By Arthur Gris, France
“Nuclear power will help provide the electricity that our growing economy needs without increasing emissions. This is truly an environmentally responsible source of energy.” assured American politician Michael Burgess, while former Finnish President Tarja Halonen warned “Nuclear power is not a miracle key for the future.”. People have been arguing about nuclear power since its creation in the 1940s, until today in 2017. And we’re pretty sure that it will last forever whatever happens. If it stays like this, the debate will remain the same as the pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear will keep on arguing, and if nuclear power is banned, it’s very likely to see the pro-nuclear continue to argue to get it back.
The aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, 1945.
After its well-known and controversial use in the 1940s with the 2 atomic bombs in Japan which made approximately 250,000 victims, the nuclear power were used in the next decade to offer a brighter and peaceful future designed for the development of new technologies. In the 50s, people saw in the atomic power the actual key to the future. However, we soon learned the limit of that extraordinary power as it was expansive and complicated to maintain. That is when it became really disputed with on one hand industries that preferred to keep going with the traditional sources of power (such as gas, coal and oil) that were in their opinion more reliable and cheaper, and on the other hand those who wanted this power because of its plentiful of positive aspects.
The nuclear power reached its highest peak during the oil wars that started in the 70s and which caused oil prices to shoot up, leading to more and more investments in the atomic power: more than half of all the nuclear reactors were built between 1970 and 1985. Since then, what made this power controversial were mainly the catastrophes such as the Chernobyl one in 1986 and the Fukushima disaster in 2011 which both caused casualties when and after the accidents happened due to the mortal and extremely expandable radioactivity.
Nowadays, the nuclear plants are getting old though new ones are planned for the next years in some countries, mainly developing. The situation faced today by those “nuclear countries” is whether spend money to make their nuclear plants brand new with the latest technologies, or move towards other kind of power.
The “cons” of this power are well known and are the reasons why it’s so controversial and why people are protesting. One of them is the fact that developing nuclear power can lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons. These kinds of weapons, owned by both enemy nations are often said to be the cause of a 3rd world war. But a war with nuclear weapons on both sides would be an unseen massacre in the history of humanity and for the earth too. A less scary yet worrying situation is the pollution due to the nuclear rejections and wastes coming from the nuclear plants. We still don’t know what to do with it, and bury them in the soil of the earth is not a good and durable solution even though it is very little compared to greenhouse gasses and rejections and waste from the regular sources of energy. Lastly, the major accidents we seen had a radioactive spreading that was very serious and certainly the cause of cancer for the individuals located in many kilometers square around the area. In the most famous case of Chernobyl, the catastrophe will cause about 270 000 cancers (93 000 fatal) within 70 years, according to Greenpeace.
The “pros” however, are often ignored by most of people. They can be divided into two main points. At first, NASA scientists demonstrated that it is cleaner than the gases that fossil fuels produce. Which means that, in a way, there are a lot more deaths due to the fossil energy exploitation, but when people died because of the nuclear energies its mainly due to the catastrophes mentioned earlier in the article which always have a great impact in people’s minds. Actually, the NASA scientist said that in 2009, 1.8 million deaths have been prevented thanks to the nuclear energy replacing other kind of energy.
Fuel needed to power a lightbulb, nuclear is clearly the less consuming energy.
Second, the new technologies which will be used to rebuild the old nuclear plants will reduce a lot the risks of such disasters. If countries invest in those specific fields of technologies, they might be able to control the risks and use nuclear power instead of poisonous fossil energies. Yes, the aftermaths of the nuclear catastrophes are terrible and are what is frightening and repulsive to people regarding nuclear energy, but since there has been already not a lot of such catastrophes in the past 50 years with the old technologies, the newest being more secure might stop or prevent any catastrophes. It definitely looks like the best solution to produce energy, only before we can fully produce only with renewable energies (in 40 years in the best scenarios, according to experts).
So… Is it good? Is it bad?