Should we use nuclear energy?

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
U+269B.svg Subject classification: this is a science resource.

Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions that release nuclear energy to generate heat, which most frequently is then used in steam turbines to produce electricity in a nuclear power plant. The prospect of using small quantities of highly radioactive material to power our cities has been a dream for decades and a reality in some places. The prospect of a long-term solution to our energy needs comes with the specter of nuclear disasters such as in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Is nuclear energy better than fossil fuels? Should we pursue other strategies like geothermal and solar instead? Can one energy source be the "silver bullet" for a world which is becoming increasingly dependent on electronics?

We should use nuclear energy[edit | edit source]

Arguments for[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for Even with all nuclear accidents considered, nuclear power is by far the safest, compared to the number of lives lost on other forms of energy production like coal and gas.[1] Nuclear accidents are much more mediatic because of their instant nature, high death toll and sometimes long lasting effects, but all considered, they are much less of a threat.
    • Objection Nuclear energy is safer than coal and gas, but far more dangerous than wind and solar.
  • Argument for Nuclear energy saves huge amounts of carbon going into the atmosphere. Every nuclear power plant built is many coal power plants not built.
    • Objection Other energy sources such as wind or solar don't produce carbon (or nuclear waste) and have fewer risks.
  • Argument for Not all nuclear reactors are the same. Thorium-based nuclear reactors are much more efficient than current water-based reactors, produce much less waste, and are very hard to turn into nuclear weapons.
  • Argument for Nuclear energy, unlike wind, solar, geothermal and many other kinds of energy, doesn't depend on geography. You don't need wind, constant Sun or other resources some places don't have. You just need the nuclear power plant.
    • Objection Fukushima and other accidents have taught us that you can't put a nuclear plant anywhere. Many safety and strategic conditions must be met.
    • Objection It's always possible to transport energy from the places that have the necessary geography to the places that don't have it.
      • Objection A lot of energy is lost in transportation.

Arguments against[edit | edit source]

  • Argument against The road to nuclear weapons is always paved with nuclear reactors.
    • Objection This is just a "slippery slope"—the road to nuclear weapons is also paved with knives and actual roads. Just because one technology is developed for one purpose, that doesn't mean that a somewhat similar technology is inevitable.
  • Argument against Nuclear reactors produce nuclear waste which is difficult to dispose of.
    • Objection All forms of energy conversion and storage create waste. Nuclear waste has not caused anywhere near the environmental harm that conventional forms of energy generation have.
      • Objection Solar and wind energy production create no waste, or negligible waste.
    • Objection The amount of nuclear waste produced in the history of American nuclear power usage can fit into a football field. Humans are producing reliable methods to dispose of nuclear waste. Waste has brought little to no harm to both people and the environment.
  • Argument against In over 60 years of nuclear usage, there have been seven major accidents.[2]
    • Objection Accidents have become rarer and rarer. Fukushima is quite near but before that came Chernobyl, already 30 years away. Accidents are likely to stop as we become more proficient in the construction and management of nuclear power plants.
  • Argument against Wind and solar energy are safer and don't produce waste.
    • Objection Wind and solar energy are inefficient on a macro scale.

We should not construct new nuclear reactors, but keep using already existing ones[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for Nuclear is safe and works well, but the upfront costs of constructing nuclear power plants is stark, and renewable sources of energy are becoming cheaper at a rapid pace. We should focus our efforts on these sources of energy instead.

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  2. Chalk River, Sellafield, Kyshtym, Lucens, Chernobyl, Fukushima.

See also[edit | edit source]