Essay on Nuclear Power
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Sample essay on Nuclear Power:
The debate around the use of nuclear power centers mainly on its safety. Those who support it point to the numerous safeguards and excellent track record it possesses. Those who oppose it tend to take the what-if stance. In the article “Get real: nuclear power is in your future” Allan Kupcis argues that nuclear power is a necessity to maintain “the backbone of any economy” (Kupcis pgr. 5). This is an important debate; however, it tends to bypass a major issue at the heart of nuclear power. The major issue is whether or not limitless energy resources are a good thing for our society and planet. Clearly, new sources are needed in order to maintain the current standard of living in first world countries. Many third world countries are improving steadily, and will soon expect to have the same amount of energy per capita as the more developed countries.
The negative effects of fossil fuel, the primary and currently least expensive energy supply are becoming more obvious. For this reason other sources are being sought. One of those is nuclear power. The problem with a source such as nuclear power lies in the huge amount of energy that can be manufactured with minimal effort, once appropriate facilities are in place. Unlike the aforementioned fossil fuels nuclear plants may only require refueling approximately only once every 18 months to 2 years. The outcome of this is vast amounts of available energy, which society will undoubtedly be able to invent ways to use. It is important that one examine how such resources may alter society. The further people progress beyond nature, the less likely survival becomes if something goes wrong. Each generation of humans leaves an ecological footprint on the earth. This can be taken as a measurement of the damage said generation has inflicted. This footprint has grown exponentially with each new generation, and only now is its true importance being recognized. While nuclear power may help currently, an important question is if it will continue to positively affect human’s impact on the earth in the future. The concept of nuclear power and the vast resources it may provide serve to make people complacent in regards to conservation. This only adds to the danger of what may happen if something doesn’t live up to expectations, or goes wrong.
Electrical power has a lasting impact whenever the human species comes in contact with a new source of or use for it. Suddenly tasks are easier and distances shorter. This has many potential benefits. Necessities are easier to obtain, and luxuries are within closer reach. A question which arises, though, is where to draw a limit. Should all luxuries be available to everyone? The fair answer to that is yes, but many luxuries are slowly or non-renewable. Consequently, wide access to them eliminates them for everyone. A relevant example of a slowly renewable resource is the worldwide fishing industry. Over fishing has resulted in smaller catches and fewer fish. Without regulations this situation will swiftly degenerate into species extinction. A factor which contributed hugely to over fishing is the improved electronic techniques that allowed fewer people to catch more fish. This relatively brief improvement for the standard of living could be cancelled out if the ultimate consequence is no more fish. Because people are currently accustomed to obtaining fish with ease it makes weaning society from its old habits even more difficult. Although fish are food and therefore a necessity the same principles apply to many luxuries. This shows that electronic improvements can leave the species worse off in the long run.
The long run is what must be considered most often when debating new energy resources. It was forgotten too often in history and people are paying the consequences now. The further humans get from their natural environment, the less adaptable they are when forced into it again. This presents a danger that only increases with time. Although support systems such as people transportation, food and water transportation, and heat and air conditioning systems are designed to be fail safe with back-ups, problems still occur. When issues do come up those who depend on the systems most are the most at risk. There are numerous examples of natural disasters that shut down systems, as well as instances when systems spontaneously stopped working for one reason or another. Frequently in these instances tragedies occurred because people did not have the knowledge or experience their relatives had several generations earlier which would have allowed them to survive in the conditions they were in. This is not to say that all advances are bad, or that they have not improved survival in many instances. The point is that progress into a more electrical and mechanical world must be made with scrutiny of purpose, and remembering important present knowledge. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a potential such that nuclear power presents and ignore possible pitfalls.
The damage a human being leaves on the earth varies widely depending on what age they live in, and what their culture teaches. A dramatic example of increased consumption, resulting mainly from technological advances using artificial power, is that of the ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is the amount of land required to produce the resources a single human will use in his or her lifetime. If every country in the world consumed at the rate of an average person from the United States it would take three earths. The reason the average American is able to consume at such a skewed rate is the U.S. is one of the leaders in the use of mechanical technology. Their power resources have permitted them to race past less fortunate countries. While this is inherently unfair the solution is elusive, as allowing the rest of the world to consume at such a rate would be impossible. Earth’s resources would be depleted nearly instantaneously. This leads back to the question of whether or not limitless energy supplies are good. If other countries had such supplies they would, naturally, expect to be able to consume at the same rate as Americans. The effect on the planet and the human race would be catastrophic.
Despite this grim outlook there are many positives to be found in this debate. Countries such as the Netherlands, though they have adequate power resources, are far more careful with them. The average person’s consumption from the Netherlands is nearly half that of a person from the Unites States. Clearly conservation aimed programs and politics can have a significant affect. The problem with nuclear power is simply that it serves to make people complacent in regards to conservation. Nuclear power has not been used long enough or broadly enough to understand what negative affects it may have. The human race runs the risk of counting on such a power source to the point of necessity. If this becomes the case by the time dangerous affects are discovered it may take too long, or be too costly, to find again an alternative source. For this reason alone widely installing nuclear power plants would be a gamble at best.
Nuclear power itself is not the main issue when examining world power sources. While tragedies occur from it sufficient safeguards can largely minimize them. What must be examined is the amount of artificial power the Earth can handle the human species acquiring. The answer is becoming clear as the race approaches the limit. The Earth simply cannot tolerate a lot more exploitation, and power is what enables humans to do just that. Rather than create more power sources allocation of the current ones should be examined.
Conservation methods should be imposed on the highest users. Nuclear power may be needed to replace older, more poisoning, sources. This replacement of sources is significantly different from the creation of new ones.