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Essay on Nuclear Energy

How Safe Is Nuclear Energy?

It is no secret that the notion of using nuclear power to fuel the USA has led to considerable controversy. After Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island core meltdown in 1979 and the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, the notion of nuclear power had a lot of people fearing for their lives.

While both these incidents were not in any way related, they caused wide-spread panic. Most people were reluctant to consider nuclear power as a source of energy, even without fully understanding the potential or workings of this resource. Important assets are often ignored, however, when the masses are not fully acquainted with the facts. So, knowing for sure how safe and beneficial nuclear power is, it is well worth examining the idea of using it and how it might shape ours and our country’s future.     

How Does Nuclear Power Compare to Fossil Fuels?

There is no denying that energy is one of life’s essentials. It is needed to fuel people’s homes and to keep the country’s infrastructure in good or peak working order. In truth, people now depend so much on power the question is no longer whether or not to use it. Rather, the question is what type to use. 

These days, most of the USA’s power is produced by turbine engines. As fuel pushes through these engines, it transforms a type of mechanical energy into a source of electrical power. Gasses are used to make this electrical power, and the source of these gasses is often fossil fuels. The latter are natural fuel sources that come from living organism remains. Today’s most common types of fossil fuels are gas and coal.   

When the public because aware of both the nuclear disasters referred to above, many were drawn back to fossil fuels because they perceived them a safer option. It would appear, however, that the majority of people felt more at ease with the familiarity of these fuels than their actual safety. The truth is that the facts are quite different.  

For instance, with a fifty-year history of nuclear usage now behind us, only three major accidents are known to have occurred in nuclear plants, accidents that have led to dangerous levels of exposure to radiation. The first incident happened in 1979 at Three Mile Island when materials of a radioactive nature were deposited in the Susquehanna River. This had a direct effect on the lives of people living in the area. The incident was ranked five out of a seven-point emergency situation. The second incident happened in 1986 at Chernobyl, and the effects were much more catastrophic than was the case at Three Mile Island. The last or third incident happened at Japan’s Fukushima power plant in 2011.

Of all three accidents, the only location that represented a major hazard to health was Chernobyl. There were reports of an increase in thyroid cancer among people in the area surrounding the plant (with about 4,000 people affected) and most of these cases were curable. While, at first glance, this might seem sufficient to shun nuclear power, it is suggested by experts that we should first compare nuclear accident results alongside the dangers of fossil fuels. You may feel staggered at the findings.   

Safety Record of Fossil Fuels

A few years ago, there was a widely reported oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. Following this, the Global CO2 Emissions Report informed us that the carbon dioxide and mercury levels subsequently released into the atmosphere caused a great deal more harm in the same time period than any one of the three major nuclear power accidents described above. Additionally, the quantity of radiation generated by coal production plants is much greater than the amount produced by nuclear power plants.      

It is also important to think about the considerable public health risk. In one year alone, over 4,000 US coal miners suffered injury, while close to 24,000 are reported to die prematurely from lung illnesses, of which black lung disease is one example. When compared to the history of nuclear power over fifty years, this number in a single year is far greater. 

So, all this raises a question that everyone should ask. Does nuclear power pose as much danger as people think? Actually, the facts speak volumes. While both types of fuel have caused accidents and claimed lives, the numbers are not comparable. Even if you were to consider the worst possible scenario, fossil fuels pose a far greater risk to life than nuclear power production does.