Is Nuclear Power an Answer to the Energy Crisis?

Renewable energy — By on February 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm
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Nuclear power

Talk about nuclear power has been resurrected again with grim news about climate change and the push for energy independence for the United States.  In fact, an Oregon State University (OSU) professor, Brian Woods, claims that nuclear power has a bright future and advocates construction of nuclear power plants across the nation to meet “future energy needs.”

Is nuclear power truly an answer to the energy crisis?  If you could live near solar panels or wind turbines, or a nuclear reactor, which would you choose?

Apparently, Professor Woods is only looking at the energy generation side of the equation when he considers alternative energy.  With respect to nuclear power, he states:

“I think we stack up very well against all other types of energy sources.  Nuclear emits the lowest amount of carbon dioxide, lower than solar and wind, because of the manufacturing processes used in making those systems.”

Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration the tremendous costs associated with nuclear power generation, and the risks  of potential accidents (anyone remember Three Mile Island in the 1970s?) and leakage.  Acknowledging the concerns about nuclear waste, Professor Woods counters that “every type of energy production has some sort of waste product.”

That may be true, but I prefer mine not to be glowing and radioactive!

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The Trojan nuclear power plant in Oregon

Other people minimize the risks associated with nuclear waste, stating that the amount of waste resulting from energy generation for each person over a lifetime can be fit into a soda can.  Multiply that by the population and you end up with billions (trillions?) of radioactive cans that have to be buried somewhere.  Not to mention the fact that the waste is dangerous for millions of years.

Do you feel safer now?  Me neither.

At OSU, the Department of Engineering and Radiation Health Physics are working to develop reactor designs that will allegedly address cost, safety and environmental issues associated with nuclear power generation.  Since these students and faculty stand to profit from their studies, its not too surprising to hear that they believe nuclear to be the best overall option to ease the pressure on limited energy resources.

Unless and until the issues are thoroughly studied and vetted, however, I am much more interested in seeing alternative energy funds invested in research and development of solar panels, wind or geothermal.

The bottom line is that we have to weigh the very minimal amounts of CO2 emissions that may result from solar or wind manufacturing against the long-term safety and cost issues associated with operation of nuclear power plants.  Those issues have not been satisfactorily addressed yet.

And they may never be.

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  1. James says:

    How do i know this is a reliable source. there is no clear indication on who Proffesor woods is and the university he studies/studied at?

  2. Simon says:

    We agree there are risks with nuclear power, but your remark “Not to mention the fact that the waste is dangerous for millions of years” needs to be challenged.

    The fuel that goes into a reactor is dangerous, and is MORE dangerous when it is removed. Within 200-300 years it has returned to it’s original radiation levels, NOT millons.

  3. Craig says:

    You would be more believable if you would abandon the rolling eyes, and juvenile ‘it’s sooooo obvious .duhhh.’ tone of voice.

    There WILL be nuclear plants built and if windmills were so duhhh…. OBvious, then Denmark ( read Copenhagen, darling of the greens ) wouldnt be having to buy nuclear and hydro to supplement its wind farms when windmill do exactly what everyone( except you guys) says they do which is fall short of demand when the wind doesnt blow.
    ANd if renewables were so Duhh… obvious..then Denmark wouldnt STILL be meeting 80 percent of its electric demand with BROWN COAL.
    And then there is the example of FRANCE which meets in excess of 80 percent of its electric demand with nuclear power and they dont really seem to think it is too expensive to be practical. Nope they say it works fine.
    Now I do like windmills except that they are so damn butt ugly on every hill in sight and they do have a place in the scheme of things but they are not the technology to provide baseload power requirements to the world.

    Just sayin’.

  4. blobl says:


  5. Mark says:

    Why don’t we leave the engineering to the engineers. You just keep doing what you do best; hugging trees and being irrational.

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