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Nuclear Power
The world's natural resources are being consumed at an alarming rate. As these resources diminish, people will be seeking alternative means to generate electricity for heat and light. The only practical short term solution for the energy-crisis is nuclear power. Nuclear power, however is not as safe as burning coal, gas or oil in a factory. There are dangers associated with a nuclear power plant which far outweigh the benefits to society. About 20 percent of our nation's total electrical consumption per year is supplied by nuclear power from the 100 or so nuclear power plants throughout the country. Even though atomic power has been in use for over 50 years, it was primarily a tool of war and destruction. When the war ended, need for atomic bombs diminished and this destructive power began to utilized for peacetime purposes and was channeled into huge plants that would generate"clean and cheap " electricity for the country. It was called progress; however, this progress also brought with it sickness, mutations, cancer and eventually death to those exposed to high levels of radiation. The government declared that nuclear power is safe and efficient and big Oil corporations who have a lot of money invested in nuclear power and want to see as many plants as possible put into and kept in operation. Unfortunately, the hazards that surround nuclear power was never adequately examined and some of the mishaps that have resulted are quite devastating. An accident at a nuclear power plant has the potential to be much more hazardous than an accident at a coal or gas plant because of the radiation that could be released. An example of this is Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania where there was a partial core meltdown in march of 1979 and an "acceptable" amount of radiation escaped into the atmosphere. However, no amount of radiation is acceptable if released as a result of an accident at a nuclear power plant. Is Nuclear Power necessary ? Today many Americans adopt lifestyles that are based on energy inefficient devices such as automobiles and electric appliances that require electricity from energy-intense industrial processes. The public is doing all it can to force nuclear power plants into production by wasting electricity and the resources which are used to produce it ( coal , oil , gas) and by failing to recycle. Nuclear power has been promoted worldwide as being economically advantageous and necessary to replace fossil fuels as the means of energy production in the 21st century. This is not accurate as there are many other economically viable and environmentally safe methods of producing energy such as solar power, hydroelectric power, and wind power. Today, one fifth of the world's total energy production either comes from wind, water, or solar power. Is Nuclear Power worth the risks? With any large energy producing facility there are risks, however, the risks from a nuclear power plant are far greater. Meltdowns, cancer , radiation , mutations and eventually death are all possible risks. Meltdown or the explosion of the main reactor itself can release tons of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. The meltdown of a nuclear power plant would release a thousand times more radioactivity into the atmosphere than the bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Another possibility is "China Syndrome ", where the core of the reactor melts into the earth and reaches the water table of the area and contaminates it. Although Nuclear power plants do not give off any form of combustion, they do release minute traces of radioactive particles which contaminate the soil, water and air. They also release super heated water into lakes and rivers from the cooling of the reactor. This heats the water, killing fish and other types of marine life. The average or annual release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere shorten the lifespan of human beings by 37 minutes. This also raises the background level of radiation by 3%, thus adding an extra 7000 cancer deaths per year. The cases of cancer deaths go up in areas around nuclear power plants. Children with asthma living in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant are 50 times more likely to die of cancer than a healthy child living in the same area. Studies done by the EPA and NRC reveal that workers at nuclear power plants are more likely to die from cancer due to the proximity of radioactive elements. Naturally, occurring radiation in the environment is greater than the trace amounts given off by nuclear power plants; however people would rather not take the risk of being exposed to unnecessary amounts of radiation by living near a nuclear power plant. A recent EPA study on the worst case scenario of a nuclear accident concluded that if a nuclear reactor 1/5 the size of the Chernobyl plant in the former Soviet Union had a meltdown in a state the size of Pennsylvania, it would kill 45,000 people, contaminate 70% of the state, and cause seventeen million dollars worth of damage. If you multiply that by five, it would kill 225,000 and cause eighty five million dollars worth of damage and contaminate five times the amount of land. Have there ever been any Nuclear accidents in the United States? Accidents involving US nuclear power plants are very rare. This does not mean that they do not occur. In the early 1980's there was a fire at Yankee Atomic, a nuclear power plant in Massachusetts, destroying over 3 million dollars worth of electrical wiring in the reactor. It was caused by some workmen who were using matches to find a leak in the ventilation system of the reactor. The damage to the reactor was not serious but it was shut down for two weeks for repairs. If the situation had not been brought under control, the fire could have spread and caused a meltdown or serious leak . The most serious nuclear accident in the US was at three Mile Island Pennsylvania in 1979 when a coolant pipe was accidentally blocked. Cleaning and repairs of the blockage allowed no water to reach the reactor core to cool it down. The core ruptured and leaked radioactive particles into the atmosphere. The core itself came close to meltdown and if this had happened much of Pennsylvania , New York and New Jersey would have been contaminated by the radioactive