In March 2011, the world experienced the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.When the equipment failed at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the resulting nuclear meltdown released enormous amounts of nuclear waste. Immediately following this disaster, the public stood adamantly against nuclear power as a viable, major alternative energy source. In the years since that disaster though, the feasibility of nuclear power as an energy alternative has begun to pick up momentum.
Currently, there are 65 operating nuclear power plants in the United States. Nuclear power is a reasonable source of energy, but the waste produced by the uranium that is needed is very harmful to the environment and humans alike. Although disposal of this nuclear waste is much more advanced than it used to be, it is not completely safe. For example, there is currently a waste disposal container underground in Washington state. Although it designed to contain the waste, it now has small cracks which allow the waste to seep into the surrounding area. The nuclear contaminant is being released into and contaminating the soil surrounding the containment cell. Although officials say that serious amounts aren’t being released, should we accept the fact that any of this waste is being released?
The impacts of radiation from nuclear waste can be devastating. If living creatures are exposed to this radiation, it can result in horrible physical mutations and even death. Because of the consequences of contamination, entire habitats and ecosystems can become unable to support life.
Despite these dangers, stock market analysts are predicting that uranium will become a “hot market” in the upcoming years. Due to the efforts of nuclear companies and the government to portray nuclear energy as safe and efficient, it is very possible that nuclear power will become an even larger supplier of energy in the US and abroad. Despite the huge problem of nuclear waste leakage and contamination, those pushing nuclear energy are only concerned with potential profit. Because there is a huge amount of money to be made in the nuclear energy field, businesses want to take advantage of that potential even at the risk of the citizens in the area.
Radiation poisoning is an extreme example of the effects of environmental contamination, but is it really so different from the effects of burning coal for energy usage? While radiation causes inhospitable living conditions and health problems in a relatively short time period, don’t the carbon emissions from coal burning do the same thing? Over the last century, our global climate has changed considerably. Our cool seasons are now frigid and our warm seasons are now scorching. It is scientifically proven that burning coal releases some of the worst chemicals into our air. In addition to this, all but one internationally recognized climate scientist has confirmed that this drastic climate change is caused by humans’ carbon emissions, the worst of these emissions from burning coal. So, while using coal as an energy source may not have as immediate effects as radiation poisoning, it is possible (and almost certain if we continue emitting carbon as we do now) that our entire global environment will become inhabitable for life on earth as it stands now.
Although we depend on energy in our daily lives, we need to find solutions that don’t pollute our environment. Corporations need to be held accountable to the damage they do to the environment. Our government is in place to protect us which means protecting our planet. Dispensing corporate waste into our environment doesn’t affect the corporation, but it affects us as a global community.