Undeniably, we live in a time that will be dissected by future generations.  There was a food shortage that caused riots in the streets of poor nations, a global financial re-leverage, and an energy crisis that slowed a nation for the first time in decades; all of which threatens the growth of globalization, as countries seek interdependence.  The United States government has created a stimulus package to combat these troubled times.  One of the provisions is to make our country more energy independent using renewable resources, clean coal, and nuclear reactors.  Hailed as the energy of the future a half a century ago, does nuclear power have a place in the in modern times? 

 More than 30 years has passed since a reactor was commission to be built, and a decade since one began commercial operation.  According to a British government report, Nuclear power is said to be “the most climate-friendly industrial scale energy source, producing 2-6% CO2 per Killowatt-hour.”  In fact, the U.S. has 103 reactors that produce roughly 20% of our electricity.  Nuclear power produces 30% of the European Union’s electricity, while in France alone, it produces 80% of the supply.  Then what has caused countries like Germany, Austria, Italy, and Korea to decommission their reactors?  One of the reasons is financial cost.

Over the course of the last 50 years, the U.S. government has subsidized $100 billion for the cost of nuclear power.  In the new stimulus bill, another $50 billion will be allocated to the development of more reactors. This is in addition to the $18 billion passed under the last administration.  The price tag to build a new reactor is $13 billion, nearly all of which comes from the federal government.  Although the private sector has never been interested in nuclear power, investments from the private sector have be made in renewable energy.  Last year alone, totaled $71 billion invested in solar, wind, geothermal, and more.  The state of Rhode Island has partnered with Deepwater Wind in a $2.5 billion investment to develop wind turbines off the state’s coast generating 15% of the state’s electricity and creating more than 800 direct jobs.    This project serves an example of both the resources from the public sector and the investment by the private, collaborating to create jobs, stimulate growth, and provide a sustainable energy supply without placing the financial burden upon taxpayers.  Beyond the impact that reactors have on taxpayers, there is also a burden placed upon our health and safety. 

diablo canyon, California  nuclear power plant

Diablo Canyon, California nuclear power plant

After the nuclear meltdowns of Three-mile island and Chernobyl in the 1970’s, commission on new reactors halted in the United States.  Fear of radioactive leakage and long-term disposal led the U.S. to seek other means of energy.  Nearly 40 years later, these concerns still exist.  In July 2008, there were numerous uranium leakages in several reactors in France.  In one instance, 100 staff members were contaminated and in another, a faulty tank spilled 75kg into the ground and nearby rivers.  No matter how safe and secure we may be in the development of nuclear reactors, there will always be mishaps. These mishaps can be life threatening and can leave behind contaminated lands that will affect generations to come.  Our resources should be spent not only progressing this country, but also protecting it.  We live in historic times. The ways of yesterday will not work today. The decisions we make today will affect the lives of tomorrow.