Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy

One of the main issues in today’s media is the common use of nuclear energy, whether or not it should continue to be used in the United States, and what to do with the waste. The students here at Dos Pueblos High School believe that nuclear power plants are a viable source of power temporarily, but that a more cost efficient and clean energy source should be found, and in the meantime, scientists should figure out a place to put the waste that will sustain it for as long as it needs, places such as Yucca Mountain.

Let's start from the very beginning. How exactly is it that energy was created in this fashion? Scientists first refined uranium to get it’s 235 isotope and bombard it with neutrons, making it unstable. These now unstable isotopes go through a process called fission, separating into a more stable isotope, energy, and neutrons, that shoot out into other surrounding uranium-235 isotopes, creating a chain reaction, and more energy. The energy is then trapped and used to power things that the country needs in modern and everyday life.

The plus sides of nuclear power are that it lowers CO2 emissions whilst producing energy, and the cost of fuel is 20 percent of the cost of energy created. This means cheaper fuel and more energy. Using nuclear energy also reduces the use of fossil fuels, which pollutes the environment, affecting diseases and livelihood. Fossil fuels are being used at a faster rate than they are replenished. Also, this type of energy does not rely on unpredictable natural resources to be sustainable; sources such as solar or wind energy.

The downsides of this energy source are extreme. It takes thousands of years for the byproduct to become safe to handle or even be around, and so far, there is no way to contain it for that long. There is also the threat of nuclear meltdowns that cannot be controlled and can cause genetic mutations and death to the people around it. Two examples of these plant meltdowns include the elephant foot at Chernobyl, which is still lethal more than 30 years later, as well as Fukushima. Nuclear generators have an expiration date then have to be dismantled due to regulations in the number of reactors countries can have. There are very high costs of building a plant, and the plant can’t live forever. If they want their money back, the price of energy goes up. Companies generate external dependence. Not all countries have uranium, not all have nuclear technology so they have to be hired out to other countries. Worse-case scenario if the containment of the reaction fails the explosion would be uncontrollable, very similar to dropping a nuclear bomb.

So looking at these facts, the students of Mrs. Ritter’s honors chemistry class at Dos Pueblos High School have determined that the cons of executing nuclear energy outweigh the pros of this concept, and that it would be a better idea for future generations as well as the health of the earth to attempt to find a new and more environmentally friendly solution to this crisis. Other forms of clean energy that can be used in place of nuclear means include wind energy, solar energy, and tidal energy. There is more than enough open, undeveloped land that would be perfect for solar panels and windmills, and there are no harmful byproducts that result from this. Tidal energy, however unknown, is also an ideal solution, as it uses the oceans tides to turn a generator to create energy. This, as well, does not create harmful waste. It is suggested that what you personally can do is spread awareness of the facts and write to you local political power. And do some research if you own!

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