COLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
he future of nuclear energy
“you get roughly the same amount of radiation from eating a banana as you do from living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant for a year.”
What springs to mind when we hear talk of nuclear energy? For many destruction and devastation jump to the forefront of the mind. However this viewpoint is debatable as it is based largely on unsubstantiated public perception. Now that is not to say there is no problems with nuclear energy, one of the main issues is that radioactive waste such as spent nuclear fuel rods, the most dangerous type of waste; low-level waste, including general radiationcontaminated material; and uranium mill tailings is piling up at nuclear facilities around the world, as we do not yet possess the technology to dispose of it safely. Statistically, nuclear power has a far better safety record than coal-fired electricity generation, including fewer occupational fatalities and fewer industrial accidents, and it has a low risk of environmental hazards. Radiation released from burning coal, and nuclear weapons testing all exposed the U.S. public much more than U.S. nuclear power operations have. The only incident that jumps to mind in the history of U.S. nuclear power that might cause any civilian deaths was the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979, which released enough radiation to cause an estimated five cancer deaths in the general population over the next 30 years. Normal power plant operation is not considered to pose any risk.
Nevertheless, the risk of nuclear accidents and radiation exposure looms large in in the public eye, and has led to a “not in my back yard” mentality that has challenged the expansion of the nuclear power industry. For instance you get roughly the same amount of radiation from eating a banana as you do from living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant for a year. As you can see from the facts a lot of the objections people have about nuclear energy is all based on rumour not fact and nuclear energy being a cleaner, safer and more cost effective energy source may be the future of energy. By Victoria Hayes