Should We Rethink Nuclear Power?
While it seems to fly in the face of everything we believe and have been taught about nuclear power, it may actually be the safest form of power production that we have. Ironically, the immense potency of the power of splitting an atom is simultaneously what makes nuclear weapons so dangerous as well as what makes nuclear power so safe.
Despite high-profile nuclear disasters like Chernobyl in Ukraine (then the Soviet Union), Fukushima in Japan, and Three Mile Island in the United States, the deaths related to nuclear meltdowns are actually very few. In fact, climate scientists Pushker Kharecha and James Hanson discovered that overall, nuclear energy actually saves lives–their study found that up until now, nuclear power has already saved nearly two million lives that would have been lost to air pollution-related deaths from the contamination that would have been produced by other, more traditional, sources of energy.
Nuclear power is an incredibly clean form of energy thanks to its staggering efficiency. The uranium used to produce nuclear power has the ability to create a whopping one million times more heat than equal masses of fossil fuels or even gunpowder. Nuclear power has the valuable ability to create massive amounts of heat without creating fire, and therefore it produces no smoke. This means that it’s a much, much cleaner alternative as compared to fossil fuels, which cause seven million premature deaths per year (according to data provided by the World Health Organization) thanks to the massive amount of smoke produced by the industry.
While renewable resources like wind and solar are also much, much cleaner alternatives to the fossil fuel industry, with negligible levels of emissions, nuclear has a lot of benefits that renewables can’t compete with. One of these is that although nuclear plants create massive amounts of energy, they take up very little space thanks to their energy density. Even in places where the sun shines the majority of the time, like in California, a solar farm takes up 450 times more space than a nuclear plant to produce the same amount of energy.
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