Monday, May 19, 2008

Nuclear Power

One of my best friends grew up in Poland. As a child, he was playing with friends in some puddles in the forest near their town. He went home and felt sick. His mother took him to the hospital. For the next three months of his life, he spent his days in a hospital bed, a lovely shade of yellow due to toxic poisoning. Apparently, the area where he had been playing was contaminated by the Chernobyl meltdown a few years earlier.

I’m including the above to highlight one of the major risks that sometimes isn’t discussed when nuclear power comes to the forefront of the energy conversation. While it’s not as unsafe as some people will pulpit, it’s also never going to be 100% secure. And when you jump from 2,000 to 17,000 plants (which is about what would be needed to power most first world countries), the former argument will gain much more ground.

This is a theory discussion, though. Politics will be politics and the actual production of this number of plants will never come to be, because of a lack of interest in the private sector and incredibly high costs of construction and maintenance. Still, it is important to view nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, even as a worst case scenario.

-Because nuclear power plants produce very little CO2, they don’t contribute to global warming.
-The technology already exists. The plants only need to be built, so not much research is necessary.
-Mining for uranium is safer than mining for coal.
-They produce a LOT of electrical power in one single plant.

-That whole "toxic waste being incredible deadly and having a breakdown life of 100,000 years" isn’t really a good thing.
-Uranium doesn’t grow on trees. Even if this became a viable solution, there’s really only enough to keep most first world plants going for the next thirty to sixty years.
-Nuclear Meltdowns. Nothing good has ever come of them. See first paragraph.
-Some terrorists may view them as a giant target. The more that are produced, the greater the safety threat.
-Nuclear proliferation.

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