The chief goal of this essay is aimed at presenting a case for the necessity of pursuing alternative sources of energy through nuclear power plants, done not only on account of catering to the extensive needs of the country but also – or, even more so – to prevent any type of eventuality involving energy shortage in the future. Corollary to such a goal, this paper is likewise being pursued on account of a felt need to convince key government agencies and cause-oriented groups about the perceivable beneficial results directly resulting from the establishment of nuclear power plants far, notwithstanding certain unavoidable but manageable risks. In particular, this paper takes a keen interest on briefly squaring with and responding to the concerns leveled by the United States Government Accountability Office, as well as the legitimate issues raised by other critics expressed conspicuously in their respective websites.
Expanding Economy, Oil-Peak and Environmental Concerns
The continuing expansion of the United States’ economy, notwithstanding recent recession developments, constitutes one of the most compelling evidences that lend strong justification to the necessity of erecting more nuclear power plants across the country. In many ways, despite recent news about the economic slump, the country brims over with the prospect of creating new industries, initiating infrastructure projects, sustaining major cities and running the entire transportation sector in the years to come. By inference, the country’s energy consumption would increase – and increase inescapably. In fact, this prospect has been articulated The Energy Information Administration, when it claimed that the American economy would require an additional “40%” on top of its present energy needs “between 2010 and 2030” in order to survive its projected economic expansion (Testa 19).
Such scenario has yet to capture the implication of the larger picture. If truth be said, Americans face a grimmer outlook because of a stiffer world competition for energy sources, owing much to the rapid economic expansion of newly industrializing countries such as China and India. According to Vivien Walt, writing for Time Magazine, the world would require double the energy it presently consumes by 2030 (Oil Prices, It Gets Worse). Interestingly, this has been the same contention which was raised by the International Nuclear Energy Academy. According to the institution’s studies, China and India can pose serious threats to the sustainability of world energy, especially in respect to the needs of the United States, as they are set to “triple” their energy demands in the next 80 years or so (qtd. in Warming to Nuclear 25).
Secondly, it merits noting that the issue relative to the progressively expanding energy needs of the United States, and of the world at that, is intricately knitted to the country’s high dependence on energy coming from fossil fuels. To be sure, this conundrum is easily demonstrable: if the country fails tap the full potentials of alternative sources of energy within the next few years, the prospect of crude oil depletion can spell the biggest drawback for the American economy. In other words, America needs to be prepare for a “peak oil” scenario – i.e., that there will come a time when “the world will be unable to produce more oil” (Warming to Nuclear 25). And the country can very well end up in a better position to face this telling crisis by resorting to the immediate erection of nuclear reactors to produce energy.
What needs to be done, in view of such tall crisis, is to reduce dependence on fossil oil. In order to do this, both the Federal and State authorities have to exhaust all means necessary to explore alternative sources of energy. To date, the country has yet to tap the fullest potentials of its alternative energy sources; i.e., energy coming from biofuel production, geothermal release, hydropower, solar and wind power comprise a meager 10% of the country’s entire energy production (Renewable Energy Tops 14). All the more, the country needs to appreciate the benefits of resorting to nuclear energy; for unlike all other alternatives, only nuclear power has the potential of “becoming America’s primary source of low-cost, low-emission energy” (Krueger & Sather 56). The reason for this is more scientifically demonstrable than logically construable. For instance, when compared to solar panels, nuclear reactors can produce a lot more energy owing much to its higher density. Concurring to such an observation, Tucker in his book Terrestrial Energy contends:
There is one great difference between terrestrial energy and solar energy, and that is the energy density. Terrestrial energy is far more concentrated – by a factor of about two million. (qtd. in Schulz 90).
Last but not least, the quest to discover a cleaner source of energy, especially in the face of mounting pressures that take cue from environmental concerns, must give the government more reasons to adopt measures that offer incentives for industries willing to take part in any nuclear energy programs. There is no denying that the most viable way by which America can produce energy on the one hand, yet cut back on its carbon emissions on the other hand, lies in the adoption of a more comprehensive nuclear energy program. Scientific researches have proven that nuclear power does not pose as much danger as carbon dioxide emissions do. In fact, nuclear power is touted as a “clean technology” in that it “can generate enormous volumes of power, without pollution or greenhouse gas emissions” (Schulz 90).
Having laid the main arguments, it would be wise to briefly cite and respond to the concerns and objections relative to adoption of nuclear energy. Herein it is necessary to cite how the United States Government Accountability Office has repeatedly raised safety concerns being neglected by existing nuclear power plants. The agency claims that the Office of Health, Safety and Security’s alleged laxity in implementing an “effective independent oversight of nuclear safety” is alarming (Nuclear Safety). This, in essence, is also the chief contention leveled by the group named Public Citizen in respect nuclear power’s health and environmental hazards. It claims: nuclear power…produces both low and high-level radioactive waste that remains dangerous for several hundred thousand years” (Public Citizen 1). Despite these claims, there are reasons to think that, on account of certain steps which are being undertaken so as to ensure that such risks are going to being handled competently, the overall benefits of having to construct more nuclear reactors would not really compromise the health of the people, as well as the wellbeing of the nature. Specifically, it has to be noted that contemporary scientific research is doing all that it could to create “Generation 4” nuclear reactors which engender “at the least the same level of safety but with much improved performances in uranium use and less generation of long-lived radioactive waste” (Warming to Nuclear 16).
It must be affirmed therefore that nuclear power is the most viable solution that can best address the looming energy crisis set to take its course in the next few decades. The discussion hereinabove developed have brought into the fore three chief benefits ensuing from this proposal: first, that nuclear power can provide an expanding American economy with sustainable energy; second, that the sheer volume of energy which nuclear reactors can produce must be taken as a composite alternative to fossil fuels; and third, that nuclear power would not be exceedingly detrimental to the environment and the public’s health, especially on account of certain risk-management initiatives taken with aid of new technologies and continuing research.
Krueger, D. & Sather, R. “The Challenges Faced by the U.S. Nuclear Industry”. Electric Light and Power, November-December 2008.
“Public Citizen. “The Fatal Flaws of Nuclear Power”. 04 December 2008 <http://www.citizen.org/documents/FatalFlawsSummary.pdf>.
Renewable Energy Tops 10 Percent of U.S. Production”. Southwest Farm Press, 16 October 2008.
Schulz, M. “Nuclear Recover”. The American Spectator. December 2008 – January 2009.
The United States Government Accountability Office. “Nuclear Safety: Department of Energy Needs to Strengthen Its Independent Oversight of Nuclear Facilities and Operation”. October 2008.
Testa, B. “Nuclear Energy Makes a Comeback”. American Planning Association, November 2008.
Walt, V. “Oil Prices: It Gets Worse”. Time Magazine, November 07, 2007. 04 December 2008 <http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1681362,00.html>.
“Warming to Nuclear”. Finweek, 16 October 2008.