Why I <3 Nuclear Power (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb)

Posted by tobymuresianu on Oct 22, 2012 in Politics, Thoughts |

I want to say I love nuclear power like a fat kid loves cake, but that’s a crude expression. Instead I’ll say, based on the second debate, that I love nuclear power like Obama and Romney love coal and drilling in federal lands.

I love nuclear power because I dislike global warming. And while Romney and Obama are less concerned about it than appealing to coal miners, it hasn’t gone away. Though if we develop a way to generate electricity from ignoring major issues in political debates, there may be hope yet.

Why isn’t nuclear power mentioned in the dialogue? It produces no carbon emissions and is inexpensive, reliable, and avoids dependence on foreign oil. Unfortunately, as a political topic it’s, well, radioactive.

When people think of nuclear power, they think of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and, probably, the Simpsons.

But let’s look more closely at these.

Disaster Year Death toll Notes
Chernobyl 1979 31 Using older style Soviet reactor design
Three Mile Island 1979 0
Fukushima 2010 0 2 people got radiation burns
Springfield Nuclear Reactor n/a n/a Fictional

This is not a bad for an energy source that’s supplied 10-20% of the world’s energy for years. For comparison – search google news for “pipeline explosion” or “gas explosion” and see how many random stories you find of people dying in the last month alone. Then visualize the thousands of people and species that are expected to die from global warming-related famine, economic destruction, etc. Cheerful, right?

Nuclear power is like the inmate in a prison movie who gives off a dangerous vibe, but at the end it turns out he’s the only one who can help you and all the people who died weren’t really his fault. Yes, radiation gives people the heeby-jeebies. But the reality is that its danger is largely psychological especially when compared to fossil fuels.

“But what about renewable energy?” You may be asking. Renewable energy is great in principle. Unfortunately despite years of sunny articles and miracle technologies that never seem to reach the big time, it’s still hampered by problems of being expensive, inconsistent (since the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow), and hard to scale (using wind to generate power equivalent to a one-square-mile nuclear plant requires hundreds of windmills, which often meet local opposition).

Energy demand is constantly rising, and new power plants are being built. While many will and should be renewable, due to their limitations too often fossil fuel-based plants are built instead. With the candidates falling over themselves to encourage coal and drilling, this is not likely to change.

And at the end of the day, if nuclear power didn’t exist, none of us would be here. So when it comes down to deciding whether to support nuclear power, be grateful!

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