless of what our neighbors do, there remains a demand for clean energy in the United States. The popular options are wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy. Wind energy is costly, takes up valuable land, and is dangerous for flying animals. Solar energy also proves to be expensive, with the addition of being dependent on weather, and a wasteful manufacturing process. Hydroelectric energy has very limited applications and significantly affects the environment. Not to mention, none of these options are as efficient as gas. 

Oftentimes we forget about one other clean energy source: nuclear energy. Nuclear energy has zero emissions, and in 2019, its use avoided more than 476 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being emitted into the environment. With only 1 square mile, a nuclear plant can operate at a level at which a wind farm would require 360 times more land to do the same. There is also a smaller chance of power plants becoming inoperable because it is more reliable than other forms of energy. Modern nuclear energy is also much safer, it only experiences 0.07 deaths/accidents per terawatt-hours of energy – not bad compared to oil’s 18.43. 

We only think nuclear energy is dangerous because the name is shared with a classification of weaponry. The two major accidents in nuclear power – Chernobyl and Fukushima – are completely avoidable. Chernobyl was caused by communist ignorance; the government instructed the power plant to turn off all safety features to produce the most power. Fukushima was built on a fault line and close to the ocean; it was the result of poor planning. 

There are still some counterarguments to nuclear energy though. One of the most popular ones is the question of what to do with nuclear waste. This matter has been resolved through developments that determined that nuclear waste can be reused to generate more energy. Another counterargument is that developing these power plants would be extremely expensive. That is true, but nuclear energy must be treated as an investment. Paying the price now will help the United States do its part, while also creating superiority in terms of our energy infrastructure. This would also be no more expensive than the Green New Deal’s price tag, which estimates range from as low as $10 trillion to as high as $93 trillion. 

An opportunity for the US to lead the world by example has presented itself. I recommend we take advantage of it. 

 

Thanks for reading,

Brian Inguanti

 

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