The Nuclear Option

Everyone is concerned about the climate. Everywhere you go, there are climate predictions ranging from sensible to completely insane 2012-esque apocalypse stories where we only have (insert ever-changing number of years) left until we are doomed. Regardless of where one may align on the wackiness scale of climate change, most people can agree that developing clean energy is a net positive for society, humanity, and the planet. So what will that clean energy source be? Wind? Solar? Hydroelectric? Perhaps, but all of those are unreliable. It’s not always windy, and birds get killed in the blades of wind turbines (which also take up a ridiculously large footprint). The sun isn’t always shining, solar panels are incredibly expensive, and they are made from highly toxic products. Hydroelectricity requires specific locations and requirements to be built, and it greatly disrupts local ecosystems. Every source of energy has pros and cons, but one stands above the rest: nuclear.

Nuclear power is unfairly maligned by the general public due to overblown fears surrounding nuclear disasters. First, nuclear meltdowns and accidents are extremely rare, with only three major incidents occurring in the entire history of nuclear power. The fact that there have only ever been three major incidents is enough to justify nuclear power on its own, but let’s look at those three incidents in further detail. The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania was caused by a simple mechanical failure with a pressure release valve, and not a single person died due to this accident. In fact, it has been shown that there were next to no negative consequences of this event at all. Next is Fukushima, where the Japanese government, in their infinite wisdom, built a nuclear plant right on the ocean in an area prone to tsunamis. It was the 2011 Japanese earthquake, a 9 on the Richter scale, that caused a tsunami which damaged the structure;  this led to a single cancer-related death. Finally, there’s Chernobyl. What else is there to say that everyone doesn’t already know? The plant melted down due to the corrupt mismanagement of the facility by the Soviet government. Here’s the truth about nuclear disasters: they are all caused by human error, whether it be the inability to create a functioning valve, the lack of foresight in building location, or literally anything the Soviet government ever did. 

Any perceived flaws by the masses regarding nuclear power has nothing to do with nuclear energy on its own. All the problems that have come from it have been from human failure. Nuclear power does not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; it is a zero-emission energy source. Nuclear power is much cheaper than other clean energy, and it is the most reliable source of power by far, given the decreased need for maintenance, replacement, and the longevity of the plants. Unlike solar and wind, it takes up far less room, which prevents the destruction of habitats. It also produces very little waste that can be easily and safely disposed of. Keep in mind that this is also operating under the assumption of the continued use of uranium and nuclear fission. If we stop fear-mongering about nuclear power, then Thorium reactors can be further researched and developed; Thorium is more abundant than uranium and is even safer and cleaner than the already safe and clean uranium used now. We could also further research fusion reactions, which would produce four times as much energy as a fission reaction of the same mass. Fusion reaction fuel is nearly inexhaustible, and the only byproduct is helium, which is harmless. Fusion couldn’t be used to make nuclear weapons, as they don’t contain fissile materials and the rare nuclear meltdowns we have seen with fission would be literally impossible. So it’s time to stop the ignorant, blind hatred of nuclear power and seriously consider its role in the saving of our planet. It’s time to invest in researching nuclear fusion and all the benefits it will bring. It’s time to welcome the Atomic Age with open arms.