Should the US Subsidize Nuclear Energy to Combat Climate Change?

Over the last few decades, the world has experienced an exponential growth in industrial activities that over time has led to numerous environmental changes. One of these changes is the rise in surface temperatures and the increase in the levels of harmful gases such as Carbon dioxide- global warming. The use of nuclear energy has been proposed as a solution to the ongoing global warming in several countries. However, opinion is divided on whether or not nuclear energy is a feasible venture and whether the United States should subsidize it. The Union of Concerned Scientists is pushing for the government to subsidize nuclear plants by either providing funding for new plants or reviving old nuclear plants. This report aims at analyzing whether the US should subsidize nuclear plants, by weighing the benefits and the impacts that subsidizing will have on the country in general.

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In order to answer the question of whether the country should subsidize nuclear energy, it is important to analyze the benefits that the country will gain from nuclear energy. Warburg, (2018), explains that the USC’s report argues that the country will benefit from zero carbon emissions when it comes to nuclear energy. Nuclear power reactors do not produce direct carbon dioxide emissions, unlike fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have to be broken down in order to produce energy and in doing so carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide are produced as end products. These emissions eventually end up in the atmosphere which ultimately contributes to climate change. Therefore, nuclear energy provides an alternative that is environmentally-friendly.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists generally argue that generating electricity from nuclear reactors is cheaper than generating from coal, oil, and gas. The Union states that the government will only accrue costs when coming up with a new plant or repairing the old ones. However, over time that cost drops because nuclear energy is renewable. With the estimated cost of producing electricity from nuclear fuel expected to be 1.86 cents per kilowatts. This figure is approximately half the cost of producing electricity from fossil fuels such as coal, and oil. Hence the country will ultimately benefit from cheaper and much more affordable electricity because prices will reduce.

On the other hand, critics argue that the negative effects and impact of nuclear energy outweigh the benefits that the country stands to gain from nuclear energy. Critics state that the overall costs associated with building and repairing nuclear plants far outweigh the benefits, for instance, the state of New Jersey is expected to incur 280 million every year when revamping its three nuclear plants ( Mufson, 2018). It is also expected that this cost will have a negative impact on the electricity market which will be distorted and may be off balance for a few months if not years (Ramana, 2018.)

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It is also worth mentioning that nuclear power plants might be target areas for terrorist activities. In the event, these plants are targeted and a nuclear bomb is set off, it will cause immense damage to the country- which the country will take several years to recover from. A good example of this is the Chernobyl disaster which resulted in an estimated 350,000 people being evacuated from the affected areas in Ukraine. To this day an extensive part of that particular area is still out of bounds for human habitation because of the amount of radioactivity in the area. This example shows that when mistakes and accidents happen in these plants, they cause a lot of damage and loss of life.

Critics also argue that the USC and proponents of nuclear energy fail to acknowledge that they will still be carbon dioxide emissions from activities that are related to nuclear plant activities. Carbon dioxide and other gases will still be emitted in the mining of Uranium which is the central and main raw material of nuclear reactors. Secondly, there will still be emissions of gases when it comes to managing the waste from the nuclear reactors. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the mining and managing waste is approximately 66 grams per kilowatt produced of electricity (Nuclear Power, 2019.)

Conversely, there exists alternative sources of fuel with zero carbon dioxide emissions. These sources of energy are hardly harnessed yet they could be great sources of energy and they will also solve the problem of climate change. They include the use of solar and wind energy. Critics of nuclear power explain that the government should put more emphasis on these sources of power because they have the potential of solving the same problem nuclear energy is trying to solve. In addition to that, investing in solar and wind is much cheaper than investing in nuclear power. Not forgetting that they do not have the same risks that nuclear power has. That is they cannot be target areas for terrorist activities and in the event mistakes happen they will be very minimal damage to the people living around the plant and the country.

In conclusion, the government should not subsidize nuclear plants in a bid to produce nuclear energy because the cost-benefit analysis does not favor the venture. Secondly, the risks associated with the nuclear plants are enormous and they have devastating effects. Hence, the government and proponents of nuclear energy should find alternative methods of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing global warming. It is also important to remember world history when it comes to nuclear energy- when countries start exploring nuclear energy there is bound to be a few malicious leaders who will get ideas and the world could come to the brink of war again. Therefore, judging from all the reasons given by this report and its analysis it is only fair to argue that the government should not subsidize the nuclear venture. Lastly, the Union of Concerned Scientists and other researchers should come up with methods of reducing the level of carbon dioxide emitted by coming up with mechanisms of converting the emissions to environmentally friendly gases such as Oxygen.

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