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Nuclear Power, a Viable Option for Clean Energy

Nuclear Power, a Viable Option for Clean Energy

Many proponents of clean energy have turned to nuclear energy as a viable source for renewable energy. But is this really the case?

The argument is fairly split down the middle and there are many advantages and disadvantages to nuclear power. Currently there are 440 nuclear power plants in existence that supply 16 percent of the world’s energy. France runs 78 percent of their power off of nuclear energy (Source: euronuclear.org). One of the many advantages of nuclear power is that the technology is already in place. Not only that, but a single power plant can provide a large amount of power (more than gas or oil can) and therefore less plants would have to be created. And of course nuclear power plants emit very low levels of CO2 and therefore do not contribute many greenhouse gases to the environment.

With the advancement of technology, nuclear power plants have become much more secure and events such as Chernobyl are unlikely to happen. One of the major issues that stood in the way of nuclear power was the toxic waste it left behind as well as the limited supply of uranium available on earth. With advances in technology, both problems are alleviated with a method of recycling.

Chien Wai, a professor at the University of Idaho, has come up with a way to recycle the nuclear waste to create usable uranium in a safe and environmentally friendly way. The method was inspired by decaffeinated coffee and utilizes a supercritical fluid, in this case carbon dioxide. Supercritical fluids are any fluids that can exhibit the properries of both liquid and gas at a specific temperature and pressure. When these fluids interact with substances, they move through them and dissolve compounds. After the pressure is returned to normal, the gas evaporates and leaves behind only extracted metals. The ash left behind by nuclear power plants contains ten percent usable uranium, amounting to about $5 million worth of uranium (Source: Science Daily).

Unfortunately there are still many side effects of nuclear power plants, the major one being the threat of a nuclear plant failure or meltdown. While security has greatly increased, no plant is 100% safe. And even if there was some way to guarantee 100% safety, the fact remains that nuclear power plants are quite easy targets for any kind of launched assault. Not only that, but the technical know-how for building a nuclear plant can be applied to a certain extent to create nuclear missiles. And even if it is somehow safe, nuclear plants take around 20-30 years to become completely operational, not to mention that they are also extremely costly. Although France does run off of nuclear, each plant cost them $6.5 billion and a French-designed plant in Finland has been plagued by delays, overruns and leaks (Source: Greenpeace USA).

Even with the problems and costs of building these plants, the problem of the waste remains. The uranium isotope usted for nuclear power plants eventually decays (although it does not completely since it has a half-life), and though Wai may be able to recycle usable uranium from the radioactive ashes, the fact remains that the uranium gathered will not have the same amount of power/energy as the original and will need to be enriched in order to produce the same amount of energy.

The debate of nuclear energy will continue until there is either some way to make nuclear energy safer, cheaper or find a way to safely dispose of the toxic waste created by nuclear energy. Until that time, the jury will remain split on the topic of nuclear energy.

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3:28AM PDT on Mar 30, 2014

I still think Nuclear Power is the best & only way to lower CO2 emissions. The problem of storing nuclear waste is a non issue as it could easily be done today with current technologies. Modern nuclear reactors are far more advanced & unlikely to meltdown.

6:52PM PDT on May 15, 2010

As our world suffers again at the hands of an oil leak in our ocean, I am reminded of a book read last year -

The revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock.

Previously I was against Nuclear energy, this book changed my mind. I completely agree with Marvin. He is completely right!

I hasten to add if we do not act now we will face a great change to our lives due to extensive power cuts.

This book also made me think about GM given the growing population trying to survive on the same land mass, means wat? we only have so much land for animals to be farmed and crops to be grown eventually we will outgrow our planet so mayb creating a steak (not a cow) in a GM way is our way forward in this regard too! (my vegetarian friend, agreed in this way she could face eating meat :D )

I suggest to all to give this book a once over, it certainly made me sit back and think it's very logical and easy to read. I am not scientifically minded, this book made sense to me!

I am concerned having searched for forums re nuclear these last two days how far off our opinion is compared to our need.

Its certainly time now for us humans to be progressive in our thinking, should we all want to keep the lifestyle we are accustomed to.

