Top 10 Reasons the USA Needs More Nuclear Power Plants
Nuclear energy is a highly contested form of energy for many reasons. Hundreds of years of reliance on coal, and then oil, has led to a narrow minded energy industry that has powered innovation while simultaneously sending devastating amounts of greenhouse gases into the planet.
Renewable and alternative energy resources can change all that. While few people have an issue with solar, hydro and wind power, these methods are not strong enough to take over the huge reliance that America has on non-renewable resources like coal, oil and natural gas.
One of the few efficient and clean energy resources available today is nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is not only a known and proven technology. It is also safe to create and can easily take the place of many of the current fossil fuels.
The only problem that America has with nuclear energy is in the name. There is something about the word ‘nuclear’ after World War II that leaves everyone feeling uneasy. The existential threat of the nuclear bomb leaves the entire world shaking in its boots. Because the two share a name, that threat is carried over into nuclear energy.
But, nuclear energy is not created with the same processes that weapons are. In the event of an accident, a nuclear energy plant would not have the same effects that an attack with a nuclear weapon would have. In fact, there are so many safeguards on America’s 99 nuclear power plants that even when an accident has happened, there has been very little damage.
If America forgets the negative connotations that often come with nuclear technology, they will find that they have an amazing energy resource at the tip of their fingers. Here are the top 10 reasons that the USA needs more nuclear power plants:
Nuclear Power Can Cut Carbon Emissions
Nuclear energy has the lowest impact on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases that it produces. Unlike other methods, the making of nuclear power does not involve burning coal, which is one of the dirtiest means of producing energy.
Coal has the highest carbon content when compared to each of the different fossil fuels. It continues to remain as a massive source of energy production in the United States. Although it is being traded in for cleaner natural gas, it still makes up for 18% of all energy used in the United States. Making electricity is the biggest use of coal, and the industry takes up as much as 91% of America’s coal stocks.
Coal releases a high amount of methane, which is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane stays in the atmosphere and causes damage for many years. Methane is released both from burning coal and from the underground coal mines. There is so much methane released from mines every year that it made up 0.9% of all greenhouse gas emissions released in the United States in 2012. The methane from coal mines also contributes to around 10% of all the methane emission from humans across the globe.
It is also important to note that coal mining results in acid mine drainage. This drainage is hard to deal with and difficult to maintain. Ultimately, it contaminates nearby rivers, creeks and streams.
When it is properly maintained, the production of nuclear power and nuclear plants has little to know impact not only on the Earth’s atmosphere but also on the land, water or habitats around it.
Nuclear Power Allows America to Cut Reliance on Natural Resources
Even those who deny that global warming exists admit that our reliance on natural resources is way too high. We need coal and oil for just about every process that is currently used. From energy production to fuel, natural resources like oil, coal and natural gas are at the heart of almost everything we do.
Nuclear power can help cut our reliance on natural resources. Although the United States only gets around 20% of its energy from nuclear sources, this can be slowly and steadily expanded to begin to cover more and more of America’s energy needs.
The main reason that America needs to stop relying heavily on these resources is because they will run out. Depleting the natural resources that are currently in use is bad for everyone. It is bad for the environment, and it is bad for future production. The move to more sustainable resources has been slow because many believe that it is not important to fix what is not yet broken.
However, as the day that the world runs out of oil comes closer, it is important not just to have a backup plan, but to have a viable back up plan. A viable back up plan should include resources that are already familiar. The backup plan should include nuclear power.
It is not just the threat of running out of oil that America should prepare for. The methods of extraction of natural resources are known for having a negative environmental impact. Coal mining and use has long been known as a dangerous business that is simultaneously bad for the environment. The number of miners who die because of collapsed mines or poor working conditions is also shockingly high.
There are also similar dangers involved in extracting crude oil. There are so many sites for extracting crude oil that the government does not have enough time to make sure that they are all up to code. As a result, extracting oil is not only dangerous for the environment, it is dangerous for the workers. When disaster strikes, many workers are out at sea. The number of oil workers who die or are injured every year is also a problem.
The United States currently gets only 20% of its power from nuclear resources. American can use nuclear power not only to better for its environment but for its people as well.
Nuclear Power Upholds Domestic Power Resources
When the government makes an investment in nuclear power, it makes an investment in its country. America currently imports the vast majority of all of its energy resources. However, nuclear power does not have to be imported over time. Royalties and taxes do not need to be paid to foreign corporations and governments in order to ensure that the US gets the amount of nuclear power it needs.
