Opinions & Editorials

Never Again, Please

Ilustration by Shannon Cole
Illustration by Shannon Cole


By Michaela Payne

Five years have passed since the Fukushima disaster, but containment of the radioactive leakage is still not under control.

An earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 caused the “level 7” explosion and meltdown of three out of six reactors, plus damage to one more.  

The United States is home to 23 “very similar” boiling water reactor plants, NBC reported in 2011.

Right by the beach in San Onofre, California is a nuclear plant that used seawater for cooling, which warmed the water temperature offshore to a creepy tepid and spurred a population explosion of stingrays due to the unnatural heat.

It was built in 1968 within a mile of a faultline. When it suffered steam generator failure and was shut down in 2013, nearly nine million residents lived within the 50-mile radius of fallout zone, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

At Chernobyl, the site of history’s other level 7 nuclear meltdown on April 23, 1986, Ukraine plans to build a new nuclear reactor by 2065.

So, the nuclear power industry has a history of real smart decisions.

Let’s think hard about the future of energy. Where is the energy supply for our exponential global population growth going to come from?

Nuclear power plants

Upsides: generate lots of electricity

Downsides: 25,000-year contamination of entire regions, large-scale emergency evacuations, giant radioactive explosions, nuclear waste with no permanently-effective disposal methods, unfair access to nuclear technology from country to country, expensive to build power plants that are high-maintenance and often impossible to control after (inevitable) disasters, terrifying “environmental impact reports,” not possible without large-scale plants, outdated technology.

Wind turbines

Upsides: generate lots of electricity, no waste, timeless technology, small-scale potential, lowest global warming potential per unit of electrical energy generated, no direct greenhouse gas emissions

Downsides: Some installation costs, built from mined materials, some birds and bats killed by turbines, animals’ flight paths potentially interrupted, environmental impacts on some plants and animals displaced by wind farm infrastructure, not widespread enough yet to supply the current demands for energy worldwide.

Why is nuclear still even on the table?

Contact a reporter

Send an email to: Michaela Payne


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