Friday, March 18, 2011

USA Nuclear Power in the Wake of Japan

With the disaster in Japan and the resulting nuclear panic, an important question has been raised: Should nuclear power remain a viable source of electricity, especially in the United States? Short and skinny of it (at least how I see it) is yes, but with reservations.

If you have no idea what movie this is from, you have 8 seconds to find out and buy it

Look at the obvious first. We are too reliant on oil. Coal is not clean. Gas prices are high enough already. Hydroelectric energy is being blocked by environmentalists. Wind energy is too inefficient. And no matter how much you want it, we are not covering the desert in solar panels. We need nuclear power. 

Believe it or not, nuclear power is pretty safe. How many melt downs and almost melt downs have you heard of since Three Mile Island? Not many I'm sure. The people at the plants know what the heck they're doing. The reactors are surrounded by about six feet steel and concrete. Technology is improving everyday to make it safer and better. In Bill Gate's TED talk, he even mentioned a method that is being developed that will burn U-238 instead of U-235, effectively eliminating hazardous waste. 

All these reasons are great support for nuclear power, but like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl taught us, a single accident can mess up everything. Before Three Mile Island, nuclear power was on the rise. After, plants stopped being built for the most part, plans for more were scrapped, and growth and development of better technology basically came to a stand-still. Now, with Obama in office and nuclear power finally on the rise again, the Japanese earthquake happens.

Is it too soon? Credit goes to Jacob Bloodworth

Now, the way I see it, cutting back on nuclear power now is the worst thing that can possibly happen. Advances are being made! Fuel prices are finally getting high enough that The People are honestly interested in alternative forms of energy! The President cares about alternative energy in a way that doesn't remind me of Al Gore and his bull crap movie! The BP oil spill is still fresh on everyone's mind! This is the perfect time for nuclear power to get the push it needs! This disaster is actually a good thing (for learning at least)!

Yes, it is sad that people are dying, homes have been destroyed, and the reactors are blowing up. But this is also a fantastic learning opportunity. This disaster can teach us what procedures work, which ones don't, what needs to be improved upon, all that fun stuff. We can learn from this! One thing already learned is that in the US we need longer-lasting back-up batteries. Japan's batteries lasted about twelve hours, whereas ours typically last 8. We need to improve, but now we know by how much! For the most part, the concrete and steel containment houses have stoop up. They work! They can take a huge earthquake! Ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, but nuclear power just got safer!

Now, I know there are still some concerns here about nuclear power. I understand. I want you to look at the two maps below. The first one shows where our reactors are right now. The second shows the danger zones for earthquakes. 

Notice anything? For the most part, many reactors are not near seismic danger zones. If an earthquake hits, there's a small chance that a reactor will be seriously affected. Also think about this: The Japanese earthquake was the strongest on record. The reactors stood up nicely to a 9.0 quake if you ask me. And it's doubtful that one that strong will hit in the mainland or east coast (California is on the Ring of Fire, which is why it was excluded from that list). In addition, a 6-foot thick concrete and steel box should stand up to a tornado and a hurricane, so fewer worries in the heartland and near the coasts. So really, when it gets down to it, nuclear power is mostly safe from natural disaster.

The disaster in Japan should not be overlooked, Nor should it be cause to stop the progress that has already been made. It should be used as a learning opportunity and a springboard into the future. With nuclear power, we can take the dirty needle of oil out of our veins and start our nuclear detox. We should not be afraid of nuclear power, we should embrace it (with proper protection equipment on). We can be responsible. We can be safe. We can have a better environment. But only if we can have nuclear power. 

What do you think? Is nuclear power a viable option? Or should we abandon it completely? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or contacting me! I would genuinely like to know your thoughts!

1 comment:

Every Day said...

I think its completely viable. accidents do happen but that's just what they are.