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Nuclear energy deserves more credit
Washington may not be the best place for a nuclear reactor but nuclear energy is safe and effecient
Published 4/19/2012
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The Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear power plant, near Richland might have its license renewed in May to produce energy until 2043.

The plant started up in 1983 and its license expired Jan. 19, 2010. The plant has currently passed its safety regulation checks and thus entered the final phase of its license renewal.

Washington meets 75 percent of its energy needs with hydroelectric power, the most in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It also has a growing supply of energy generated by wind and the sun. Therefore, the state does not necessarily need nuclear power as it has an abundance of other forms of clean production that provide for it.

However, nuclear energy remains one of the best options for current energy dependent nations to move away from fossil fuels into more sustainable living.

Many people have negative feelings toward nuclear power, especially since the Fukushima disaster, because of widely held perception that many dangers remain. For the most part these views have been exaggerated.

The thought, though, that a nuclear meltdown could occur should not be viewed as ridiculous. I have long believed that anytime a company argues that nothing could possibly go wrong, something bad is likely to happen — man is not infallible. For example, look at the BP oil spill, politicians and the oil industry attempted to convince the public that offshore drilling could never lead to a disaster. They still are trying to convince us that it is completely safe.

However, nuclear energy is not that dangerous in comparison to fossil fuels. Coal produces more radioactive material than nuclear energy, said Donald E. Wall, director of WSU’s Nuclear Radiation Center during a lecture last year. While in comparison, coal kills the same amount of people as automobile accidents every year in the U.S. During nuclear reactions, zero contaminants escape into the air.

In reality, coal has far worse side effects for both the environment and the greater population’s health. Even cleaner fossil fuels like natural gas and oil will still produce some contaminants into the air.

Nuclear power also acts as a more efficient energy source than coal — a single grain has enough power to generate electricity for a thousand houses in a single day.

It would take a ton of coal to produce the same amount of energy.

No other energy source, wind, solar or hydroelectric has the efficiency of nuclear. Industrialized societies will never be able to completely get off of fossil fuels without some dependency on nuclear energy.

France bases 75 percent of its energy use on nuclear power and produces next to no nuclear waste thanks to its method of recycling almost all of its material.

Despite all the benefits of nuclear energy, it is important to know the Fukushima meltdown was not a freak occurrence. According to CNN, no modern nuclear reactor could have withstood the earthquake and tsunami that Fukushima underwent. I do not think this is a problem for the U.S. because plenty of places do not sit on multiple fault lines and are miles from the nearest ocean, including Kansas, Colorado and many central plains states.

Washington might not be the best place for a nuclear reactor due to our potential for natural disasters and our capability to sustain ourselves on other forms of energy. This does not mean that nuclear energy should be seen as a non-reliable form of sustainable energy. In fact, reactors produce a cleaner, more efficient and safer form of energy than fossil fuels. In order for the U.S to move away from oil we will need to utilize more nuclear power plants.

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