A Close Look at the Environmental Cost of Nuclear Vs. Fossil Fuels
by Rachel Nusser, Naturita 
Mar 26, 2012 | 1475 views | 1 1 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Our energy consumption creates pollution, kills life, and promotes or ignores wars. The energy consumed by man is created by non-renewable sources such as oil, gas, nuclear, and renewable resources. Other than renewable resources for energy, like solar and wind, the production of nuclear energy could be argued to create a less consistent amount of all stated negative results than that of oil, coal, and gas.

The fact is that the negative effects of mining uranium and processing uranium-235 for energy consumption are many. As well as the potential consequences being considered numerable. Is this issue any more important than the amount of coal, natural gas, and oil we consume, and the absolutely devastating consistencies that accompany this consumption every second of every day? Is it acceptable for individuals, or proposed environmental organizations, to advocate against nuclear energy when instead of lessoning the amount of energy they consume...they are statistically using more? It may not be nuclear energy being used at a greater speed (due to it being the energy source Americans use least), yet energy is being consumed in greater quantities in respect to coal, gas and oil based ways that are proven everyday contaminants, and hazards. How can nuclear energy be contested so vehemently when these facts related to the amount of energy man uses, and the sources most readily used, are statistically proven to be true?

Fossil fuels, non-renewable resources such as coal, gas and oil “supply approximately 90 percent of the global energy consumed by people” (Introduction to Environmental Geology, Edward A. Keller), and with this follows, with each breath that is taken by plant and animal alike, guaranteed devastation for earth and all its creatures.

Coal mining, and the steps taken while processing coal, when compared to the effects of uranium mining, could be argued to run almost parallel in their adverse effects on both life and environment, with perhaps coal mining even being slightly more adverse in its definitive negative results. Coal leaves ash which suffocates living plant life, and creates a byproduct that needs to be disposed of due to it being entirely useless and extremely toxic....as does uranium have its byproduct that needs properly disposed of. More and more land consumption is required in coal mining...as does uranium mining, just not as much. This is because coal mining requires strip mining, a type of surface mining, which requires a large amount of surface area to produce enough resources for our energy demands....and it’s cheap. And while if a tsunami struck more nuclear reactors in the future, after a magnitude 9 earthquake (700 times greater than the Haiti earthquake) in the right spot of the ocean, one could definitely argue that nuclear energy could potentially create an environment that promotes air and water contamination...That said, coal mining guarantees it, every second of every day. Acid rain, coal sludge, and green house gases are a consistent, regular, for sure result of coal mining. Just burning coal accounts for 20 percent of the energy consumed by Americans. So, while perhaps nuclear disasters such as Fukushima can be looked at as a lesson learned in localities of nuclear reactors and how to better prepare for the unforeseen...lessons learned through coal mining have arguably yet to be taken to heart. Perhaps this is due to mans heavy reliance on the cheap energy coal mining generates, and that coal mining is primarily done in areas that do not promote tourism, nor seek political gains by opposing it’s detrimental, and negatively adverse effects? Does this make coal produced energy more acceptable or justifiable to nuclear energy?

Hydrocarbons, such as gas and oil, account for the majority of the energy people consume gluttonously. While this is undoubtedly an exhausting, interesting, and disgusting topic, it is also necessarily enlightening if one is to be attack nuclear energy without also at least inquiring more on the type of resources that actually create the vast majority of energy all people consume. This includes; coal-bed methane, methane hydrate, and oil production.

Coal-bed methane wells alone create huge environmental concerns. Some of these are “disposal of salty water that is produced with methane, mining of ground water, migration of methane away from well sites, pollution of stream water and loss of stream flow as groundwater is extracted and disposal of mine water enters streams and rivers, and erosion and runoff of land disturbed for roads, well sites, processing, and transportation of methane” (Keller). Scary, right? Especially when this type of natural gas, and the way it is mined, creates all these detrimental ramifications guaranteed and yet it is so rapidly consumed. It is done tenfold when compared to the creation of nuclear energy....fact.

In the instance of methane hydrate, “there is well documented potential for environmental disruption, including problems associated with wastewater disposal, accidental oil spills, leaking pipes in oil fields, shipwrecks of tankers, and air pollution at refineries” (Keller). Sounds familiar to uranium production....yet it is produced at a much more alarming speed, done more in this continent than any other, and the energy made is producing astronomical amounts of green house gases, which nuclear energy does not....fact

While this topic of what polluting, non-renewable resources we greedily consume could be expanded on....and expanded on....and expanded on, perhaps the one thing that has failed to be expanded on is the facts on what we consume statistically in regard to all energy sources, and the ramifications of each one individually. Facts remain facts no matter the person that’s relaying them. The only thing that creates confusion, and misconstrued realities, is the way one relays the actuality of the facts in a partisan and one-sided fashion.

The facts in regard to nuclear energy, coal-energy, and natural gas and oil energy are, they all suck. They all pollute. They all are going to kill our Mother Earth. They all hold quite similar consequences, and negative results. Yet until we face the reality of how much energy we consume, where the energy comes from and in what form....whether developed in our own back yards or not....and ultimately the true cost to our planet, and all its creatures, arguments being created by those opposed to nuclear energy, (whatever the reasoning; political, personal, or just) and its cohorts, concerning the development of nuclear energy is arguably partisan, one sided, biased...whatever way you want to put it.

By pointing out the facts about Moab, Nucla or Fukushima....in regard to negative results of using nuclear energy...other devastating environmental events have been forgotten or placed aside for reasons unknown. It appears to be easy to forget many events when they are not close to home, or being broadcasted by media and news organizations. Examples include; the BP oil spill, the Big Sandy River coal sludge catastrophe, the Tunguska Acid Rain catastrophe, and mountain top mining in the Appalachian Mountains...to name a few. Just because something can’t be seen does not make it any less damaging, or any less important. Sure, it’s natural to protect what’s closest to home. That doesn’t excuse ignorance in the part one plays in contributing in the killing off of another's back yard. Nor does it permit one to consume excessive amounts of energy, while negating their very allowance of permitting that energy to be created in ways that are arguably only disgusting. Whether due to “out of sight, out of mind”, political or personal gains, or pure blind ignorance...there is a reason when something is one-sided, biased, and partisan. There is a reason to point out the negatives of something without also bringing to light the entire picture. And when proclaiming to protect the environment without partaking in protecting it entirely is a shame.

Yes, without a doubt the process of creating nuclear energy is harmful...but let’s get the facts straight, take some responsibility, and do a little self reflection before creating an environment that opposes the creation of energy in a way that is arguably less harmful day to day than that of the more readily used alternatives; gas, oil, and coal.

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ajewcarpenter
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March 26, 2012
Bravo Rachel. It is far time real facts are brought to the the table in light of our energy consumption, and where it derives from. To attack nuclear energy, and the proposed pinon ridge mill is to say Telluride should be exempt in their excessive ways. Between the regional airport and ski resort, sheep mountain should focus closer to home. What is this bogus environmental groups true agenda?? Also, the recent reports of a drop in energy consumption is a joke....if it were not for the lack of construction, tourism, and economy...the drop would arguably have been an increase. As the saying goes...To Hell You Ride. Good Job Rachel....keep it up!