Despite Fukushima, Radiation Fears, Nuclear Still Safer Than Coal

The recent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake has raised questions over the option of using nuclear power to generate electricity. The disaster has prompted an outpouring of fierce opposition to nuclear energy, and many states have begun weighing their nuclear futures. However, the biggest challenger to nuclear energy is coal, which often contributes the most to states' energy needs, but is coal really better?

First off, the largest amount of air pollution in the United States comes from coal, which generates roughly 54 percent of all our electricity needs. Emissions from coal-powered plants puts mercury, lead, arsenic, toxic gases, and even radioactive substances into the air. In fact, coal-powered plants are linked to the shortening of around 24,000 lives per year, many of which are from lung cancer, asthma attacks, and other forms of cancer.

Unlike coal, nuclear power does not give off any emissions, making it pollution-free in that sense. The biggest issues with nuclear is disposal of high-level waste, which can take thousands of years to decay into a safe form. Until then, nuclear waste is stored sealed underground but can still be extremely harmful. Aside from nuclear waste, meltdowns are another huge concern, especially in light of the Fukushima disaster.

But in actuality, to match the number of deaths trigged from coal-powered plants, there would have to be 25 nuclear meltdowns. In direct numbers, about 4,000 times as many people die per unit of coal energy per unit of nuclear energy. On top of that, nuclear disasters are incredibly rare and since nuclear energy was first used in 1954 only three major disasters have occurred: Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima. Like air pollution, with radiation comes the risk of cancer and birth defects too.

Statistically speaking, coal-power is much more dangerous to human health than nuclear, but the lack of knowledge about the latter has people attacking it as a feasible and often-safer energy source. Nuclear is indeed safer than the most common energy source that the U.S. uses today, so to attack nuclear is still uninformed. To truly create safe energy options, more effort needs to be put towards truly clean options like wind and solar.

More Despite Fukushima, Radiation Fears, Nuclear Still Safer Than Coal

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