Nuclear Power: Foe

Nuclear power isn't the savior for the oncoming power crisis

What is Nuclear Power?

Nuclear power is energy harnessed from nuclear chain reactions. These chain reactions are series nuclear fission reactions, which are the process of splitting the nucleus of an atom to release energy. This energy is released in the form of heat, which is used to boil water creating steam to power a turbine and in turn create electricity. All nuclear power plants currently use fission, as fusion (the combination of two light nuclei) creates to much heat to be harnessed. The element used in nuclear plants is the Uranium isotope U-235.

"Nuclear power will never live up to industry promises. As a whole it is ultimately unsafe, an accident waiting to happen, and far more expensive than proponents admit." -Paul Josephson

financial issues

Nuclear plants are economically smart fuel-wise, as they create more energy than fossil fuel burning plants do with only half to fuel. Building them on the other hand, is a whole other story. Building nuclear plants is extremely expensive and they "expire" after 20-40 years. Since old plants are hazardous, they have to be put out of commission after a prolonged period of time. Since they are so expensive to build and cannot be used for long, the price of building outweighs the savings on fuel.

"For fifty years, engineers have promised "too cheap to meter" energy, the construction of inherently safe reactors, and solution to waste disposal. Instead, a typical reactor, based on the experience of the advanced French industry, now costs a minimum of $6 billion." -Paul Josephson

Nuclear Accidents

Nuclear power has been in use since the 1950's and has proven itself too dangerous to be practical many times since its enactment. While they don't explode like a nuclear bomb, these accidents are very serious. Incidences like Chernobyl in 1986 and more recently, Fukushima in 2011, have wreaked havoc on areas affected by the accidents.


The Chernobyl nuclear plant near the Ukrainian city of Pripyat blew on April 26, 1986 due to operator error and faulty design. The plant's personnel ran tests after intentionally shutting down safety systems. The tests didn't go according to plan and the plant's fuel exploded. The reactor's sealing cap was blown off and the fuel completely melted. A fire burned for nine days, keeping people from being able to deal with the reactor. More radiation was released in the accident than in the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. 30 people died in the following couple weeks of Acute Radiation Syndrome and the rates of thyroid cancer and birth defects grew in the areas that fallout had been spread to.


While Chernobyl was mainly due to human error, Fukushima was purely nature's way of proving it's dominance against mankind. On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit with an earthquake. 3 of the reactors were shut off automatically as a safety precaution. No damage was done to the reactors, but 6 power generators were damaged so they turned on the diesel generators. About 45 minutes later, the first of many tsunami waves hit the coast. 8 minutes later, a second hit. The waves drowned the diesel generators causing a blackout. Since there was no longer any power, no more safety measures could be deployed. Thousands of people in a 20km radius had to evacuated and Japan is still hesitant to allow resettlement of the area.


People are exposed to radiation from everything from space to the soil they stand on. This radiation is called background radiation and the human body has evolved to handle it as it is generally not at high enough levels to affect anything. Most background radiation people are exposed to comes from inhaled Radon gases, which come from fossil fuel burning plants.

effects of exposure to high levels of radiation

As mentioned in the Chernobyl section, there are major effects of radiation exposure. Not only can radiation affect individual people but also their posterity.

Acute Radiation Syndrome

Also called Acute Radiation Poisoning, ARS only occurs when someone is exposed to high levels of radiation in a very short period of time and the majority of the body was affected. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Red/Itchy Skin
  • Temporary hair loss


Cancer rates are elevated in people that have been exposed to higher amounts of radiation.

"Dozens of people were killed, thousands more from cancer. Among them, soldiers ordered to the front line of the clean up." -Daniel Sandford on Chernobyl, BBC News

Prenatal Radiation Exposure

Fetuses are more susceptible to the effects of radiation because their cells are rapidly reproducing. A dose of radiation that is too low to greatly affect the mother very well may affect the developing child. Effects may include:

  • Abnormal brain function
  • Stunted growth
  • Elevated cancer rates


Nuclear Waste is the byproduct of nuclear power, the used fuel. Nuclear waste is highly radioactive and must be stored for thousands of years. The storage site must be geologically inactive (no earthquakes), far from people and water sources, and large enough to store the waste. Storing the waste has been controversial for a very long time and a fool-proof solution has yet to be found.

Works Cited

"Chernobyl Accident 1986." Chernobyl. World Nuclear Association, Nov. 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.

Figure 17. Process Schematic: Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

"Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Explosion." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Fukushima. Digital image. Financial Tribune. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Josephson, Paul. "Nuclear Power Poses Threats to Safety and the Environment and Should Be Scrapped." Nuclear Power. Ed. Lynn M. Zott and Helga Schier. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Japan Nuclear Crisis: Seven Reasons Why We Should Abandon Nuclear Power." Christian Science Monitor (14 Mar. 2011). Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Natural Resources Defense Council. "Nuclear Power Is Not a Sound Strategy to Fight Global Warming."Nuclear Power. Ed. Lynn M. Zott and Helga Schier. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Nuclear Facts." 2007. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

"Nuclear Energy." Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

Nuclear Fallout. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

Nuclear Fission. Digital image. BBC. BBC, n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

Nuclear Waste. Digital image. Wantchinatimes. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

[p. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

"Radiation." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

Radiation Damage. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

Red Forest. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

"View Inside - Chernobyl's - Nuclear Reactor 25 Years after." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

"What Happened in Chernobyl?" GREENPEACE. GreenPeace International, 20 Mar. 2006. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.