In the wake of last week’s heavy protests and blockades in Germany against a train carrying nuclear waste from France, it seems only fitting to devote a little time to thinking about nuclear power. And it wasn’t just the transportation of nuclear waste to a German storage facility that was under fire. Against strong opposition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to extend the lifespan of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors. In 2001, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder moved to phase out nuclear energy in the country, but Germany’s aging nuclear reactors are now set to do another 12 years of duty. Hmmm.
I think some people see a protest like this and think, “Wait, what?” For better or for worse, nuclear power has been framed as green by a number of people, businesses, and organizations, with the end result of a lot of folks associating nuclear power with two things: Chernobyl and eco-consciousness.
Proponents of nuclear power talk about how it’s a carbon-free energy source, how the amount of waste produced is very small compared to burning fossil fuels to create energy, how it’s cost effective, and the new safety measures in reactors that make it as safe as any other energy source. Opponents talk about how it’s really not carbon-free (nuclear power has more than just a little greenhouse gas attached to it from mining, building, and running a plant), the waste storage solutions currently in place are reportedly less than perfect, safety measures won’t matter if terrorists get their hands on a reactor, it’s not a good solution to Global Warming, and it’s not as cost effective as first thought.
Oh good, another ‘paper versus plastic debate.’* Seriously, when I look into all of the statements above, I can find some supposed expert telling me why it’s 100% true. I think this is one of the perils people who’ve chosen to go green face. There’s always someone who can make a pretty compelling argument in favor of one thing or another, which makes it incredibly confusing for the layperson. So what are us laypeople to do? Discuss it amongst ourselves, of course. I’m really curious to know what you think about the relative eco-friendliness of nuclear power, both as compared to other forms of energy production and as its own animal. Is nuclear really a viable option in the short or even the long term?
*The answer? Re-usable grocery bags that last a long, long time!