To be or not to be; that is the question.
As the United States election nears, both candidates have talked about their support of an “all of the above energy approach.” However, does that include nuclear power? Both candidates may say yes, but that ignores the practical limitations of this type of alternative energy.
Don’t get me wrong- nuclear power definitely has its benefits. But the debate we are having is the wrong one. It’s no longer a simple discussion of the pros and cons of nuclear energy. The real question we need to answer is did we already miss out on making nuclear energy a key to our energy future?
Pro and anti nuclear power lobbies argue over the positives and negatives of this source of energy. Groups in favor will say that it is a domestically centered technology with no greenhouse gas emissions. The waste created on average per person could fit inside of one normal can of Coke. The waste generated could be stored in part of an uninhabitable desert in Nevada.
Groups against nuclear power will say that it is not safe, citing examples that include Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl. If we are going to upgrade our technology industry, why not change to a totally safe source?
But all of these are moot points. The time to have this constant, never ending debate may already have passed. The answer seems to have been decided, and it looks like it is a firm “no” when it comes to nuclear power.
Fifteen countries around the world have economies that rely on a greater percentage of nuclear power than the United States. In contrast, France ranks #1 in this category, with over 70% of its energy emanating from nuclear power. This amounts to four times of the capacity of the United States. During this past year, the first new power plant was commissioned since 1978. Unfortunately, it takes over eight billion dollars and a decade to actually build a nuclear power plant. This means that even if the government decided to build a massive expansion of nuclear power plants across the country, nuclear energy would not find its way to consumers until the 2020’s.
While the United States appears to be asleep at the wheel, other countries like China are ramping up development. China is currently building thirty new nuclear power plants. It is nice to sit around and discuss the basics of nuclear power, but at a certain point a decision has to be made. Is nuclear power an actual part of the “all of the above approach” or not? Which brings us back to the original question, is nuclear energy in the United States to be or not to be?