The demand for energy in the United States and, in general, in the whole world is increasing; the US is one of the largest consumers of energy in the world. Nuclear energy solved the energy problems of the United States in the past by constructing nuclear plants, which helped put the problem at bay for some time. However, because of the continued increase in energy demand, the country needs more and more energy. There are some debates on the construction of more nuclear plants for energy production along with some concerns on their safety and cost of their construction. This paper will evaluate the costs together with the benefits of nuclear plants.
Nuclear plants have a high potential for energy when it is compared to other sources of energy such as oil, for example; according to research, 200 barrels of oil are equivalent to one kilogram of uranium. This means that a small portion of uranium produces much energy compared to any source of energy. Also, when it is compared to oil, nuclear has little contribution to global warming and ozone layer depletion; global warming has been known for its contribution to climate change, and ozone layer depletion exposes people, animals and plants to harmful rays causing diseases (American Nuclear Society 167). It happens because of the use of oil, which emits harmful gases thus contributing to the ozone layer depletion and global warming.
If the United States chooses to construct nuclear plants for energy production, then it is sure of continued supply of energy since uranium is in abundance.
Nuclear energy has not been adopted by many countries, and those who have adopted it, practice it on a small scale. This is because of the risks associated with nuclear energy production plants; nuclear plants are feared because, in case of an accident, the effects are always severe and last for years. An example is an accident at the Chernobyl power plant; this accident did not affect only Ukraine, but Europe, Belorussia, Russia, etc, affecting living beings. Many people died, and those who survived developed chronic diseases, others became vulnerable to cancerous diseases (American Nuclear Society 206). Water bodies and soils were contaminated with radioactive materials, and all plants on land and in the water died.
Following the effects of accidents at nuclear power plants, some measures have been put in place to minimize further chances to happen; in case it happens, measures have also been put in place to minimize the effects. All these measures have increased the cost of constructing nuclear plants; the plants need to have a perimeter wall, which radioactive materials cannot easily penetrate to shield the neighborhood from radiation and other radioactive materials (American Nuclear Society 263). The reaction chamber and fuel storage area in the nuclear plants should also be well insulated from any leakages, and these costs are higher than the costs of producing energy.
After energy production, the wastes from a nuclear plant are still radioactive; therefore, they should be stored to lose their radioactive properties before they are disposed of. This is another cost to a nuclear plant because the wastes are stored for years to lose their radioactive properties; therefore, continued nuclear energy production means more storage space for wastes is needed (American Nuclear Society 289). Furthermore, the storage of these wastes should all have measures to prevent leakages to the environment.
The United States should weigh the cost and benefits of nuclear energy and make an informed decision on this issue. Nuclear energy means energy in abundance, but people will live in fear for their safety in case of accidents. I think life is more important, besides, all renewable sources have not been exhausted.
American Nuclear Society. Nuclear Power: A Sustainable Source of Energy. IL, USA: American Nuclear Society, 2007. Print.