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Is It Time to Revive Nuclear Power? Essay

1. Many professors, scientists, researchers, and even governments, have been debating over the issue on the use of nuclear power as a main energy source. In Taking Sides, two authors who are highly narrow-minded state their debates on this critical issue. Allison MacFarlane, author of “Nuclear Power: Panacea for Future Energy Needs?”, believes that nuclear power should be revived. She argues that nuclear power will provide sufficient energy, while at the same time reducing carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, professor Kristin Shrader-Frechette, author of “Five Myths About Nuclear Energy”, argues that nuclear power is too expensive and unsafe for the environment, when there are renewable energy sources that are better for the environment and economy. I agree with Shrader-Frechette because she proves the five myths about nuclear energy wrong using extremely valid arguments, which exist to prove that nuclear power is not the best option for an energy source in our society.

Background

2. In “Small Recactors Make a Bid to Revive Nuclear Power”, the Obama Administration and the Energy Department are working on making America the leader in advanced nuclear technology and manufacturing (Biello 2012). They are considering switching the large reactors, which are currently the predominant technology, to small reactors, which will save money. These reactors would contain enough power to power more than 200,000 U.S. homes for a year (Biello 2012). This strategy will cause less nuclear waste and will increase safety issues as well. In another article, “Time to revive, not kill, the nuclear age”, it is stated that a world without nuclear power would be less secure.

Neither fossil fuels nor renewable resources will be able to replace the 14 percent of global electricity generated by nuclear reactors (Financial Times 2011). This article sides with MacFarlane by saying the Chernobyl accident was bad, but since then things have improved. The majority of the existing reactors were built a long time ago, and the ones that were recently built, have many more safety features, such as passive cooling systems to prevent overheating, which will greatly reduce safety risks. It is agreed that there is much more research needed, but reviving nuclear power is necessary in order for energy security.

Argument For Nuclear Power

3. Allison MacFarlane argues that nuclear power is necessary and that it is nowhere near as bad as everyone thinks, and that it is actually very efficient. She believes that nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide, and that this is a major advancement in technology. She states that there are two pathways for handling the spent nuclear fuel generated by power reactors: the open cycle and closed cycle. The costs associated with the construction of new nuclear reactors may be the main reason for the inhibiting of the global expansion of nuclear power. She says that although nuclear power can be our main source of power, and very efficient, it will take many years before a considerable number of new plants are licensed and built.

4. Allison MacFarlane argues that nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide to produce electricity because their fuel is uranium-based. Nuclear power saved about 13 percent of annual emissions of Carbon dioxide, meaning that by 2050 emissions could be reduced by 15-25 percent. Since the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the overall global safety record has been good, even though there have been some problems. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty guarantees that countries that do not have nuclear weapons are allowed nuclear energy technology, which is a great form of security for these countries. The open and closed cycles have been effective so far in containing the nuclear waste, and hopefully will continue in the future. 5. Although nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide directly, nuclear power is not emission free.

Carbon dioxide is emitted during nuclear power production, during the mining, milling, and fuel fabrication processes. No countries have opened a high-level nuclear waste disposal facility, so all of the nuclear waste is currently sitting in storage facilities. If nuclear power expands, these high-level wastes will increase. A catastrophic nuclear accident could result in compensation costs of hundreds of billions of dollars, and currently 236 of the 436 operating reactors are not even covered by liability conventions. Nuclear power is very expensive compared to other power sources, which is the biggest issue standing in the way of reviving nuclear power.

Argument Against Nuclear Power

6. Kristin Shrader-Frechette argues that nuclear power is clearly not the best option as a power source for many reasons. She busts the five myths about nuclear power believed by many people. She gives valid reasons to support her position opposing nuclear power. She talks about how nuclear power is unclean, expensive, unnecessary to address climate change, unsafe, and how it will increase the proliferation of weapons. 7. This whole argument, in my opinion, is strengths, minus a few minor points. Although MacFarlane states that nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide, Shrader-Frechette argues that the nuclear fuel cycle has eight other stages that do release greenhouse gases. Nuclear power generates at least 33 grams of carbon-equivalent emissions for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.

Nuclear wastes are stored at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, which poses severe problems for the future. As high-level radioactive wastes increase, the availability of storage space decreases, and exposure rises. Exposure to nuclear waste can likely cause fatal cancer, which risks are very high for. 8. The weaknesses of Shrader-Frechette’s argument are very scarce in my opinion. She discusses the emissions of carbon dioxide, stating that they are much higher than most people think, but MacFarlane stated that they are working on reducing them, and it will take many years before anything is set in stone. Per kilowatt-hour, Shrader-Frechette states that atomic energy produces only one-seventh the greenhouse emissions of coal. She believes nuclear power is not clean, however this statistic is in favor of reviving nuclear power by stating an opposing fact.

Weighing the Arguments

9. I agree with Kristin Shrader-Frechette in just about every aspect. She gives amazing facts and statistics to support her argument against the revival of nuclear power. The five myths supporting nuclear power are all false. Nuclear power is not clean due to the greenhouse gas emissions during the nuclear fuel cycle. The government is providing way too much money to fund nuclear power, when there are cheaper, safer energy sources to fund. Also, nuclear energy will definitely increase the use and proliferation of weapons around the world, which I believe will lead to more war.

Conclusion

10. I sided with Kristin Shrader-Frechette because of her brilliant proof of her argument, which proved the five myths about nuclear energy wrong. Allison MacFarlane argued that nuclear power should be revived because carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, safety has improved since the last major incident, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty provides more security for nuclear power. Shrader-Frechette argued that there are more carbon dioxide emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle, the government is spending too much money funding nuclear power when they should be funding wind or solar power since they are cheaper and safer, and the use and proliferation of weapons will increase. Both authors have sound arguments; however I feel that Shrader-Frechette’s is more valid and will make the economy and environment better in the end.

Bibliography
Biello, D. (2012). Small reactors make a bid to revive nuclear power. Scientific American, Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=small-reactors-bid-to-revive-nuclear-power. Financial Times. (2011). Time to revive, not kill, the nuclear age. Financial Times, Retrieved from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f0321fb4-6e9a-11e0-a13b-00144feabdc0.html. MacFarlane, A. (2012). Nuclear power: A panacea for future energy needs?. In T. A. Easton & T. College (Eds.), Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society (pp. 82-88). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Shrader-Frechette, K. (2012). Five myths about nuclear energy. In T. A. Easton & T. College (Eds.), Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society (pp. 89-94). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


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