Nuclear power can be a domestic product. Although the statement that America’s dependence on foreign resources is an old trope, it is a real one. The heavy reliance that America has on foreign oil and natural gas has both economic and political implications.
When America focuses on a domestic power resource, it should feel less compelled to engage in both the petty and serious battles overseas with other countries. To say that America and other Western countries do not go to war without natural resource production in mind is naïve. America and its allies have been concerned about the production of oil for over a century. Their concern is what made cities such as Baku such a political hotspot during the First World War. Their concern for natural resources remains at the heart of many conflicts today.
Nuclear Energy Has to Double By 2050 to Meet the 3.6 Degree Warming Goal
In 2010, the climate negotiators from around the world decided that steps needed to be taken to ensure that the world’s temperature must not climb further than an additional 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The target is known as the 2C target because of the temperature in Celsius. Regardless, this group has decided that to stop major issues in the near future, the temperature must remain below the two degree threshold. This threshold is measured against the average temperature at the time of the Industrial Revolution.
Trying to hit a temperature target is not a new goal. Scientists and politicians have been trying to establish a temperature goal since the 1970s. However, this has been difficult to do. But in the mid-1990s, it was generally accepted that if the Earth’s temperature cross the 2C threshold, it would set a dangerous precedent.
Experts have suggested that if the temperature ever surpassed 1.9 degrees Celsius above the Industrial Revolution temperature, the Greenland ice sheet would start to melt. This melting would be irreversible. The size of the sheet alone combined with the rapid melting would mean that the seal level would be raised as high as an additional 23 feet. Scientists do not know how long it would take for this to happen.
Although the 2c rule is a generally accepted rule, it is far from being proven scientifically. Nobody is really sure whether disaster would strike at 1.9 degrees, 2 degrees, or even 1.5 degrees. Some scientists fear that the 2c rule is not enough to protect the planet’s population from imminent disaster.
In order for the world to hit the goal, the amount of nuclear energy that is currently in use must double. This means that instead of relying on natural resources for 40% of its energy, America must rely on nuclear power for 40% of its energy production. This would mean that natural resources and nuclear power must switch places – with nuclear sitting at 40% and fossil fuels sitting at 20%.
America needs more nuclear power plants to be able to double its capacity. But it’s not just America that needs nuclear power, the world needs nuclear energy as well. Since America has not built a new nuclear reactor since 1996, America is far behind on both its energy goals and its commitments to global warming.
Nuclear Energy Provides Well Rounded Energy Portfolio
Heavy reliance on any source of energy is bad for America. It does not matter what the energy is, for one country to rely solely on one resource is too much.
America’s reliance on oil and coal are supplemented by a small amount of nuclear, hydro and wind energy. However, only 20% of America’s energy comes from nuclear resources at the moment. Nuclear is a part of a well-rounded portfolio of energy products. While oil and coal have their place, expanding the role of nuclear energy in the American power grid would benefit the system as a whole.
A slow expansion would help eliminate rising costs and market turmoil. It also encourages a balanced portfolio. America should never rely solely on one source of energy, but it could rely on nuclear energy more than it currently does.
When the energy sources that America uses are diverse, the costs of energy remain balanced. Without a heavy reliance on a specific form of energy, the country is not hit so hard when something goes wrong. If a plant malfunctions, a natural disaster hits or something else devastates a particular energy source, it is comforting to know that the entire energy network will not go down as a result.
A well-rounded energy portfolio also encourages competitive pricing. When one industry is not relied on to create the majority of America’s energy, citizens are not required to deal with unjust price hikes. A balanced portfolio supports affordable energy prices. This is good for everyone involved.
Nuclear Energy Has Relatively Lower Operating Costs
Although building new nuclear energy power plants have high initial costs, the cost of generating the energy itself is significantly lower than the production of other types of energy. These costs are just the beginning of building a new means of energy. Many worthwhile ventures have high start-up costs but these costs can be justified by both further profits and savings down the lines.
When money is invested into building solid nuclear power plants, savings are generated over time. High quality power plants will see fewer accidents and fewer breakages than a lower investment will see. It is common business sense to invest significantly in solid infrastructure initially to avoid losing profits and spending more money to repair less than adequate infrastructure.
