Drew Lassig

Topic List:

To find issues that people were talking about I googled “world news” and “news”. Unsurprisingly everything was political and boring. A few of the topics I did find interesting involved hacking, a Russian spy ship, and youths vs. the future. I guess if I need to find a topic that people are talking about I will have to listen in on conversations. I am curious if I have to pick a major topic, or just one of persistent importance.

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Research and Writing Calendar:

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Part I: Introduction

Nuclear Energy- Helpful or Hindering?

      Nuclear energy is a relatively modern discovery whose benefits are hotly debated whenever possible. These arguments often run in parallel to each other: safety concerns are either unfounded or disproportionate, depending on who you ask. Is the expense too great? What about its development into weapons? Is it better for the climate? Is the promise of unlimited energy truly worth the risk of horrible fallout and instant, unforgiving death? These are questions that there is no right or wrong answer to- one must consider both risk and reward when dealing with something as powerful and dangerous as the atom. Personally I believe that the technology involved has evolved to be safe if handled carefully.

Part II: Definitions

Nuclear Energy: Energy created  from nuclear power plants.

Nuclear Power Plant: Basically a steam turbine that uses fission to create steam.

Nuclear Fission: When the nucleus of an atom splits into several parts. Releases a massive amount of energy.

Steam Turbine: Extracts energy from pressurized steam, using it to spin a mechanical shaft.

Renewable Energy: Energy that is naturally replenished from renewable sources.

Nuclear Reactor: Device used to sustain a nuclear chain reaction.

Critical Mass: Smallest amount of fissile material needed for a nuclear chain reaction.

Non-renewable Energy: Energy that is not easily replenished by natural sources.

Part III: Opposing View

      Opposite of my beliefs are some important facts from nuclear nay- sayers. The first and most relevant fact to those considering the construction of a nuclear plant is cost. The average cost of building a nuclear plant is two billion dollars, a substantial amount. Additionally, to deconstruct that same plant is worth another billion (Drmota par 5).  Both ends of this process can take several years, as the nuclear material involved is unstable and potentially very dangerous. Furthermore, fifty percent of U.S. based nuclear plants are unprofitable, and the industry is shrinking following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster (Miser).

      The second major point brought forward is the potential for nuclear disaster. The most well known nuclear disaster is of course the steam explosion in reactor number 4 at Chernobyl, which covered the USSR and most of Europe in nuclear fallout and lead to the immediate death of thirty one people, with others dying later from radiation poisoning, cancer, and other nuclear side effects. The risk of danger when running a nuclear plant is extremely low, but when something goes wrong the consequences are severe. The immediate area around Chernobyl will be reportedly uninhabitable for several thousand years, but has since become something equivalent to a wildlife sanctuary and tourist destination (Backgrounder).

      The third major point relates to point two specifically- if a nuclear disaster happens, what effect will radiation have on the human body and the community? Unfortunately, we have witnessed its effects firsthand multiple times. When the Fukushima Daiichi plant had three of its six reactors melt down due to a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami, the area around the plant was devastated. Two hundred thousand people were evacuated. 4.5 million were without power. 1.5 million didn’t have water. Four hundred thousand buildings collapsed as a direct result of the triple disaster, and sixteen thousand people lost their lives immediately (Goebel 2). When dealing with something as dangerous as nuclear energy, you have to make sure that the plant itself is in a safe and secluded location.

Part IV: My View

      Despite these risks, it is important to remember that nuclear power has done more good for the world than bad. Primarily, it provides a nearly unlimited source of energy from easily obtainable materials found in almost every environment. A reactor never needs to be shut down, meaning that it can run 24 hours a day year- round without a loss of efficiency (Smith). Additionally, nuclear energy currently powers around twenty percent of the U.S. at an extremely high efficiency rating (Miser). Because a nuclear reactor is basically a giant steam engine, the energy produced is also incredibly clean. The nuclear waste produced in- plant can be reused in the reactor as a form of cheap nuclear reprocessing. Nuclear energy therefore remains the single cleanest and most efficient source of energy known to man.

      The secondary factor to my opinion is safety. Of every nuclear disaster, not one has been because of a faulty plant. You can analyze Chernobyl and notice that it was human error during a routine test combined with poor maintenance that caused the plant to explode (Backgrounder). You can analyze Fukushima Daiichi and see that the plant wouldn’t have melted down if it wasn’t for the earthquake and following tsunami (Goebel). You can look at Three Mile Island and see, like at Chernobyl, that the plant was fine- it was, again, human error. Therefore it is mandatory to consider that if a plant is kept in good condition away from geological problem areas and managed autonomously it will never fail in doing its job safely and efficiently. Disasters that have happened and the ensuing destruction was the result of poor preparedness and planning, as well as laziness and little concern for public safety if such a disaster was every to occur.

      In a brief summary, I believe that if nuclear energy is carefully managed and distributed it is more beneficial than dangerous. It is something to understand and control. This issue may be comparable to the early vaccination debate- although a vaccine infects you with a disease, it saves you from that same disease down the line through immunity. In the case of nuclear energy, you may have a plant with the potential for disaster- but in the immediate and foreseeable future you will have an unlimited source of energy that doesn’t harm the environment.

Working Bibliography

Drmota, Vojta. “A Tale of Two Stances: Germany’s Development and Fear of Nuclear                    Energy.” 2017: 2. Ebscohost. Web. 17 Mar 2017.

Miser, Tim. “What’s in Store for Nuclear?” Nov 2016: 3. Ebscohost. Web. 17 Mar 2017.

“Backgrounder on Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident.” United States Nuclear                          Regulatory Commission. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  12 Dec 2014.                Web. 17 Mar 2017.

Goebel et al. “How Natural Disasters can Affect Environmental Concerns, Risk Aversion,           and Even Politics: Evidence from Fukushima and Three European Countries.” 1 July               2015: 2. Ebscohost. Web. 21 Mar 2017.

Smith et al. “Nuclear Power- Pros and Cons.” Jamestown Community College. N.p. 2013.           Web. 21 Mar 2017