Nuclear Power: The Once and Future Debate

by Green Jobs Ready on March 30, 2011

Nuclear power remains the talk of the world, when it comes to green and energy issues. As we have reported recently, the disaster in Japan has caused many to question the viability and safety of nuclear fission.

In recent years, most lawmakers had united behind the idea of nuclear power, even many environmentalists and democrats. In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama even called for nuclear energy’s inclusion in the “green energy standard.” He proposed large investments into the nuclear sector in an attempt to catch Japan and France in nuclear energy capabilities.

Yet, only a few months later we are already beginning to look at nuclear power less positively. This does not mean that all nuclear power proponents are silenced. Sir David King, the UK government’s former chief scientist, came out on Wednesday in strong support of nuclear power. He proclaimed that nuclear power is still the safest of all available power sources. He cites coal and hydroelectricity as his examples, saying that they have caused more deaths than nuclear power ever has. Likewise many lawmakers in the U.S., both democrats and republicans, are urging people to recognize that nuclear power is the best available power source.

Even if nuclear power is the best currently viable, and there is plenty of argument to be made against this, that is no excuse to pool billions into a severely flawed energy plan that will damage the environment for millions of years. Even if we assume that nuclear energy can be made safe and function according to plan, with regular inspections – which are currently under scrutiny in the U.S. – and radiation proof robots, we still do not solve the problem of nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste is an issue constantly ignored when discussing the viability of nuclear power, because no one seems to have a solution. The latest excuse for an idea has been proposed by crazed conservative businessman Harold Simmons. He has bought a dump to be used for nuclear waste in Texas. The dump would hold about 60 million cubic feet of low-level radiation nuclear waste. This proposal is the subject of much protest, but it seems like it will pass through the state legislature with the necessary signatures.

Even if we assume that these types of radiation dumps could become more widespread, an intolerable yet not unlikely idea, they still do not have the ability to store high level radiation, such as the rods used for reactions. Even without these rods the waste stored poses a high risk to water and soil in the surrounding areas, and heightened risk of cancer.

This is the problem with nuclear power, it is permanent. The particles it leaves behind have half lives of millions of years. Nuclear power cannot be our present course of action unless we want all beings to live with the consequences till the end of existence. For the present, we must focus towards equally as efficient sources of energy, like offshore wind power, while research continues on other green forms of energy for the future like fusion and water turbines.

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