BY REECE PASCOE
Less demonization of nuclear power and more understanding of the process should lead to nuclear energy having a seat at the table to meet our ever-growing energy needs.
News sources promote solar and wind, but why is nuclear not included? It is currently the safest and most efficient form of clean energy that can be used in industrialized and third-world counties.
Perhaps nuclear energy is discounted because of the three accidents that happened at Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island?
The disdain for nuclear energy must be attributed to the billion that died during those accidents, right? In Chernobyl, 29 died from radiation, two from the explosion. At Fukushima, one died from radiation (20,000 died from the earthquake). No one died at Three Mile Island.
First, let’s examine how the USSR came into possession of nuclear capabilities. Harry Gold, who was a communist spy for 17 years, gave Russian information on Oppenheimer’s work on the Manhattan Project. It appears that the Russians did not fully understand how to control the uranium.
It’s like in school when your friend lets you copy his homework, but you don’t understand it. Then the test comes around and still don’t know how to do the problem. Same thing with the Russians they have the homework but didn’t know how to execute.
Initially, Chernobyl took the rods off the uranium because the rate of fission was too high (getting too hot), so they tried to but the rods back on to cool it down. However, the rods were tipped with graphite which spiked the rate of fission which led to an explosion. To recap, they stole the technology, but didn’t understand how it worked.
The man-made accident happened in 1986. Chernobyl Unit 2 was shut down after a 1991 fire, and Unit 1 remained on-line until 1996. Chernobyl Unit 3 continued to operate until 2000, when the nuclear power station was officially decommissioned.
Japan is known for its natural disasters that include volcanos, earthquakes and tsunamis.
Though even Fukushima was place where legends say Japan is perched on a giant koi fish, the nuclear power plant was the story of Lemony Snicket in a “Series of Unfortunate Events.”It started with 9.1 earthquake and then 50-ft tsunami, and no deployment of coolant.
The earthquake happened, triggering safety protocol and shutting down the reactor. Then the tsunami came and flooded the facility. The coolant was not deployed in time to cool the reactor further, and this led to the meltdown.
THREE MILE ISLAND
The nuclear reactor, Three Mile Island, located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a partial meltdown in 1979. It was caused by a malfunction in the cooling circuit, which reported that the reactor was cool when it wasn’t. This led to steam mixing with some radiation to be released.
I saw the first documentary years ago and my first take away was greed. Officials did not spending the extra money and cut corners, which was the catalyst for the accident.
Another documentary on Netflix “Meltdown: Three Mile Island” came out this year, which I haven’t viewed. I didn’t watch it because I felt it would be a repeat—and who needs to see the same thing twice.
Fact: Three Mile Island’s Unit 1 continued operation for 40 years before shutting down in 2019. The reactor had a generating capacity of more than 800 megawatts of carbon-free electricity and at its peak employed 675 people.
Now California is in the process of shutting down its last three remaining nuclear power plants in the state and the question is why?
Nuclear power plants have gotten more advanced over the years, from typical plants reaching 33-37%, and new Generation IV reactors reaching more than 45% efficiently. This is due to the loss in energy due to heat.
Many worry about nuclear waste—all new model power plants store the nuclear waste on site. Nuclear vitrification means that the waste is mixed with crushed glass and then poured in stainless steel containers.
China is pushing for nuclear power because of the pollution from the country’s coal-fired power plants.
There are about 440 nuclear plants world-wide, with 55 reactors under construction.
To recap the three largest historical nuclear disasters occurred because Russia cheated off America and failed: Japan was the “fourth” Baudelaire child – with its series of unfortunate events: and America succumbed to greed.
Nuclear is still the safest and most energy efficient, cleans up after itself, and is the best practical answer humans have to supply the world with clean energy. Maybe in the future hydrogen power will becomes a possible solution, and there will be a transition from fission to fusion.
Less demonization of nuclear power and more acceptance should put this option on the table for American’s ever-growing energy needs.
(Editor’s note: On Sunday, look for a brief history of nuclear power.)