Should we use nuclear energy?

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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]

  • Argument Argument 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 Objection Nuclear energy is safer than coal and gas, but far more dangerous than wind and solar.
  • Argument Argument Nuclear energy saves huge amounts of carbon going into the atmosphere. Every nuclear power plant built is many coal power plants not built.
    • Objection Objection Other energy sources such as wind or solar don't produce carbon (or nuclear waste) and have fewer risks.
  • Argument Argument 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 Argument 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 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 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 Objection A lot of energy is lost in transportation.

We should not use nuclear energy[edit]

  • Argument Argument The road to nuclear weapons is always paved with nuclear reactors.
    • Objection 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 Argument Nuclear reactors produce nuclear waste which is difficult to dispose of.
    • Objection 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 Objection Solar and wind energy production create no waste, or negligible waste.
  • Argument Argument In over 60 years of nuclear usage, there have been seven major accidents.[2]
    • Objection 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 Argument Wind and solar energy are safer and don't produce waste.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. http://climate.nasa.gov/news/903/coal-and-gas-are-far-more-harmful-than-nuclear-power/
  2. Chalk River, Sellafield, Kyshtym, Lucens, Chernobyl, Fukushima.

See also[edit]