By Nicole Encalada,
Tech & Innovation Writer
In the midst of growing concerns about global warming, top environmentalists such as James Hanson and Stewart Brand are becoming more enthused about using nuclear as a stepping-stone to slow down and ultimately stop global warming, as reported by Observer.com. The only content that comes out of the cooling towers is water vapor.
It had recently been reported that a nuclear reactor would open in the Spring City, Tennessee. This will be the first opening of a reactor in the United States in nearly twenty years. The reactor, called Watts Bar Unit II, was in fact built throughout the 1970’s and 80’s while unit I was also being built. While both reactors are identical in technology and safety, Unit II will now run with the idea of being a mitigating source for fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are a negative contributor when it comes to climate change. When fossil fuels are burned, they emit CO2 emissions into the atmosphere which is certainly cause for concern and not to mention a means for innovation. While this reactor was dormant for a few decades, climate strategists had pondered the future of renewable energy and thought of nuclear as being the top-drawer selection. While other options included cleaning coal and building energy-storing batteries, nuclear was the only choice that actually existed.
It is expected for the Watts Bar to provide power for 1.5 million homes which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the only emissions coming from cars.
There is also a huge incentive to use nuclear power in the developing world in countries such as India, Turkey, and China- considering the fatal levels of air pollution which kill millions every year.
Nuclear power may have many pros, there is still a considerable setback: expenditures. In order for these plants to be safe, billions of dollars must be spent in permits, inspection, materials, and specialized construction. It seems, needless to say, that the cost is what has been keeping these plans from coming into fruition. The cost is mainly in construction and is artificially inflated. The positive side to having such high costs is that the costs are part of what makes nuclear the safe way to go.
As with many burgeoning ideas, there is always a plethora of concerns that go beyond costs. While nuclear is said to be a safe choice, there is danger with the radiation it emits.
According to David Lochbaum, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientist’s Nuclear Safety Project, “Those radioactive missiles can hit the human body and damage cells or DNA”. Enough radiation can even cause cancer or genetic mutations in children.
Even Bernie Sanders has his own oppositions to using nuclear power stating that, “Even in a perfect world where energy companies didn’t make mistakes, nuclear power is and always has been a dangerous idea because there is no good way to store nuclear waste”. Sanders refers to the opening of new plants as “catastrophe waiting to happen”.
However, plants such as Watts Bar II do not release as much radiation into the environment and it is highly unlikely for it to cause cancer or any health damages for that matter.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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