Across the country, many people have mixed opinions about the use of nuclear energy. The oppositions have arguments ranging from waste disposal to radiation effects, when most of the claims are fueled by false or inaccurate beliefs. The fact of the matter is, nuclear energy is vital to powering our country. There are certainly some incidents that have happened in the past that have given the nuclear industry a bad name, for instance Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island. The NIRS has an article with their Top 11 Reasons to Oppose Nuclear Power, with six of those reasons containing connections to nuclear waste. Now, while nuclear waste has been a huge topic of discussion since 2011 when the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository site was closed due to the end of Federal funding. Finding a new way to handle the waste has become a prominent discussion within the field, but has also been mentioned to be a political problem as well.
Most who oppose nuclear power believe that wind and solar would be the best replacement. Realistically, this is a bold belief and is financially not very ideal. Energy Reality Project posted an article called “Let’s Run the Numbers,” comparing nuclear energy to wind and solar:
“It would cost over $29 Trillion to generate America’s baseload electric power with a 50 / 50 mix of wind and solar farms, on parcels of land totaling the area of Indiana. Or:
It would cost over $18 Trillion with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) farms in the southwest deserts, on parcels of land totaling the area of West Virginia. Or:
We could do it for less than $3 Trillion with AP-1000 Light Water Reactors, on parcels totaling a few square miles. Or:
We could do it for $1 Trillion with liquid-fueled Molten Salt Reactors, on the same amount of land, but with no water cooling, no risk of meltdowns, and the ability to use our stockpiles of nuclear “waste” as a secondary fuel.”
Basically, it would cost $29.25 trillion to power the U.S. for 60 years, in about 35,135 sq. miles of 500 wind and 500 solar farms. In comparison, it would cost $2.94 trillion to power the U.S. for 60 years in about 1.95 sq. miles of 50 AP-1000 reactors; alternatively it would only cost $1 trillion to power the country with Molten Salt Reactors.
Ultimately, it is unrealistic to believe that wind and solar could power the country on its own. Yes, it is a reliable form of energy, but the country just does not have the money or space to take that step. Now this is not to say that wind and solar aren’t necessary, because they are. Every energy source is going to have byproducts, but each source is going to have its own quality that makes it imperative to powering the United States.
The positive to nuclear is that is green clean energy that can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, while other forms of energy are intermittent. Denise Ingoe, a woman on the Mid-Atlantic Fleet Assessment Team for Exelon, stated, “You need to have base load (constantly meet demand) electricity to ensure grid stability…You need to have the base load capacity to ensure the grid is stable so there are not brownouts or blackouts. Renewables are also needed and can help meet environmental goals when they are available to supplement base load generation.”
Utilizing the participation of both renewables (wind and solar) and nuclear would be the most effective way to sustain the country on its energy demands. Each day the nuclear field is gaining knowledge, and the United States has one of the strictest, if not the strictest, restrictions and regulations on the nuclear industry. Nuclear energy is vital to the growth and sustaining of the United States.