Far out in the Arkansas countryside, surrounded by wooded hills and a deep river, the instantly recognizable cooling tower caught my eye. It made me wonder, why is nuclear energy so controversial anyway? I have to admit, the scene that day was idyllic. It did not match at all the way TV and movies have portrayed nuclear power plants. What I saw was a prosperous area full of people a mere stone’s throw from the plant. Recreational boaters pulled skiers literally in the shadow of those cooling towers. Years later, 2011, I find that I had some misconceptions about nuclear power and that the industry has quietly come back to life here in the United States. In fact, since 1995 we have derived about 20% of our electricity from nuclear reactors (Energy Information Administration, 2011). I’ve come to realize that nuclear needs to play an even larger part in our energy mix along with wind and other technologies; it’s safer than ever and cleaner by far than coal or natural gas. Even with the challenges of radioactive waste and high capital cost, nuclear deserves a place at the front of U.S. energy production.
Those opposed to nuclear power are likely to believe that it is just not a safe industry, despite the fact that no accident at a nuclear power plant in the United States has ever resulted in death or serious injury. Some of us might recall the incident referred to simply as “Three Mile Island (TMI)” that happened back in 1979. It was an accident that anti-nuclear groups and sensationalist journalism exaggerated out of proportion immediately sending policy makers and the public into an anti-nuke frenzy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which oversees all nuclear energy activities in the Un...
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Wald, M. (2005, December 27). Scientists try to resolve nuclear problem with an old technology made new again. The New York Times, section F. Retrieved October 9, 2011, from LexisNexis Academic.
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