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Topics Homepage> Nuclear energy does more good than harm

Nuclear energy does more good than harm

PRO (7 assertions)

Links to more PRO research:

How Stuff Works

Information on how nuclear power works.

 

PBS Frontline Report on France's nuclear power usage

The reports gives reasons as to why France uses a lot of nuclear power.

 

Website of the World Nuclear Association

The World Nuclear Association represents nuclear power companies and presents a case for nuclear power.

 

Define:

Nuclear Energy– The use of nuclear technology to extract usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions i.e. nuclear fission, fusion and radioactive decay.

Does more good than harm—to the economy and energy demands of the world, not just the U.S.

1. Assertion: Nuclear energy is the only carbon free energy source which can meet our energy needs in future.

Reasoning: The energy needs of the ever-growing world population (now 7 billion) have been increasing dramatically. Whatever we do every day needs energy. There is dramatic increase in demand due to spiraling increase in needs. This demand is a serious strain on our present resources which are predominantly fossil fuels which are not only polluting (not clean) but also leave a huge carbon footprint. These nonrenewable resources are limited and are liable to be easily exhausted in the next few hundred years. Wind, solar and other renewable resources though helpful are presently not reliable as a constant, reliable, efficient source of energy. They can only account for a tiny fraction of our energy supply. At the rate at which we are emitting carbon with energy source, we need a quick change in order to save the environment.

Evidence: Washington Post.

2. Assertion: Nuclear power drastically fights emissions and helps global warming.

Reasoning: Approximately 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions are avoided each year in the United States by generating electricity by nuclear power than from any other source. According to the U.S Department of Energy this is equivalent to the CO2 released from all U.S. passenger cars. Apart from oil, dirty coal today is the primary source of energy production. The coal power plants however clean the opponents may contend are still significantly dirty not only leaving a big carbon footprint but also causing significant pollution. This is especially so in the developing countries wherein the processes are still significantly crude and the regulations are terribly lax. When using nuclear power in the correct way, nuclear energy is clean as well as capable of generating the electricity needed. Compared to hydraulic, wind, solar, natural gas, oil, and coal, nuclear energy has by far the least greenhouse emissions. France, which gets approximately 75% of its energy from nuclear energy emits more than 70 times less energy than the U.S. A switch to nuclear energy will make the car industry use electrical energy rather than petroleum as fuel. This will definitely help the environment as the average car emits 6 tons of CO2 annually.

Evidence: U.S Department of Energy, Economist

3. Assertion: Nuclear power has caused far fewer deaths and diseases than fossil fuels.

Reasoning: The opposition may suggest that nuclear plants will have accidents with severe consequences for humanity. Nuclear power has had an exceptionally good safety record. Even with Chernobyl accident in 1986 and even the recent Fukushima plant accident few hundred deaths are significantly less than the 10,000 per year deaths every year that happen from just the coal burning plant accidents. All of these nuclear accidents reflect the failure of government planners and not any inherent danger of nuclear power. This suggests that if created and maintained in the correct fashion, we will have far less nuclear accidents. This clearly proves that nuclear energy is in fact safer to mankind, despite its risk of power plant accidents. Nuclear powered ships which dock every day at various U.S ports and ports around the world demonstrate the safety of nuclear energy. If nuclear power is so risky as my opponents will contend why aren’t existing plants shut down?

Evidence: Washington Post

4. Assertion: Nuclear energy is sustainable long term.

Reasoning: Nuclear energy is highly efficient. A gram of uranium can generate as much energy as four tons of coal. Uranium is abundant and is supposed to last thousands of years, as opposed to fossil fuels which will vanish in a matter of hundreds of years. Less space is required for a nuclear energy generating facility than a comparable solar or wind power generating facilities. In fact to equal the electrical output of a single 3000 megawatt nuclear electricity generating station, it would take roughly 2000 wind turbines or 40 kilometers of solar panels.

Evidence: Times Magazine


Assertions #5, 6, 7

CON (5 assertions)

Links to more CON research:


Public Citizen

A list of reasons to oppose nuclear energy expansion.

1. Assertion: Nuclear energy always carries the risk of a major disaster like meltdown or explosion, which can be costly not only health-wise, but also economically.

Reasoning: The risk of explosion or meltdown is extremely high with the nuclear power plants. This is manifested by the three Mile Island (Pennsylvania), The Chernobyl (Russia) and the most recent and still unknown degree of disaster in the Fukishima (Japan). It is impossible to build a plant which is 100% foolproof. Even that small risk of a catastrophe can be devastating not only to humans but also nature. More the nuclear power plants built, higher is the probability of a disastrous failure somewhere in the world. Moreover, even without a disaster, nuclear energy constantly releases radiation, damaging the environment and the health of nearby residents. The nuclear industry depends upon significant government subsidies to exist and build nuclear plants. No nuclear power plant has been built on time and within budget. Every nuclear power plant has taken at least twice the amount of time and 3 times the cost usually. Of Course it has huge implications due to the immediate radiation damage but more so the long term damage and the risk of significant cancers in people who are subjected to these radiation effects which may not be noticed immediately. Scientific studies have shown that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could top a quarter of a million cancer cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers. Renewable energy on the other hand (wind, solar) etc is clean and safe. Subsidies for nuclear power if spent on these renewable resources will be much more useful.

Evidence: Scientific American, Nuclear Information and Resource Center.

2. Assertion: Nuclear waste disposal and is extremely hazardous and costly.

Reasoning: Nuclear power is not a clean energy source. It produces low and high level radioactive waste which remains dangerous for several thousand years. Currently 2000 metric tons of high radioactive waste and 12 million cubic feet of low level radioactive waste are produced annually by the 103 operating nuclear reactors in the United States. Reprocessing nuclear waste is not a viable option. This is not like “recycling.” It is cheaper to mine new Uranium than to reprocess spent Uranium. Even the reprocessed spent Uranium has some remnant radioactivity. Burying nuclear waste is a risk for future generations (Yucca Mountain Project - risk of contaminating ground water). Transporting nuclear waste is a public safety concern. Mining uranium by physically removing uranium ore or by extracting it are both very dangerous processes. Also, nuclear power plants use a great deal of CO2 in building and running the plants.

Evidence: Wall Street Journal.

3. Assertion: Nuclear energy is not applicable and accessible globally, is not renewable, and depends on the limited supply of uranium.

Reasoning: Nuclear power plants are presently functioning only in a handful of countries. Nuclear plants take too long to build and cannot keep pace with the energy demands. Moreover Uranium which is the fuel resource for all the nuclear reactors is available only to a few select countries. In fact 60 % of global uranium supplies come from only 3 countries and its processing as a fuel can only be carried out in six countries. Furthermore at current global nuclear capacity, known and concentrated uranium resources will last for only hundred years.

Evidence: Los Angeles Times.

4. Assertion: Terrorist strike on nuclear facilities could be devastating.

Reasoning: The nuclear reactors are not only vulnerable to terrorist strike but also the spent fuel pools which are outside these plants and less protected can be easily attacked. The 9/11 commission had reported that Al Qaeda’s original plan was to hijack 10 airplanes and crash 2 of them into nuclear plants. A Sept 2004 Study by the Union of Concerned Scientists had revealed that a worst case attack at the Indian Point Nuclear Plant near New York City could cause up to 44,000 nuclear fatalities and up to 518,000 cancer deaths. Such a release could cost up to $2.1 trillion and would force the permanent relocation of 11.1 million people.

Evidence: N Y Times.


Assertions #5