22nd September 2009 - 11:59 PM
1. As an energy source, nuclear power is both efficient and relatively safe, despite claims to the contrary. In comparison, there have been far more fossil fuel related accidents (mining, handling, extraction, implementation) than reactor accidents. Although nuclear disposal methods have been under fire for the past fifty years, the amount of waste currently being generated has a minimal impact on the environment. Head to head analysis of kilowatt output of uranium and coal, the leading fossil fuel, will show that per gram, uranium will outperform coal almost 100,000 to 1. With this sort of relatively safe, immensely powerful source of energy, it is any wonder that nuclear power has not made a stronger push to replace fossil fuels as the energy source of the future. However, like any good thing, there are many drawbacks to using nuclear power. As stated above, current waste output is too minimal to adversely affect the environment; studies show, however, that should nuclear power be increased by one degree (that is, tenfold), the earth will run out of current storage methods by 2075. Furthermore, nuclear power has been harnessed for commercial use for less than half a century. Whether the containers and current storage methods will hold against the test of time is a question whose answer remains yet to be seen. Going in another direction, nuclear power plants are able to produce weapons-grade fissile material. As global events in the past several years will indicate, these materials, should they find their way into the hands of unstable world leaders, could pose serious security concerns. Currently, United States Marines and other outsourced security groups guard storage facilities, as well as the plants themselves. To increase nuclear power output would entail devoting more resources, both fiscal and military, to additional infrastructure. Lastly, it is questionable whether it is economically prudent to switch to nuclear power at this time. Creation of new plants, with all the costs which come with it, could very well cost more than the current energy production system we currently have in place. The infrastructure for fossil fuel energy already exists, from mines to rail lines—to abandon the system in favor of increasing current nuclear power output at exorbitant cost is a question that is extremely debatable. Personally, I believe that nuclear power’s current production output should be slowly increased while simultaneously decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. I do not, however, wish to advocate eliminating fossil fuels entirely and believe that nuclear power should always supplement traditional energy sources. Rather than pursuing nuclear power as our primary source of energy, it is better to examine completely renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectricity and wind power/solar power, as replacements for the future.
2. As stated above, I do not think that nuclear power is the end-all to the ever present energy source question. Rather, it should be used in tandem with other sources of energy to ensure that we do not rely too heavily on a single source.
3. The societal cost of a renewable, unlimited energy source is too great to be seriously sought after. As with any product or service, there is a reason that there are costs attached to acquiring them. An unlimited, renewable energy source will drive down energy prices so low as to remove the invisible hand checking the current system of utility prices. Reduced energy prices would mean lower costs for every industry imaginable, resulting in lower prices for goods, services, whathaveyou. On the surface this might seem like a good thing; however, this could also work to undo the good of switching to such an energy source in the first place! Lower prices, lower costs equals more demand and more goods. Disposal of these products would have the effect of undoing whatever good eliminating fossil fuels did, if not exacerbating the harm done. To be effective, such an energy source must be regulated by standards similar to the inherent ones in place now—the market must not be left alone. As anti-laissez-faire as that might sound, it is to prevent a) economic boom followed by collapse
more pollution c) corporations from exploiting these energy sources for their own good. Granted, the benefits would be numerous and impossible to enumerate; however, I believe the cost of such an energy source would outweigh whatever benefits received.