15 May 2005
Don't Support Nuclear Energy!
These days, it seems like everyone is worried about how the world will meet its energy demands when we have run out of oil and natural gas. Scientists and researchers are investigating such power sources as solar energy, wind energy, and even energy from hot rocks beneath the earth's surface. However, there is one energy source that I believe should not be developed any further. In fact, I believe that we should stop using it as soon as possible. Even though it can provide the world with a source of electricity, nuclear power is not a good energy source because it is too expensive, the materials used in the power stations are not safe, and there is a great possibility of accidents.
Nuclear power is not an economical energy source. First of all, nuclear fuel is expensive. It must be taken out of the ground and transported great distances. As fuels are used up, they will become even more expensive, just as oil and gas have. In addition, nuclear power stations cost a lot of money to build and to operate because of the great care that must be taken with safety. Because the people who work in nuclear power stations must be highly trained specialists, salaries for workers are also high.
In addition to being expensive, nuclear materials are not safe. When uranium is taken out of the ground, radioactive gas is released. This is not safe for the miners. Uranium itself is not safe either because of its high radioactivity. Because of this, people who work with nuclear fuels are at risk of cancer. As nuclear power stations run, they create nuclear waste, which also is dangerous. It is very radioactive, and it is difficult to dispose of or even to store safely. No town wants nuclear waste buried nearby, and for good reason.
Most significantly, there is always a possibility of nuclear accidents. The power stations themselves can fail when they get old or if they are not built correctly. The machinery can malfunction, too. In 1979, problems at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station in the United States resulted in radioactive materials escaping into the nearby community. More recently, equipment failures were responsible for accidents in power stations in Tarapur, India in 1992, and Darlington, Canada, also in 1992. Both of these accidents led to leaks of radioactive material.
It is not just buildings and equipment which can fail, but people, too. Workers at nuclear power stations can make mistakes. Perhaps the most famous of these incidents occurred at Chernobyl, in the former USSR, in 1986. Radioactivity from the Chernobyl accident was recorded as far away as Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and even Japan. Human error has been responsible for numerous power plant accidents. Some recent well-known examples include Kola, Russia, where workers accidentally caused an equipment failure in 1991, and Tokaimura, Japan, in 1999. There is no way we can guarantee that workers will not make mistakes again in the future.
Even natural disasters can affect nuclear power plants. An earthquake in Bulgaria in 1977 damaged the nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, and a big storm in the Pacific Ocean in 1981 washed nuclear waste from Moruroa out into the ocean. Of course, it is impossible for people to predict or to prevent events like this. Different types of severe weather or natural disasters can strike almost anywhere in the world.
It is true that oil and gas cannot supply all of the world's energy needs much longer. However, we cannot replace them with an energy source that is expensive and dangerous, from the time the fuels are taken out of the ground to even after the plant is running. Instead, we must develop cheaper and, most importantly, safer types of energy to power our world.