SHOULD THE U.S. BUILD MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS FOR AN ENERGY SOURCE?

Abstract

The US has over the years been faced with various challenges rising from the high demand of energy, unreliable supply of energy, air pollution concerns, climate change and high prices of fossil fuel. A concern over US’s overdependence on the Middle Eastern oil and need for alternative energy have pushed the US government into considering nuclear power. The government has decided to build new nuclear power plants and revive old ones. However, this option by the government has met its fair share of both positive and negative criticism. Those against it argue that there are high risks of accidents and production, maintenance, and nuclear plants operation costs are extremely high compared to others. Supporters of this move argue that, with the current climate crisis, high demand of energy, nuclear energy is the way to go.
Keywords: Nuclear energy, nuclear power plants, energy
Should the U.S. build more nuclear power plants for an energy source?

Introduction

In response to high demands of energy, unreliable foreign supply of energy, high costs of natural gas and oil; the US government has recommended building of more nuclear energy plants and upgrading the existing plants. This recommendation has, however, been met with sharp criticism, both positive and negative. Supporters of this move argue that nuclear power is the only way to go as far as production of large-scale energy is concerned. They also argue that, with nuclear energy, the concerns about global warming will reduce.
On the other hand, those opposed to this recommendation argue that terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants and accidents may have very adverse effect on a large scale. They also claim that, there is no long-term policy that I acceptable for ensuring that nuclear waste is well managed and that the renewable energy is cleaner, more affordable and safer. There is also fear of proliferation and can be stolen and used for creating nuclear weapons thus become a threat to international security. As far as the fears of accidents are concerned and other oppositions launched, the US should explore this option and build more nuclear power plants and put in place policies that would manage and mitigate any said threats.

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Research Hypothesis
The US needs to build more nuclear power plants as a source of energy so as stop the overdependence on foreign oil, reduce pollution on environment and effects on climate change and global warming.

Research Questions

Should the US build more nuclear power plants?
Does the US have any policy or any viable plans in place that can help in managing radioactive waste?
Is nuclear power a solution to the problem of global warming?
Should the United States support the new nuclear power plants?
Literature Review
The issue of generating nuclear power for civilian use first was first thought of after the World War II. Congress put nuclear research facilities under the control of civilian first in 1946 and thereby formed the Atomic Energy Commission and mandated it with overseeing the nuclear energy industry . The civilization of nuclear energy, however, generated little or no interest from the private sector at this point. They viewed it as a risky field, and it became very difficult for AEC to find private companies that were willing and ready to take on project. Due to the embargo put on shipment of oil to the US by members of OPEC in 1973 and declaration of the energy crisis by the then US president Jimmy Carter; the government ordered the opening of over forty new nuclear reactors. At the same time, due to concerns of stockpiling of weapon-grade plutonium, the government introduced a ban on recycling of spent nuclear fuel. These plans were, however, cancelled later in 1979 due to accidental breakdown at the Three Mile Island plant.

Several incidences of nuclear explosions, consequent injuries to workers, and radiation-related illnesses in the Ukraine forced US Congress to pursue alternative ways of storing nuclear waste. Improved performance of nuclear reactors and signed treaties of non-proliferation make private energy companies, and the government to rethink they stand on nuclear energy. In 2001, the then US President Bush, introduces a new energy policy that aimed at expanding US nuclear power. Accordingly, the US electricity needs can well be met by reverting to nuclear energy. Currently, there are more than 100 nuclear reactors in about 31 states. These reactors produce at least 20% of the energy needs of the US population without no sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide or nitrogen dioxide.

In addition, nuclear power plants play and will continue playing a highly significant role as far as preventing the emission of greenhouse gases is concerned. According to statistics from the demand for electricity in the US by 2035 will rise by about 22%. Therefore, the US will need, in addition to efficiency and conservation measures, very many new nuclear power plants to complement existing sources of fuel. This will enable it ensure enough supply that would continue supporting domestic economic growth and the high living standards.

However, most environmentalists are still opposed to the idea of nuclear energy. They argue that, the environmental risks associated with nuclear energy are enormous and that the unresolved issue of nuclear waste and the safety of works and people living around this plants are at risk.

Research Methodology

The research would make strong use of secondary data. The reason for this choice of data is influenced due to practical considerations of time, cost and the relative ease with which such data are available . The sources of secondary data would include a wide array of print sources including but not limited to reports especially by energy commissions such as those by the Congress, journals, periodicals and relevant books. Additionally, materials based on other energy source especially renewable energy will be computed to create a scope from which the researchers can enrich the arguments and interrogate the hypotheses.

The risk inherent with this data and its sources include the lack of conduction of further research on the matter; thereby accepting the findings of the sources as empirical during the compiling of a report on the research topic. Similarly, the virtual unlimited nature of secondary sources means that the researcher cannot conclusively include all findings by other authors and researchers due to inability to capture and read on all their works as well as the limited duration of time with which to conduct the overall research and compile a report. In overcoming this risk, the researcher shall be confined within the scope as outlined by the research title hence only retrieving data that relate directly to the underscored subjects. Secondly, the use of peer reviewed sources will help increase the credibility of current findings as the validity of sources is not in question but is purely as empirical.

References

Bell, J. (2005). Doing Your Research Project. New York: Open University Press.
Hargreaves, S. (2011, April 5). Climate hawks still support nuclear power. Retrieved July 20, 2012, from CNNMoney: http://money.cnn.com/2011/04/05/news/economy/nuclear_japan_support/index.htm
Martin, C. (2011, April 4). U.S. Will Build Five New Nuclear Reactors by 2020, New Energy Finance Says. Retrieved July 19, 2012, from Bloomberg.com: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-04/u-s-may-build-five-new-nuclear-reactors-by-2020-new-energy-finance-says.html
Nuclear Energy Institute. (2012, April). New Nuclear Energy Facilities Will Support Growth, Provide Clean Electricity. Retrieved July 20, 2012, from Nuclear Energy Institute: http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/reliableandaffordableenergy/factsheet/usneedsnewplants/
Weeks, J. (2006, March 10). Nuclear Energy: Should the US build more nuclear power plants? Retrieved July 20, 2012, from The CQ Researcher: http://www.thecqresearcher.com

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