Are we ready for nuclear power?
Considering the disaster in Japan, many in the U.S. wonder if nuclear power is a safe option for green energy.
Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 10:01 AM
Before the disaster in Japan, nuclear power seemed a good green energy option to help reduce reliance on non-eco-friendly power sources. But with Japan in such a dire state and its future not resolved, many are concerned about nuclear energy's inherent risks. With 104 nuclear reactors in the United States producing 20 percent of our energy, the question that faces the nation is, "Are we ready for unpredictable events that would affect nuclear power plants?" Energy reporter for the New York Times Matt Wald comments, "We're certainly prepared for some things we haven't predicted, but [we're not sure] what it is we're preparing for."
One unresolved issue with nuclear involves the already-generated/spent nuclear fuel rods
. When nuclear plants were designed, says Wald, regulators anticipated that spent fuel rods would sit in cooling water pools for five years and then be chemically processed and turned into plutonium. Presidents Ford and Carter put a stop to the plutonium idea and eventually the Department of Energy made plans to store the waste underground, in Nevada. That didn't happen either, so instead, spent fuel rods are currently stored in those underground pools of water — without the plutonium part of the plan. The land area where the spent fuel rods are stored poses a major problem — the land may be unusable due to possible contamination.
Within my own state, nine miles northwest of Cedar Rapids
in Palo, Iowa, a nuclear power unit at the Duane Arnold Energy Center generates 592 million watts of electricity — enough energy to power 600,000 homes annually. The environmental effect of this power unit is minimal compared to other nuclear facilities. The plant uses a small portion of the land and leases the remaining to farmers for agricultural needs. Nuclear energy may be a good potential source of green energy for us, but we must keep a watchful eye on the effects of the plants.
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