fallout. Although today's nuclear power plants are relatively safe, the problem of accidents increases with every new plant that is built . With each new plant built, new of problems occur since this is a relatively young technology with people who are being trained on the job . Is Radioactivity dangerous? Radioactivity cannot be seen, felt, tasted, or smelled. It is an "invisible poison" that is released and produced by the plants. The average nuclear power plant contains more than 200,000 to 300,000 times the radioactive materials that are in standard nuclear warheads. Radioactivity destroys life, especially human life. A person exposed to a high level of radiation will die within 48 hours of exposure either due to infectious diseases caused by the destruction of the body's immune system from the radiation or by massive tissue bleeding. Humans above all other species are the most susceptible to radiation. Cockroaches and other types of insects can withstand 200 times more radiation exposure than humans before cancer or death occur. Radiation alters the electrical charge of the body's cells and allows cancer to form in the cells. Not all exposures to radiation cause cancer . The radiation may cause an incubation period of up to 40 years before full-blown cancer is diagnosed in the patient. By this time it is impossible to discover if it is cancer caused by radiation or no . Different doses of radiation will cause different problems. A dose of 2000 - 3000 REMs ( Roentgen Equivalent Man ) will cause brain tissue to swell, hemorrhage and will cause death . Five hundred REMs will stop the cells from dividing, will cause hair to fall out, and will cause ulcers to form on the skin . It also destroys the white blood cells and platelets that help to fight off disease and stop bleeding in the body. Besides cancer, radiation causes genetic defects and mutations in humans and other animals . These defects may lie dormant in one generation and reappear in the next . This create serious problems in the gene pool of the society by creating mutations and deformities. Recessive mutations may also occur. These are lack of vigor and energy , susceptibility to disease , and mental deficiency in humans. It is estimated that for every one visible genetic mutation or defect there are 10,000 non-visible recessive mutations that contaminate the gene pool of society . This could lead to more mutations and unnecessary deaths because the human body of a child whose mother was exposed to radiation and passed on deformed genes to her baby, may not be able to fight off common sicknesses. "Radiation may be one of the principal ecological agents responsible for human suffering and disease". This quote came from a congressional hearing on the safety of nuclear power in the early 70's where it was declared that radiation was and is dangerous to human beings and other species of animals and that nuclear power plants are highly dangerous and inefficient for their purposes . Why not Solar power or other alternatives ? The amount of energy that reaches the earth from the sun on any given day is far greater than that consumed by Americans in any given year. To harness this and turn it into something that is much needed and very useful would be a great alternative to nuclear power plants. Having no moving parts, producing no pollution, consuming no fuel, and operating at environmental temperatures, solar collectors are very clean and efficient. They produce a practically free form of electricity and would provide electricity at a very low price. Nuclear power plants average a build time of 10 years and cost millions of dollars. This means that vast implementation of nuclear reactors in the near future is virtually impossible and unrealistic . Solar power receptors, on the other hand cost a fraction of the price and take less time to manufacture than nuclear plants. Although nuclear power has its drawbacks and limitations, it still seems to be the primary choice for energy production today because of lack of technology in the other fields of energy production. It is surprising why solar power has not been mass implemented already to power our country and the world. The materials used to build solar collectors ( silicon , plastics) are readily available. Silicon makes up the second most abundant element in the earth's crust. These panels could be placed virtually anywhere on the roofs of houses and buildings or into the sides of the buildings themselves . Solar power could be a reality today, however, oil companies such as Exxon, who are the leading researchers in nuclear and solar technology, would rather have the nuclear plant because it would produce more money than the solar system. Solar power is a cheaper source of electricity being powered by the sun. Oil monopolies buy out smaller companies which are developing feasible solar power plants to keep them from being implemented and to maintain the hold on the fossil fuel market. Solar energy and thermonuclear fusion are great alternatives to the nuclear reactor but these will not be mass implemented until well into the next century. That does not solve the problem for today. To keep the number of nuclear power plants as low as possible, people need to conserve energy, change lifestyles, and recycle more of their wastes. We need to be less dependent on electricity and electrical products. Conservation must be implemented by government policies and guide lines . To have any effect at all on the amount of electricity that is consumed. "Anything that slows down the development of solar energy, the one cheap limitless source of energy that cannot be shut down by war or embargo, is undermining the national security of the United States " . Nuclear power has been a constant threat to all of our lives because of the many problems it has and to the many accidents that can occur . Nuclear power is a dangerous and deadly tool that should not be taken lightly . Sadly this is exactly what has happened in regard to the accidents at Three Mile Island and again at the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union . In both cases inexperience and ignorance played major roles in the accidents . Hopefully this may never happen again and nuclear power will be phased out to the safer fusion reactor and the very appealing solar power generator .


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