Nuclear Energy In North America Essay

1133 words - 5 pages

Nuclear energy, a stable, emission free source of energy and has become a cornerstone for many countries energy needs. There are currently 463 commercial nuclear reactors producing 372,000 MWe in over 30 countries. North America produces 17% of their required energy from nuclear reactors, putting the USA 17th and Canada 21st in the world. Although this seems like a good portion, there are nine countries producing over 40% of their required power from nuclear energy. But why is a heavy energy dependent and environmentally conscious continent of North America producing such little percent of their power from a stable, emission free energy source; the very qualifications that North Americans desire in order to control the green house effect. A recent survey conducted by the Nuclear Energy Institute shows that only 42 percent of Americans associate nuclear energy with clean air even though nuclear energy is by far the cleanest air energy source.
With the current President of the United States proposing to build more nuclear power plants and with the Province of Alberta proposing building a new nuclear reactor in the Grand Prairie region the unenthusiastic public opinion on nuclear reactors is being documented and demonstrated in the press. There are three major themes which underlie the public's opinion on nuclear reactors, all of which are rooted in either uneducated assumptions or facts not put into context. The most common theme among the three is safety and it appears in a variety of ways from questions deriving from the Chernobyl incident to references to atomic bombs. Secondly is nuclear waste; how to contain it, where to put it, and how to dispose of it safely. These are very important questions but if put in the right context become a minor speed bump in the debate. Lastly is the fear of the unknown. Many North American residents do not understand how a power plant works or even the different types of plants and are driven into fear because of the association that is made with nuclear weapons. These three themes will be explored and shown to be merely simple obstacles in North America’s quest for clean reliable energy.
The nuclear safety issue is often the most feared as incidents in the past have plagued public knowledge of the performance and safety of reactors. The most popular example is the Chernobyl Disaster. Although supporters of nuclear power play down this incident it is important to understand the events leading to such a disaster. The investigation that followed the meltdown of reactor 4 concluded that there was a number of safety systems had been manually disabled because of an experiment being performed on the turbines. With these safety systems turned off the reactor did not self-regulate its neutron production leading to the core overheating causing immense energy to rupture the reactor and spill radioactive waste into the environment. Although it was proven that plant operators were aware of the overheating of the core...

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