The response is an easy yes. With this technology that we’ve had for nearly a century, we can realistically ditch fossil fuels, while powering an industrustrialized world who’s energy consumption only continues to rise. As powerful as nuclear energy is, however, there’s a few things it can’t power through, and at the top of that list; is misinformation.
We are in the twenty-first century and our primary method of energy production is lighting some rocks on fire? I’m no scientist but that sounds primitive even to me.
Often we think of nuclear reactors and we think of accidents like the Chernoybyl meltdown or the Fukushima, Japan disaster where lives were lost and radiation was leaked. While these instances are no doubt tragedies, the numbers don’t nearly compare to those of oil rig workers. Compared to coal mining, where developing lung problems is not uncommon, workers at nuclear reactors hardly ever deal with the energy material and instead rely on control rods, a pool of water separating the nuclear matter, and computerized machines to deal with necessary adjustments to the energy extraction process. The risks of accidents and health complications continue to go down as more safety features are developed.
The world’s energy consumption is increasing at a rapid pace and we simply have no choice but to embrace technological innovation. We are in the twenty-first century and our primary method of energy production is lighting some rocks on fire? I’m no scientist but that sounds primitive even to me. This issue of burning fossil fuels is just as unsustainable as it is obsolete. Everyone knows that coal doesn’t grow on trees, and we know it takes over a hundred million years, so really fossil fuels should just be looked at as a credit line to use until we have a sustainable infrastructure ready to replace it.
Now one cannot bring up fossil fuels without bringing up the elephant in the room (the same one that won’t be around if we don’t fix up); climate change. Fossil fuels are the number one driver of greenhouse gasses and it’s not even close. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the thick, black fumes coming out of a coal refinery and know it’s probably not the healthiest for our environment. Nuclear reactors on the other hand, produce zero carbon dioxide and barely a 5th of other greenhouse gasses. For some, these environmental issues don’t matter all that much and view it as a problem for another generation. The thing is, the next generations are going to inherit what we leave for them, and that includes a messed up earth. How can we hug our grandchildren and simultaneously support the destruction of their home.
I can go on about the green benefits of nuclear energy and its zero carbon footprint. We can look at the efficiency of a technology that with a pellet the size of a fingernail generates as much power as one ton of coal. A question arises when looking at all these facts; if it’s so obvious this is the way forward, why are we not embracing it. Well, a big reason for that is the reluctance shown by politicians. Members of Congress and the current administration alike have expressed concern over the economic loss of mining and rigging production. Representatives and senators from states like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, are many times backed by big players in the fossil fuel industry as well as their constituents who are reluctant to let go of something they’ve known for so long. What these people fail to mention however, is nuclear plant building and maintenance could have a higher demand if put into full production than the fossil fuel industry. On the other side of the political spectrum, democratic progressives have called for the halt of nuclear power plant production in the effort to promote programs like the Green New Deal, when in reality, nuclear energy should be going hand in hand with the effort. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, the UN Sustainable Solutions Network and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate are just a handful of agencies that call on the major production of nuclear power plants. What then is the place for these green technologies that aren’t quite there yet? Being the ranch dressing to nuclear energy’s salad.
The time for action is now and we need to start by adopting something in front of this instead of trying to invent the wheel. Nuclear energy has the potential of revolutionizing our power generation process as we know and nearly all scientists in the field agree on that. The next step is to reach out to our elected officials, schools, and community members to start the conversation going because whether we like it or not, we’re going to need a powerful technology to… well, power us.