While the world strives to find sources of clean energy, spent fuel rods from the world’s nuclear power plants continue to build up in enormous quantities. Nuclear power plants have the ability to produce large quantities of electricity from a small amount of fuel, but on the other hand, the fuel that is used to create the nuclear fission reactions to heat water creating the steam that is used to generate electricity is very radioactive which poses many serious, possibly catastrophic risks.
The most common fuel used in nuclear power plants is Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239. Spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants are stored, since there is pretty much nothing else to do with them because they are so dangerous. Studies suggest that these spent fuel rods can remain radioactive anywhere from 10,000 to 1,000,000 years. Currently the United States has approximately 71,000 metric tons of radioactive spent fuel rods; the largest inventory of spent fuel rods in the world, and the largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet.
We reap the benefits of easily obtained energy by means of nuclear power, but hold our own fate in our hands by storing the dangerous waste that there is no way to get rid of. Do the governments of the world simply hold on to the hope that we will “someday” come up with the technology to deal with the problem later? It would seem that this is the case, because new nuclear power plants pop up all the time. The United States has more than 100 nuclear power plants, each producing waste that just piles up endlessly.
Another danger that needs to be considered is terrorism. What would have happened if the terrorists that flew the planes into the World Trade Centers in New York or the Pentagon targeted the largest spent fuel pool in the United States? The truth is that nobody knows what would happen in that case. This is a scary scenario especially when you consider that the spent fuel pools across the United States are generally holding up to four times as much spent fuel than they are designed to store.
So, the question remains. “Nuclear Power – Is it really worth it?” Clearly, the dangers of the spent fuel are very long-lasting, and can essentially poison the Earth to where nothing could survive. Some may criticize that statement, but eventually, the amount of spent fuel around the world will build up so much that we will be forced to make a decision regarding energy, and where or how to get it.
The views of nuclear power vary greatly, and my post isn’t even posing the discussion of plant safety, but the spent fuel that is a product of these plants. Even if every nuclear power plant in the world never had a chance of meltdown, the fuel will be here long after the nuclear plants are gone.
Clean energy is something that we have to push for, but not at the expense of our planet. Wind Farms, Solar Power, and Hydro Electric are just a few substitutes, but without the desire to push for an alternative it will never come to be. The United States should lead the way to finding an alternative clean energy and share it with the world. If scientists, engineers, and like-minded individuals all work together to come up with something new there will be a cleaner future for us all.