Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sustainable Living and the Nuclear Conundrum

Yes, it is a highly volatile subject not only in terms of sustainable living but in health hazards and ethical business practices. Brace yourselves, it is…dun dun dun…nuclear energy. Okay, I’m not going to open up by casting any stones, but instead let you readers draw your own conclusions. Let’s start by acknowledging that yes, we do need to investigating other venues for energy sources outside of oil, coal, gas, and the like and among one that has piqued the interest of governments and scientists is nuclear energy. Along with solar and wind power, nuclear energy is supposedly a better option as long as it is properly contained. Hey, Homer Simpson has worked at that Springfield plant for years, and he’s no worse for wear, right?

Anyways, those looking for more sustainable living habits are aiming to reduce their energy consumption from recognized greenhouse gas emitting ogres, and one side of the argument for ongoing nuclear usage and advances is that it is more eco-friendly. But at the same time there do seem to be quite a few ‘coincidences’ between those living near these plants and health problems. Recently I read an article that claimed that out of the 107 older nuclear plants across the United States, 27 of them are in fact recognized as leaking and then potentially dangerous to anyone who happens to absorb this radioactive tritium via their skin, throat, or lungs.

What are these radioactive chemicals linked to? The big C-word, cancer. Apparently the effects have been the worst at Vermont Yankee; the nearby community has been inundated with mixed messages in terms of how long it was to be operable and even the question of cover-ups and scandals of floods. When in 2007 a cooling tower on the Yankee establishment rotted out and then collapsed, it raised even more eyebrows and today it is finally being admitted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that tritium levels are testing over 3.5 times above the federal standard for safety. The citizens around Vermont Yankee aren’t sleeping any easier.

Still, in the quest for sustainable living, nuclear energy has continued to be an outlet and various countries across the globe are pouring money and efforts into this source. Yet is nuclear even a sustainable energy source? In my humble opinion, no, because once these plants are built up, then deemed done, and abandoned we are still left with not only the establishments themselves but the fallout from accidental leaks. Let’s be honest, to err is human, and when we are dealing with something so volatile we really can’t afford accidents or slip ups; not when it means ending the lives of so many, or at least severely hampering them.

Sustainable living is tapping into renewable resources but uranium isn’t found in a never ending supply; once we’ve bled that well dry that’s it folks. So we then leave behind the ruins of our efforts and leaking of radioactive chemicals to be cleaned up in the future. I think for the so many cons of nuclear energy, it simply isn’t worth it; yes I’m sure it is tempting when one calculates the potential energy amount from a single site, but when you take into account all of the ramifications I don’t believe it really is all that green, or even appealing.

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