It is also important to note that the production of nuclear energy is competitive with other methods of producing energy that are currently in action. The analysis of cost production between nuclear energy and electricity powered by coal has been analysed by academics, government bodies, energy companies and other sources. When companies save on the costs of energy production, everyone is able to save money. Once the initial costs of building the plant are alleviating, the savings can continue over a longer period of time.
Nuclear Energy Is a Known Technology
One of the best reasons to invest more heavily in nuclear power is because it is a known technology. It is not a new technology whose merits have yet to be proven. Scientists and governments that are informed in nuclear energy understand the ins and outs of using nuclear power.
Knowing that nuclear energy works, is effective and is safe is the perfect reason to continue to expand it. Rather than searching for an unknown energy source or trying to force another energy source to be more useful, it makes sense to use what we know about nuclear energy as it stares us in the face.
While we know that nuclear energy can be dangerous when things go wrong, it is important to keep nuclear accidents into perspective. When the uranium core at Three Mile Island melted in 1979, the containment vessel prevent most of the radioactivity from being released outside the plant. The Chernobyl disaster was doomed from the start because the Soviet system was not safe from the point on conception.
Nuclear accidents are scary; but there are so many safeguards in place to keep them from becoming disasters that there is a lot less risk than people think. Even the calculated damage of a nuclear disaster is a known fact. It can and has been calculated by scientists.
Not using a known technology is waste of innovation and of generations of research and money. Nuclear is right in front of us and it should be used.
It Can Meet Both Industrial and City Needs
Nuclear power is much more efficient than many of the other alternative energy resources currently in operation. Although wind and hydro power are clean resources that should receive investment, these two sources alone cannot meet the high demands of either industrial operations or the needs of a city.
Nuclear energy is especially important for industrial operations. Radiation is also very useful in almost every industry in America and in the world. Radioactive materials are used in making cars and planes. They are also used in construction as well as mining. In addition to these industries, nuclear energy applications span into medicine, scientific research, consumer products, food, agriculture, space exploration and water desalination.
The Waste Can Be Reduced Through Recycling
Much of the criticism of nuclear power comes stems from plans for dealing with nuclear waste. There is no doubt that nuclear waste can be dangerous if it is not properly disposed of. But unlike industrial mines, no one has to worry about nuclear power plants dumping waste into lakes and rivers.
Around 2,000 metric tons is produced annual from nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, a significant amount of it is buried safely in the Earth. It is carefully placed far away from where it could affect any human.
There has been a way of recycling nuclear waste for a while. In the beginning, recycling was both dangerous and expensive. But after years of research, scientists have found better ways of dealing with nuclear waste and turning it into a positive thing.
Two scientists from MIT recently come up with a new ways to eliminate nuclear waste. Using data and methods from previously successful experiments, Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie have found a way to recycle as much as 98% of the remaining waste that is created by nuclear power plants.
Using this method of recycling waste is not just a great way to save space in the state of Nevada. It can even reduce the radioactive lifetime of the nuclear waste dramatically. By using this method, the lifetime of waste would drop from being hundreds of thousands of years to only a few hundred years.
Nuclear Plants Are Safe Places to Work
The nuclear production industry in the United States has one of the best industrial safety industry records in the nation. The nuclear sector is one of the safest places to work in most places. This is because nuclear energy production is so strictly regulated by all three levels of government that there is no room for error.
Nuclear power plants are regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It monitors safety and security for both the reactors and the radiation at every plant in America. The inspectors have to be highly trained and many of them remain independent so that they can provide full evaluations of the plant to make sure that there is no undue influence.
Nuclear power plants are also regulated by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and the Heath Physics Society. Both of these groups work to not only ensure that the plants and the environments they live in are safe but they also work to ensure that people in the area are well informed on what nuclear power is and how it’s made.
Nuclear power is a well-known technology that is not used because people are scared of it. The public fears Chernobyl like disasters and terrorists attacks. Certain groups do not feel the need to correct the fearful public by warning them that any energy station is a terrorist target. They also do not feel the need to tell the public how poorly built and run the Chernobyl nuclear site was in the first place.
Nuclear power is clean and safe. Although initial costs are high, over-all production costs are low. At the least, nuclear power can helps the United States balance out its energy portfolio. But at its best, it will help the world move away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Not only can nuclear energy help the United States become a more powerful country, it can help save future generations from the destruction of climate change.