Should America convert to using nuclear energy?
With concerns about global warming and the ever growing demand from the developing, economic world, the use of nuclear energy is highly debatable. Let us first explore the pros and cons of nuclear energy before we reach the point of whether it is necessary for our world.
First off, the use of nuclear energy can help reduce our reliability on coal which produces nearly 10% global emissions of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. All the gaseous wastes that coal produces are poured into the air and damage our health. If we continue to rely on coal as our main source of energy, then it could lead to major environmental damage and unpredictable climate change. In contrast, nuclear energy can not only provide the energy we need for things such as transportation and electricity, but it has little harmful effect towards the environment and is safer than other sources.
Another pro of nuclear energy is that it helps in the treatment of some cancers with radiation therapy. For example, according to the NorthStar article, the technology, Medical Actinium for Therapeutic Treatment (MATT), produces a medical isotope called Actinium-225 that is used alpha-immunotherapy treatments. These treatments use an alpha particle-emitting radionuclide carried by targeting agents to attach to the cancer cells. The radioisotope then destroys the cancer cells while minimizing damage to normal cells.
Nuclear energy also proves to be useful in many scientific procedures. Neutron activation analysis uses radiation to detect trace amounts of elements in samples. It is significant to museums that use it to identify art forgeries, and by crime labs to analyze gunpowder residues.
Despite the many advantages associated with nuclear energy, there are always disadvantages when relating to any form of energy. A disadvantage of nuclear energy that prevents many people from using it in their countries is that it is too expensive to produce.
A major drawback is nuclear waste because it emits ionizing radiation that can harm both existing organisms and future generations. The waste accumulated in the last fifty years and is in temporary storage, still waiting for permanent disposal. It takes an extremely long time for some of the waste to decay to safe levels. The fission product strontium-90 takes more than 600 years and for plutonium-239, it takes more than 20, 000 years. Transporting the waste is also potentially dangerous.
Radiation from nuclear energy can also be significantly dangerous to our health. Cancer, radiation sickness, and genetic mutation might result if the radiation gets out of hand. Associated with radiation, in the worst possible scenario, a meltdown can occur at nuclear plants if there is a loss of coolant water in the fission reactant, which would cause the fuel rods to overheat. According to the Pro and Cons article, the worst case of a nuclear disaster was in 1986 at the Chernobyl facility in Ukraine. There, a fire destroyed the casing
of the core, which released radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere. Thirty one people died immediately and an estimated 15,000 more died in the surrounding areas as a result of the exposure to the intense radiation.
To sum it up, I believe that the pros of nuclear energy outweigh the cons. In my perspective, nuclear energy seems to be the only reliable and safest alternative compared with other energy sources such as wind power, solar energy, fossil fuels, coal, and hydroelectric energy. Wind and solar power may be better for the environment, but because they are irregular and unpredictable, they can’t replace mass energy producers such as coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Fossil fuels are too expensive already and causes harm to the environment. Coal produces too much CO2, the major player in global warming. Given that hydroelectric resources are built to capacity, nuclear is, by elimination and by all means, the only feasible replacement for coal.