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Dan Negura

Paul Law
PSC-4010-2
11 September 2015
The Implications of Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century
More than 70% of Americas emission-free power comes from nuclear energy
sources. 1 In this document I will discuss the benefits and drawbacks that come with the
implementation of nuclear technology as a means of energy production. We live in a
world that consumes more and more energy every year: Chinas total energy use was
10^17Btu/year and is expected to double by 2030. Simultaneously, we urgently need to
reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release. The benefits of nuclear energy
sources become clear both for economical and ecological reasons: the fissionable fuel
is cheaper and doesnt emit greenhouse gases. On the other hand, malfunctioning
reactors can get extremely dangerous and some reactors generate waste that can be
used as fuel to create weapons of mass destruction.
The average price per megawatt generated by advanced nuclear power plants in
the United States is $95.2 USD, or 67% of the price per megawatt generated by
conventional combustion turbines.2 In 2009, over 20% of the worlds primary uranium
production came from mines located in Canada 3. The facts show that replacing
conventional combustion power plants with nuclear ones will not only reduce costs, but
will also stimulate the local economy. Consumers and businesses will see the numbers
on their electrical bill decrease, and jobs will be created in the uranium mining industry.
Radiation doses ingested by people living near nuclear facilities are generally
lower than the doses ingested by people living around coal power plants. In fact,
studies4 have found that amounts of radiation in individuals living around coal power

plants can be as high as 18 millirems, while individuals who live around nuclear facilities
retain only from 3 to 6 millirems. Furthermore, a typical coal power plant in the United
States emits amounts ranging from 3 to 5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.5
Nuclear plants do not emit any type of greenhouse gas. Considering the apocalyptic
dangers that greenhouse gases pose to our society, one can easily advocate for nuclear
energys case.
Four hundred times more radioactive material was released by the Chernobyl
Disaster than by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. 6 Nuclear power is normally ecofriendly and clean, but human error and lack of maintenance can cause unbelievable
amounts of damage to wild-life and society in general. Each year, more than 6% of
Ukraines government spending goes to programs that deal with the aftermath of
Chernobyl disaster. Six percent is an enormous fiscal burden on Ukraine. In my opinion,
facilities dealing with nuclear technologies have to be fully, or even over-funded in order
to prevent any catastrophe from happening ever again.
Used nuclear fuel is liquid, hot, and radioactive, and it generates heat for years,
and radiation for decades.7 For the first five years the waste is stored in water pools until
it cools down. Then, the cooled waste is usually buried deep underground (American
WIPP facility stores waste 600 meters underground8) and left there forever. The 2014
New Mexico nuclear facility leak8 clearly shows how the enormous amounts of nuclear
waste can cause big problems in the future as more and more nuclear power plants are
built. Until we have a clear and easy solution to deal with radioactive wastes, one can
strongly advocate against the expansion of nuclear power programs.

Solar panel and renewable energy producing technologies become more and
more effective. Today, solar and wind power is cheaper and cleaner to produce than
fossil fuel energy, both in the short, and long run. 9 This gives us the opportunity to
completely avoid the dangers that come with nuclear power plants, and stop carbon
dioxide production. Additionally, solar and renewable energy in general are much
more impressive job creators than their polluting alternatives. 10 From those facts, it is
easy to conclude that the best alternative to fossil fuel based energy production is solar,
followed by nuclear.
The production of nuclear energy is usually cheap and environmentally friendly.
Those properties help us to reduce our carbon footprint, and move away from the
polluting fossil fuel industry. Solar energy, on the other hand, is an even better
alternative due to its job creating effect and lower price per megawatt (compared to
fossil fuel prices). That makes nuclear energy the second most preferable alternative
after solar.

http://www.duke-energy.com/about-energy/generating-electricity/nuclearbackground.asp
2
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#United_States
3
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_in_Canada
4
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclearwaste/
5
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html#.VenIubR8Ons
6

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#National_and_international_spread_of
_radioactive_substances
7
http://www.world-nuclear.org/Nuclear-Basics/What-are-nuclear-wastes-/
8
http://www.rt.com/usa/nuclear-waste-accident-new-mexico-257/
9
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/fossil-fuels-just-lost-the-raceagainst-renewables
10
http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.feature/id/1449