Nuclear power not the key to energy future

Lauren J. Mapp

The recent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami has led to a 50 mile evacuation of the area around the plant and an uncertain future for those affected. Despite the disaster, legislators and nuclear power enthusiasts in the United States continue to push for the construction of new nuclear power plants.

Instead of depending on nuclear power to solve our energy crisis, more focus should be paid toward a shift to greener electrical sources.

A major factor to be considered is the fact that we still do not have a full grasp on seismic activity. As new faults continue to be discovered, the potential destruction of earthquakes proves to be unpredictable in both occurrence and magnitude. Plans can be made to protect nuclear reactors against a potential accident, tsunami or earthquake, but until it happens, it is unknown how serious or destructive it will be.

Though nuclear power plants lower greenhouse emissions in the event of a disaster, they put the land and people within the vicinity in grave danger. As seen in the Fukushima disaster, all those who reside within 50 miles of the plant have been evacuated and are now essentially homeless.

According to the Los Angeles Times, there are more than 7 million people living within 50 miles of California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant. In a similar situation to Japan’s, Southern Californians would be forced to leave their homes, schools and jobs, crippling both the local economy and the community.

Proponents of nuclear energy argue that it is a low-cost alternative to fossil-fuel energy sources. Though nuclear power plants do in fact provide an inexpensive option, the construction of new plants is extremely expensive, so in certain cases it counterbalances the economic benefits. If newly proposed regulations on nuclear energy are imposed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster then the price of the construction and upkeep of plants will continue to rise.

Though nuclear power has a greater electrical output than windmills, solar panels or other green energy systems, what needs to be done at this point in time is to focus on finding a long-term solution to our energy crisis. Resorting to a quick fix solution will only prove to be detrimental to our society in the future. Nuclear power is simply a means to an end, not a responsible decision.

By increasing the amount of solar panels in Southern California, the dependency on power plants and importing fuel will decrease. Solar power is by far a much safer source and is practical in areas where there is an abundance of sunlight year-round. By placing solar panels atop businesses and parking lots instead of building solar farms, it allows the community to conserve land for nature and agricultural use, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

The decisions that are made in regards to nuclear energy don’t just affect a single community in a specific place in time. Nuclear meltdowns and fallout can send toxic materials into the atmosphere, spreading the danger across the planet.

The Iroquois people believe that the decisions we make should always keep the next seven generations in mind. By making frivolous decisions about building nuclear power plants, we are ignoring the health and well-being of those in future generations.