America Needs Nuclear Power Essay

2025 words - 8 pages

Nuclear power plants are a safe, clean and reliable source of energy production. They are uniquely qualified to meet the growing demand for energy in the USA.

It is estimated that the demand for power will grow two and a half percent per year. Even if the demand for energy didn’t increase in the future but stayed where it is nuclear would still be the best choice for power production. Nuclear costs less and is environmentally cleaner than coal, which currently supplies approximately fifty percent of the power in the U.S. (Loewen 53). In addition nuclear has an exemplary safety record. The group of people who oppose nuclear and promote renewable power sources, hereafter termed environmentalists, do so for very sound reasons. However, they fail to realize that renewables, wind and solar power, cannot supply the base-load electricity needed for the power grid. They also don’t realize that of the five power sources that can supply base-load electricity, coal, oil, hydroelectric dams, nuclear and natural gas, nuclear outranks the others either in cost or environmental safety or both.

To understand nuclear power we need to have a general understanding of how it is generated in most nuclear plants. This is a general description only and makes no claim to encompass all the different variations possible for the design of nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is produced from the nuclear fission reaction of a heavy nucleus such as uranium absorbing a neutron after which it splits into two fragments of nearly equal mass. This releases a substantial amount of energy and several more neutrons. The neutrons are then able to strike other heavy nuclei and cause them to fission, releasing more energy. This process occurring continuously results in a chain reaction in which many billions of nuclei may fission in a small fraction of second. In a nuclear reactor the self-sustaining series of fissions is carefully controlled. The enormous amount of energy released occurs in the form of radiation and the kinetic energy of the fission products expelled at high speeds. Most of the energy becomes thermal and is used to heat water and convert it to high-pressure steam. The steam is then used to drive a turbine and the mechanical energy of the turbine is converted to electricity by means of a generator (Britannica).

Environmentalists argue against nuclear power on the grounds of the danger of the radiation emitted by nuclear reactors and nuclear waste, the problems with the disposal of nuclear waste and, finally, that renewable energy sources can supply all the power necessary to meet any growth in demand (Lake Lovins Lovins 44). They claim w e don’t need nuclear, because renewables are a better, cleaner option. These first two objections to nuclear energy are undeniable. Radiation is dangerous and there are problems with nuclear waste. The third argument against nuclear energy has merit but environmentalists don’t take into account some of the...

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