Nuclear Power Is Not Evil, It’s A Viable Alternative

Mark Laluan

Nuclear power has always held the potential to alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for our energy needs.

Such potential has been routinely ignored, derided or at worst, stymied by an almost dogmatic belief held by certain interests that nuclear power is a destructive evil. These groups hold aloft the banners of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima as proof of the inherently destructive nature of nuclear energy.

The reality is that to supply our homes and our industries, our sources of power must be made both cheap and affordable.

The United States did not abandon nuclear power after Three Mile Island; in fact, America remains the leading producer of nuclear power in the world with 19.8 percent of the nation’s energy needs supplied by nuclear power alone.

The alternative energy sources proposed by the anti-nuclear lobby such as tidal—which causes damages to our littoral areas—to wind—which does not operate around the clock—and solar—which would require powerplants the size of the state of Rhode Island to even begin to meet an individual city’s energy needs—all have not reached a necessary level of technological maturity to be rendered practical.

The notion of cutting back on our energy usage has merit, but it does nothing to address the fact that a growing population needs more electricity. With the human population reaching the 7 billion mark in the near future, it behooves our policy makers to adopt a solution to our energy needs within our technological capability.

The only possible solution is nuclear power.

It uniquely meets several important criteria, the most important being that nuclear power would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the despots which currently control those precious reserves.

Fuel for nuclear power relies on virtually unlimited quantities of radioactive elements, which for their size produce power—via boiling waters to turn turbine generators—far in excess of the coal or oil they would replace.

In spite of these facts, proponents of the anti-nuclear movement insist on the inherent dangers of nuclear energy. Their objections range from valid, such as what we would do with nuclear waste, to the banal, such the “threat” of a nuclear plant exploding.

In terms of security concerns, energy production is a natural target of terrorism no matter if the plant be oil-fired or nuclear.

Modern reactors, such as Fukushima Daiichi, do not explode with the force of ten thousand suns when suffering catastrophic damage. Even the amount of radiation emitted from such an event would be localized, with the plant’s melted fuel rods contained within a self-sealing blanket of concrete and steel.

If terrorists wished to create a “dirty bomb,” an easier way of gaining materials than ransacking heavily guarded nuclear power plants would be to nick equipment from your local doctor’s office. For instance, radioactive Cobalt-60 is found in x-ray machines and used in radiation therapy.

The problem of nuclear waste is being dealt with by advances in technology. Over ten percent of all nuclear waste is considered high-level waste (HLW). HLW materials consist of spent fuel and materials produced through fusion in the reactor core.

HLW waste can remain radioactive for up to 7 million years, but advances in artificial transmutation – an acceleration of the natural process whereby these materials break themselves down into less radioactive elements – have shown great promise. This process – while still in its infancy – could reduce that 7 million year period to 300 years.

In spite of the human drama unfolding at Fukushima, the future still holds much promise for nuclear power. With each decade, new advances in technology have improved both safety and power yield through nuclear energy.

If the anti-nuclear power lobby continues in their efforts to keep nuclear technology stillborn, it will remain just that; stillborn. It is absolutely irresponsible that these luddites are taking advantage of the human drama unfolding in Japan to advance their agenda against nuclear power.

Nuclear power remains the only large-scale energy source that has the potential to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, while at the same time providing ample power for both our homes and our industries.