I read an article in the paper about Greenpeace members breaking into a nuclear power plant. That got me thinking. I had always thought that nuclear power plants were the greenest and most economical source of energy we had. I indulged in the details of the incident. Greenpeace members had broken into a nuclear facility to demonstrate the flaws in it’s security. “Footage released by Greenpeace shows anti-nuclear slogans projected onto the walls of the Tricastin nuclear power plant in south-east France. More than 20 activists broke into the site at dusk on Sunday; one of the most important nuclear sites in France. EDF says the protesters did not get access to the site’s two nuclear reactors and had no impact on safety” source: Guardian. I was immediately puzzled by this. I had never thought people would have problems with nuclear facilities. You are probably like,”What about Chernobyl? How can we expect to be safe around anything remotely nuclear?” Well, I like to think that safety standards have gotten higher since 1986. And no, I haven’t forgotten about the meltdown in Japan in 2011. I realized that another fear is weapons. Governments with power plants can use them as guises to manufacture nuclear weapons. Or, as demonstrated by the Greenpeace activists, be broken into by terrorists, the uranium stolen, and used for nuclear weapons.
But let’s rise above all of that, and think about it. The only pollution such energy needs to expel is during the time when uranium is mined, and nothing given out (except heat) during the actual fission itself. The radioactive waste is stored in steel lined containers in which they won’t see the light of day for another 10,000 years. It produces more power than wind or solar farms. Those are the good things. The bad things (other than the ones stated above) are the requirement of a skilled workforce, the uncertainty of the amount of energy a plant can produce which depends on the amount of uranium it gets which in turn depends on the availability of uranium either in the country or as a commodity on the market. If uranium prices are up, the country can buy less, and thus limited energy is produced by the plant. Uranium is just another resource like coal or oil, the prices can fluctuate without any warning, and this can cause power shortages in areas relying on nuclear power, and I’ve played enough Simcity to know what happens in such a scenario. Back to the former problem: Workforce. Nuclear Power Plants require workers with knowledge in Physics and Chemistry, among others. Just muscle will not suffice. This is a problem in locations which doesn’t have a higher education index. Now lets talk about radiation leaks and fallouts in detail. The Chernobyl Disaster was caused by an unexpected power surge during a test shutdown. The exact number of casualties is unknown. If you ask 10 different people, you will get 10 different answers. The Fukushima disaster was caused by a series of earthquakes which caused equipment failure, nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive metals. Despite how serious all of that sounds, the official death toll is: 0. Yes, you read it right. 0, zero, zip, none. 37 people were physically injured, while only two actually had radiation burns. The deaths caused by the tsunami and earthquake which triggered this event is 18,500.
So all things considered, are Nuclear power plants really that bad, or in the end, cloud factories, harmless victims of propaganda?
- French Greenpeace activists break into nuclear power plant (guardian.co.uk)