Fairfax Senior High School

Opinion: Nuclear power is the future, not solar power

As the danger of climate change and global warming continue to scare governments and people worldwide, people have tried to find solutions. From solar power, wind power, or even hydroelectric power, a lot of research, dedication, and capital has been used to try and find a renewable source of energy with no carbon emissions.

However, the often mainstream and popular solutions of “Going Green” by switching all US power to solar and wind is a trivial solution and is not a permanent solution to our issues.

Solar cannot be the solution to a new “green” energy system because of a simple natural phenomenon: it does not shine bright everyday. What can we do? Well so far we could so much. Solar power can only be used when the sunlight actually hits the panel, and can be stored by a battery.

However, storage is still an ongoing issue as stated by both the Solar Tribune and Inside Climate News. Without the infrastructure to store vast amounts of solar energy and without the available technology to accomplish it, the best we can do is to have homes and businesses individually put up solar panels and have them purchase individual batteries that take up space and can be very expensive.

Also, if there are long periods of time without sunlight, the batteries can only last so long before all energy is used. For example, in Germany which is considered one of the leading renewable energy nations of the world, during the winter months such as in January, Germany cannot rely on solar and as a result had to succumb to the use of coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

In the month of January in the year of 2017, Deutsche Welle, a German news organization, used statistics from the German think-tank Agora Energiewende to show that Germans used almost 90% of their energy needs form coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

Deutsche Welle interviewed the spokesman for the German provider of green energy called Lichtblick and he told DW that despite storage still being an ongoing issue, “What we think will happen in the future is that we will have a more decentralized energy production system, at a regional or even household level, and mainly based on solar.”

This reveals the ongoing issue that we cannot rely on solar at a national or global scale until new innovation is made. As of now, solar works best at a local or household level because of storage issues and weather.

So what is the solution then? The solution is a nuclear based energy dependent system for the nation. Right now there is a stigma against nuclear power because of the images of gray smoke coming out of the smokestack and the frightful images of nuclear explosions and the fear of a Fukushima and Chernobyl occurring.

The gray smoke that we usually attribute to that of global warming and fossil fuels is actually harmless! Duke Energy explains that the white “smoke” we see rising out of nuclear plants is actually steam, and the stacks are cooling towers.

How about the fear of a nuclear accident? Nuclear energy is actually one of the most safest ways to obtain energy according to Duke Energy. Forbes Magazine explains that “Nobody died from radiation at Three Mile Island or Fukushima, and fewer than 50 died died from Chernobyl in the 30 years since the accident.” and that it shows the rather safe nature of nuclear.

The article goes even further by explaining that the government reaction made the situations worse by “instead of encouraging the public to stay calm and carry on, governments freaked out, and evacuated hundreds of thousands of people.” There should also be no fear of a mushroom cloud because that is physically impossible for a U.S. commercial reactor to explode like a nuclear weapon according to Duke Energy.

Another frequent question is the idea regarding what to do with that toxic, radioactive nuclear waste. The great thing about nuclear is that used fuel can be reused, nuclear reactors contain 90% of their original potential energy in the US according to the Duke Energy. Second, physical waste that has been produced is actually quite minuscule compared to fossil fuels.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, “all of the used fuel ever produced by the commercial nuclear industry since the late 1950s would cover a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards” and compared to a coal plant that generates all of that in one hour! Nuclear waste itself is handled with a lot of caution and safety and are usually either stored into disposal facilities or can become safe enough to be handled like regular trash.

Nuclear is currently producing 20% of the United States’ power according to Nuclear World. I believe that we should make that to 80% or even to 90% in the 30 years and get the US to be nuclear powered by 2050. The biggest positive of a nuclear powered society is that there is zero carbon emissions. By relying on nuclear power, we can limit our carbon emissions while generating power with a reliable, safe source that can produce without having to worry about the seasons or the weather! Nuclear is the future!