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Nuclear Power: Now’s The Time Essay

2062 words - 8 pages

I’ve seen nuclear power plants in several states and often wondered just how much of our power comes from the controversial source. One such plant stands out in my memory; far out in the Arkansas countryside, surrounded by wooded hills and a deep river, the instantly recognizable cooling tower caught my eye. It made me wonder, why is nuclear energy so controversial anyway? I have to admit, the scene that day was idyllic. It didn’t match at all the way nuclear power has traditionally been portrayed in the movies or on TV. What I saw was a prosperous area full of people a mere stone’s throw from the plant. I’m talking about boaters and skiers literally in the shadow of those cooling towers. In the course of my research I found that I had some misconceptions about nuclear power and that the industry just might come back to life here in the United States. I learned that about 20% of our electricity is derived from nuclear reactors. I’ve come to believe that nuclear needs to play an even larger part in our energy mix along with wind and other technologies; it’s safer than ever and cleaner by far than coal or natural gas. Even with the challenges of radioactive waste and high capital cost, nuclear has a place in U.S. energy production.
Those opposed to nuclear power are likely to believe that it’s just not safe. There’ve been exactly no deaths or serious injury from radiation exposure at a nuclear power plant anywhere in the United States. Sure, some of us might recall an incident referred to simply as “Three Mile Island (TMI)” that happened back in 1979, but that seems to have been greatly overhyped to me now. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the governing body in the United States which oversees all nuclear energy activities, is very clear on what happened there. One of the reactors at the plant suffered a partial meltdown due to an equipment failure and some incorrect responses by plant workers. Of course the public was made aware of the situation, and all hell broke loose. It was that event that essentially ended nuclear power’s seemingly bright future. According to the NRC report, no workers or members of the nearby community were injured as a result of the accident. Given this, why was construction of plants that received approval after 1973 halted and no new permits granted for nearly 30 years? TMI in Pennsylvania was the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, and there were no injuries or deaths? Why did that cause the nuclear energy industry then to be essentially put on ice? The answer probably lies in the way Americans perceived anything with the word “nuclear” attached to it.
For nearly 40 years prior to that fateful close call at TMI the United States and the U.S.S.R. faced off in the Cold War. The world had witnessed the destruction wreaked on the people of Japan by American atomic bombs, and during the Cold War the country lived under the threat of “mutually assured annihilation” as each superpower aimed ever-increasing...

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