In a recent Chinese documentary that went viral, Under the Dome, the topic of pollution is covered by a famous Chinese journalist, Chai Jing. After giving birth to her daughter, she became acutely aware of the pollution suffocating her country and the fact that her daughter will be growing up in a world of smog. Considering that around 3,000,000 people around the world die per year from fossil fuel plant air pollution, her worry is quite real (Pandora’s Promise).
The need to act is beyond a doubt. The question is – what’s the best way to go about it? The hot topic that has been discussed for many years, with many a skeptic, is nuclear energy. Skeptics of nuclear lay out a slew of concerns – there is the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, or the explosion at Chernobyl in Northern Ukraine and the resulting effects, such as thyroid cancer for example (CFR). Then there is nuclear waste, which some claim remains radioactive for over 240,000 years (Greenpeace). No one wants that dumped in their neighborhood.
There are of course the green options – solar, wind, and hydro. They too have their own drawbacks. Solar still costs more than coal to produce energy, since it is so dependent on the sunlight a place gets. Just like solar, wind energy is highly dependent on how windy a place is and typically a backup is required on windless days. That backup ends up usually being coal (Nuclear Info). Then there is hydro power, which has been called the best-established electricity generation from available renewable sources. The drawback of hydroelectric is that the reservoirs of this energy source release large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, which in turn results in greater environmental pollution.
At the present time, carbon dioxide emissions needs to be capped at 450 parts per million in order to prevent warmer more than 2C (Scientific American). That can be done swiftly and efficiently via nuclear, as the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency outlines in their report, pointing out the need to double nuclear power generation capacity. John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction”. It is time to act and choose nuclear, a solution that works for the global warming problem we are faced with, otherwise it might be too late.