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
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
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
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
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 .