A Farewell to the Nuclear Power Plant?
Remember those vast towers belching smoke in a well-known cartoon? Remember the sinister hum of the nuclear reactor, the three-eyed fish in the waste pond, and the general evil demeanor of the plant’s owner? Nuclear power plants often don’t have a great name for themselves. It might therefore been seen as a relief to some to hear that many in the states are closing down…but why are they?
Let’s take a closer look at nuclear power…
- Uranium is a finite resource and we are using up what we have.
- Mining uranium and building power plants are not environmentally friendly endeavors; they do a lot of damage and create a lot of pollution.
- The disposal of radioactive waste is a difficult. Much of the waste emits radiation and high temperatures that will inevitably consume whatever holds it
- Accidents happen as we have seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima and these accidents can have vast, lasting, and terrible impacts.
So nuclear power is evil…right?
- Once the plant is built, nuclear power production is very low in pollution. They do not emit CO2 like oil and gas powered plants do. In fact, if the fuel we get from power plants was produced by fossil fuels instead, we would be adding an additional 2.2 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
- You may think that the plants are emitting radiation out into their surroundings as we speak, but actually, a coal-fired plant produces 100 times the radiation! I comes from the fly ash – the ash produced after the fuel is burnt – which emits its own radiation
Ok, so nuclear power plants aren’t great. We’d love to see sustainable energy being used everywhere. In the US, there are nearly 100 reactors at 60 different nuclear plants and many are nearing the end of their lifespan. Five have been shut down in the past five years and five more are set to shut down by 2026. It would be fantastic if we could see these replaced with something more sustainable. However, with the low cost of natural gas in the states, many nuclear plants are unable to compete. In total, one third of nuclear power plants are set to close down or are unprofitable and the constant drive for profit is likely to see them replaced by something far more damaging. With the Trump administration currently dismantling every major policy aimed at lowering emissions in the US and a report that only on of the world’s 20 biggest economies is anywhere near reducing fossil fuels, it’s hard to imagine seeing an improvement in the coming years…
In 2019 we will have to watch where the future of power lies. Whatever happens it is more important than ever that we are all inspired to care for the environment in our daily lives