More on nuclear energy and whether it’s safe
p53angel asks: Hey guys! So first, a little background, I’m a 2nd year microbio major at Ohio State U (basically, I’m into science and what we can use it for). However, and a big however, looking at what’s happened in Chernobyl, Brazil, and recently Japan (heck even the “demon core,”) I’m beginning to wonder if we haven’t bitten off more than we can chew with nuclear power. Before the Sendai earthquake, I was pretty convinced that nuclear power was pretty safe because we understood it, and took tons of precautions with it, but I’m having doubts now; and it was a magic solution to the fossil fuels dilemma. But what about all the toxic waste we don’t really have a way of getting rid of? What about when it goes wrong, something completely out of our control (like an earthquake and tsunami.) It’s like the Jurassic Park question: we can, but should we? In this case, are we ready to play with this fire? I mean, areas in Ukraine are never going to be habitable again. That’s pretty serious stuff. (and, granted, Fukushima is not like that, and Chernobyl was 30 years ago in the Soviet Union). Still. The question stands; Should we use nuclear power on such a massive scale when we really can’t control what we’re doing to our environment/ourselves? Just my thoughts, I’m curious about what you guys have to say. Thanks!
» We say: Without digging too far into all this, I guess that you have to weigh the risk/reward here. That’s ultimately our feeling on the whole mess, and something we’ve said in the past about this matter. The thing is, even with the environmental issues that have come up of late, it’s still far safer than many forms of energy. And even ones considered “safe” have their downsides. And to put into clear terms: I don’t think anyone’s arguing about making nuclear our only energy source. Rather, I think that, because the damage caused when nuclear energy screws up is so acute (thereby lending itself to media frenzy), it leads to the type of overreaction that ultimately hurts further research and discourages figuring out how to make it safer. Coal and oil make smog and are growing more limited by the year; solar is an intermittent resource without continuous availability; wind makes noise and has many of the same problems as solar; biomass cuts into our food supply; fracking natural gas can damage the water supply. And well, nuclear energy occasionally causes fluke accidents like Fukushima and has not-insignificant waste issues. The question is, is there a way avoid or limit these flaws, with any of these sources?