The United States’ energy sources are running low.
The sun and stars are seemingly inexhaustible sources of energy. That energy is the result of nuclear reactions, in which matter is converted to energy. Presently, nuclear energy provides for approximately 16 percent of the world’s electricity. Unlike stars, today’s nuclear reactors work on the principle of nuclear fission. Scientists are currently working to make fusion reactors that have the potential of providing more energy with fewer disadvantages than fission reactors. Nuclear energy has the potential of becoming the most effective type of energy the world has ever seen. It is the safest, cleanest, cheapest and most efficient type of energy. It is the safest, cleanest, cheapest, and most efficient type of energy.
Nuclear power is far from dead — it runs France and will soon power Japan. The United States relies on it more heavily than most know. We currently have approximately 110 commercial reactors generating about one-fifth of the nation’s electricity, more reactors than any other country in the world. Electricity from nuclear fission continues to be the most comprehensive source of energy available to meet our growing demand — and, the cleanest and the safest of major sources.
The earth has limited supplies of coal and oil. Nuclear power plants could still produce electricity after coal and oil become scarce. (We wouldn’t have to be at the mercy of the Arab countries for our energy or its effects on our economy.)
Nuclear power plants need less fuel than power plants that burn fossil fuels. One ton of uranium produces more energy than is produced by several million tons of coal or several million barrels of oil.
Well-operated coal and oil-burning plants pollute the air. Well-operated nuclear power plants do not release contaminants into the environment.
Any form of energy conversion, such as turning primary energy into electricity, will have some environmental implications. In recent years, attention has been focused on climate changes caused by burning fossil fuels, especially coal, which increase levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A coal-fired plant near Laughlin, 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas, is a key supplier of California electricity. It is known as one of the worst air pollution violators in the United States. Coal-fired electricity generation gives rise to nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas, per unit of power. Nuclear power plants do not directly contribute any carbon dioxide.
Recently, our Legislature has made some important in-roads to addressing our existing and short-term power problems. But, they should not stop now. Currently, five natural gas-fired plants in Southern Nevada are in various fast-track plan approval stages. Due to existing regulations, we cannot mandate where these new plants can sell their electricity. Consequently, they plan to export it to the highest bidder, which may not be Nevada. Although the Las Vegas Valley Water District, through some political finagling, has a letter of intent with each of these new plants to sell 25 percent of its electricity to Nevada qualified wholesalers, the 25 percent qualification is unclear. The biggest concern of each of these companies is obtaining EPA approvals to operate — approvals that cannot be obtained in California. The bottom line for Nevada is that we may be able to retain up to 25 percent of the electricity these plants produce in exchange for 100 percent of their pollution.
At the time of the so-called oil shortage in 1974, France was heavily dependent on overseas supplies of energy. Since then, it has launched a major program that resulted in the construction of approximately 60 nuclear reactors. Nuclear power now provides approximately 80 percent of its electricity. France has become a major exporter of electricity and now has a high level of energy independence. Moreover, the cost of electricity has declined markedly, and per capita carbon dioxide emissions are half those of its neighbors.
There has been only one major disaster in the entire area of nuclear power plants involving loss of life — the Chernobyl disaster. The Soviet scientists have admitted that the reactors at Chernobyl were mismanaged and lacked many important safety features. But even though this disaster killed a considerable number of people, it serves as no competition to the disasters caused by other energy-producing industries. For example, the chemical industry has a history of releasing vast amounts of toxic wastes. The automobile industry, with its ubiquitous and unhealthy smog, causes approximately 50,000 deaths a year. The coal power industry, a source of power competing with nuclear power plants, produces damage from acid rain and is estimated to cause about 30,000 deaths each year through air pollution. All the deaths that will eventually be caused by the Chernobyl disaster, the largest-ever nuclear disaster, comprise less than the number of deaths caused by coal-burning pollution each year.
Current energy resources such as coal and oil are nearly depleted and will run out in the not-so-distant future. The current nuclear power plants in the United States produce about one-fifth of our nation’s electricity. It has been shown that nuclear energy is the safest, cleanest, cheapest and most efficient energy source. Much of the safety issues have been blown out of proportion, primarily because of misguided politicians and the fear of an ignorant public. This is not to say that there is absolutely nothing to worry about — nothing is one hundred percent fool-proof. The point is that nuclear energy, overall, is the most effective type of energy and its dangers have been overblown.
So, what is the solution? I suggest we immediately seek federal funding and approval to build enough nuclear power plants at the Nevada Test Site to satisfy the energy needs of the entire United States. Not only will our state be enriched, but our entire country will enjoy the benefits. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop poisoning the air we breathe? And, I am sure we all agree, we would like to be less dependent on the Arab countries and their politics to satisfy our growing energy needs.