Nuclear waste is minimal compared to gas and oil and in my opinion the lesser of the three for impact to enviroment atm. Until the day we find the renewable that will suffice our demand.

11:09AM PDT on Mar 14, 2009

I don't worry that much about nuclear power--the track record in the US is excellent--but I do worry about pollution, global warming and energy dependence. Too bad Obama and Harry Reid just trashed billions of dollars in research for Yuka Mountain with no substitute plan. We need to move forward with nuclear power. Moving backward is going to hurt the environment and the economy.

This morning I was having breakfast with a friend who works in the power industry. He says what I think to be true too. Wind power is nice to have but it is not even close to being a substitute for gas, coal and nuclear; it's too unpredictable. Steam turbines take too long to bring on line to chase changing wind conditions in order to keep up with demand. Solar electric technology offers little net gain as the energy it takes to produce the solar cells, is about the energy the cells produce throughout their lifetime.

Obama either can't do the math, or he's trying to appease a group of people who like the sound of wind and solar. The math is relatively simple, so I assume it's the latter.

Dan

6:51PM PST on Mar 4, 2009

It looks like Marvin needs to study up on the nuclear issues. Coal is out also. Oil and Gas are not so renewable. Air and sun will 'always be there' . And there are no bad by products.
We know in the body of knowledge more ways to create energy, with out tearing up our planet.

11:36AM PST on Mar 4, 2009

No Nuclear Power-it's not worth the risk.

8:20PM PST on Mar 3, 2009

The amount of subsides the nuclear industry gets puts its electrical production costs on par with other green power alternatives. And going green has a relatively small env impact comapred to the nuclear industry.

Also there is only so much Uranium-235 in the world. And we don't want plutonium plants; if an accident occurred at a plant such as this it would make Chernobyl look like a baby's burp in comparison.

The Union of Concerned Scientist did a through evaluation of this subject and made practical suggestions for policy. For the most part it said, nuclear is not the necessarily the best way to go, though research into it (ie fusion) should continue.

6:27PM PST on Mar 3, 2009

Green power is the only thing we should be looking at. YES it will cost stacks more, but it's an investment into the future of the planet, which won't be around if we keep going the way we are.
And bring on electric cars!

1:20PM PST on Mar 3, 2009

Private investors had given up even considering building nuclear plants due to escalating costs. The only reason nuclear power has come up again is the availablity of public money. Boondoggles are always possible with "other people's money."

8:57AM PST on Mar 3, 2009

Given that the U.S. South/West has a water shortage and over-all our w.w.precious water is becoming filthier as we speak it was UNBELIEVABLE how much water it takes to both run and clean these nuclear facilities,the latter I read just yesterday in the latest American Legion magazine. What I don't recall stated though was just WHERE does even the rinse water go when they spray these nuclear facilities down was WHY I added the w.w. remark to this post. Also I voted no at the quick poll before the start of this thread.

8:03AM PST on Mar 3, 2009

What about nuclear waste?. Why worry, future generations can deal with that or maybe Australia can take it as Bush once indicated. You never saw a railway line built so fast as the one from Darwin Australia to anywhere south as was the case when the Howard government thought they were in with a chance to GO nuclear. Tough luck, all the preparation including conning the Aborigines in Northern Territory to give up their land entitlements because that land had already been covertly surveyed for a radioactive dump - adjacent to the new railway line.
What the perpetrators did not bargain on was the people kicking the Howard government to the you know where.
Don't relax though, they won't give up that easily.
The proponents have 'sleepers' planted everywhere in high profile corporative positions, in readiness to jump start the nuclear industry in Australia.
One such sleeper, a nuclear scientist masquerading as CEO of a major telecommunications company.
I have witnessed the atrocious impact on the human body from CONTROLLED, NOTE CONTROLLED radioactivity when my dear son was prepared for a bone marrow transplant. The 'treatment' completely stripped the mucous lining from his mouth through his gut and out the other end. It was horrific and pitiful. For two weeks this previously fit sportsman lay in almost a coma, no food, just a tube to hydrate him. I was there when he sucked a piece of ice. No one should be any where near this crap. Jamie died - RIP James

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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