Don’t ignore nuclear power


Chase Wheeler, Staff Writer

While climate change may be a sensitive topic for some, it is undeniable that the globe is facing changes caused by our extensive use of fossil fuels. What many may not know is that an answer has already been found. Nuclear power is a topic that many never consider as an alternative energy source even though it already provides a substantial amount to our current power grid.

When people think of the word nuclear the first things that come to mind are the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the meltdown at Chernobyl. The only news that ever seems to result from nuclear energy is the harm that it can cause and not the myriad of benefits and problems that it could solve. Nuclear power carries its risks just like any other energy source but the available reward can no longer just be ignored. 

Since the 1990s, roughly 20% of American power comes from nuclear power plants and the energy that they produce is much more concentrated than those that use fossil fuels. It would take between two to four coal or renewable plants to generate the same amount of energy as a single nuclear plant. The energy that is produced from the nuclear plants is zero-emission, so no additional carbon is released into the air in order to make the energy. 

The main issue that arises with other sources of renewable energy such as wind or solar power is that it fluctuates. All of its produced power is not under our control. Every day the sun will rise and the wind will blow but not every second, there are points that no energy is produced from these sources. Nuclear energy is what is known as a “firm” power, which means that it is reliable and can be used whenever needed. While there are other “firm” renewable sources of energy, nuclear is by far the most efficient and the most understood. 

Even though nuclear power is beneficial in the last few decades the amount of nuclear plants has been on a decline in America. One of the most recent of these closures was the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York that was only 30 miles away from Manhattan. When operational, the plant was able to provide more energy to the state of New York than both wind and solar. One of the reasons the plant was closed was due to its proximity to a large population as if something were to happen the city would have faced the brunt of whatever transpired. Another reason was the river that fed into the plant, in order to produce energy, which led to many creatures being sucked in and killed. The complaints levied against the plant are valid. However, shutting down the plant will only mean that even more energy will be needed from fossil fuels.

The energy that will replace that of the closed power plant will be natural gas, setting us back yet another step. By removing nuclear power we become even more dependent on fossil fuels, instead of using renewable sources to replace them. In some parts of the world, the effects of climate change are already apparent and the more fossil fuels we use the sooner we will learn firsthand the effects of climate change. 

The effects of climate change have not become a question of if but of when. Until more reliable sources of clean energy emerge nuclear remains vital to slowing climate change. By shutting down these plants we make the present a brighter place but create a dark future. People are right to be scared of the dangers inherent with nuclear energy, but much of the funding that goes into nuclear energy goes into safety. Nuclear energy will not completely stop the effects of climate change but if people see the benefits provided it could be used as a way to slow it.