Nuclear power atomizes competing energy sources

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As seen in the Nov. 26 issue

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Arman Zadeh, sports editor

There is one clean, efficient and safe energy source that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. In a world of uncertainty regarding the approaching global energy crisis, nuclear energy, in my opinion, is the best solution.

This may be completely inappropriate in light of the recent Fukushima disaster, or perfectly opportune, for when nuclear power goes wrong, it goes terribly wrong. However, with modern technology, the possibilities of such catastrophes have been minimized. In fact, in over 14,500 cumulative reactor-use-years, there have been only three major accidents: Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island and Fukushima. It is important to remember that a few freak accidents in old and already failing reactors is not enough reason to think negatively of nuclear energy.

Here are the facts. A review by the International Energy Agency states that millions of people have died over the past 50 years from coal and fossil fuel pollution, and that is not taking into account climate change or ocean acidification. In the past 50 years, in comparison, fewer than 60 direct deaths have been attributed to nuclear plants along with their residual effects. Yale.edu even estimates that nuclear power has prevented over 1.84 million premature deaths related to air pollution since 1971.

The Department of Energy predicts that nearly one-fifth (35-60 gigawatts) of the U.S. energy supply from coal power plants will need to be shut down by 2018 partly because of future clean-air legislation. Meanwhile, electricity demand is expected to grow by 30 percent through 2040. So the problem becomes one not only of providing clean and safe energy to the world, but also of finding a way to provide enough energy. No other source of energy—solar, wind or hamster running around in a wheel—is as efficient and reliable as nuclear energy, and none have the potential to wean the world off cheap fossil fuels like nuclear energy does.

In recent years, naysayers of nuclear energy have been making headlines not because of their antinuclear positions, but because of their ideological shifts to nuclear energy proponents, like “Pandora’s Promise” director Robert Stone. This major shift of ideology is due, in part, to new developments in nuclear technology that have made the practice much safer, such as architectural improvements to plants and more efficient technology, specifically “comprehensive monitoring and regular testing to detect equipment or operator failures, redundant and diverse systems to control damage to the fuel and prevent significant radioactive releases, [and] provision to confine the effects of severe fuel damage (or any other problem) to the plant itself,” as reported by the World Nuclear Association.

The benefits of switching to nuclear energy far outweigh the risks. With proper training, upkeep and maintenance, nuclear energy can and will be the future of energy production worldwide.

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