The United States Must Abandon Nuclear Power

analytical Essay
3557 words
3557 words

The United States Must Abandon Nuclear Power

The United States must re-examine many policies previously accepted as reasonable, especially its own national energy policy. As the largest overall and per capita energy consumer in the world, the U.S. needs to decide upon a reasonable source of energy for the foreseeable future, especially since its energy needs will increase dramatically during that time. With political instability likely to remain the norm in the Middle East, oil continues to be an energy source of questionable reliability; in addition, current estimates of worldwide reserves suggest we may in fact run out of oil entirely in the next fifty years. Natural gas reserves are in fairly short supply too, and costs limit its uses as well. Another major alternative, coal, has become the nation’s leading energy source (providing more than 55% of the country’s electricity), and projected supplies could last for hundreds of years (Sweet 49). However, the tremendous output by coal-fired plants of CO2—the major “greenhouse” gas—along with other atmospheric pollutants makes it equally as undesirable as oil.

The final major source of energy on which the U.S. currently depends is nuclear power, and many (including the author of a Time magazine article in the April 29, 1991 issue) see it as a viable alternative, provided solutions are found to a few “minor” difficulties. Once the facts are known, though, it becomes clear that nuclear power (both fission and fusion) is not the answer to our current U. S. energy dilemma, primarily because it presents great risks and creates tremendous pollution hazards, and, further, because it also will continue to support the status quo of huge multi-national corporations dominating e...

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...Dangers of Nuclear Power. London: New English Library, 1986.

Croall, Stephen. Nuclear Power for Beginners. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.

Curtis, Richard, and Elizabeth Hogan with Shel Horowitz. Nuclear Lessons: An Examination of Nuclear Power’s Safety, Economic and Political Record. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1980.

Faulkner, Peter, ed. The Silent Bomb. New York: Random House, 1977.

Greenwald, John. “Time to Choose,” Time 29 April 1991: 54-62.

Shrader-Frechette, K. S. Nuclear Power and Public Policy: The Social and Ethical Problems of Fission Technology. Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1980.

Stoler, Peter. Decline and Fail: The Ailing Nuclear Power Industry. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,1985.

Sweet, William. The Nuclear Age: Atomic Energy, Proliferation and the Arms Race. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1988.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the united states must re-examine many policies previously accepted as reasonable, especially its national energy policy.
  • Argues that nuclear power is an expensive and unreliable source of power under the control of companies with disgraceful safety records.
  • Explains that the origins of nuclear power should be enough to give one pause; fission reactions (albeit uncontrolled ones) were originally intended to be used as weapons. the manhattan project, its use in japan and the effect on world war ii are all well-known.
  • Analyzes the relationship between the fledgling nuclear industry and the military-industrial complex and other large multi-national corporations.
  • Explains that the u.s. government created the atomic energy commission (aec) in 1946, which was responsible for regulating the nuclear industry and promoting it.
  • Argues that nuclear plants are highly susceptible to a wide variety of disasters.
  • Argues that nuclear industry supporters scoff at terrorism and serious accidents as not credible threats, but accidents happen with alarming regularity, and true calamities have been narrowly averted.
  • Explains that the earliest major accident in a u.s. reactor occurred on january 3, 1961, shattering the industry's widespread claim that "no one has ever died because of nuclear reactors."
  • Analyzes how the "experimental reactor" argument loses ground when addressing accidents that occur at fully operational commercial reactors.
  • Explains that nuclear proponents often suggest that the safety benefits resulting from standardized reactor design would safeguard against many possible hazards, yet they fail to address costs and waste disposal.
  • Explains that nuclear plants are the single most expensive way to produce energy, despite early claims that they would be too cheap to meter. the rapid escalating price of uranium and the excessive down-times of many reactors contribute to nuclear-generated electricity being 25% more expensive than coal.
  • Explains that uranium contributes heavily to the upward-spiralling costs of nuclear plant operation.
  • Explains that breeder reactors were supposed to solve any shortages of uranium and create a "virtually limitless" supply of fuel.
  • Compares the toxicity of plutonium and the time-scales involved with it. the average modern nuclear plant produces 500 pounds of uranium per year of operation.
  • Argues that renewable energy is based on flexibility of energy sources, since the sun doesn't always shine, nor the wind always blows.
  • Opines that nuclear energy must not play a part in the final picture of the united states' energy future. government and industry giants are blind to the dangers for fear of losing their monopoly on energy.
  • Opines that the united states must re-examine its entire energy base, using a variety of power sources except the one it can't afford to use on any level.
  • Explains that cook, judith, red alert: the worldwide dangers of nuclear power.
  • Reviews curtis, richard, and elizabeth hogan's nuclear lessons: an examination of nuclear power’s safety, economic and political record.
  • Explains shrader-frechette's nuclear power and public policy: the social and ethical problems of fission technology.
  • Describes stoler, peter, and dodd, mead and company's decline and fail: the ailing nuclear power industry.
  • Explains sweet, william, the nuclear age: atomic energy, proliferation and the arms race.
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