Nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are still fresh in the minds of many nuclear energy opponents, which then contributes to a not-in-my-backyard attitude. Despite modern nuclear facilities being much, much safer nowadays, the fear of meltdown is still there. In addition, the problem of nuclear waste continues to be a hurdle to making nuclear energy viable, and the huge cost of building a nuclear facility and storing the waste will mean a heavy investment if we wish to switch to nuclear power.
Additionally, even if we were to build a facility within which to store nuclear waste, there is the concern over its transport. Accidents involving vehicles or trains transporting nuclear waste would expose Americans to the extremely dangerous effects of radioactivity. Furthermore, vehicles or trains transporting nuclear waste could serve as a target for potential terrorist attacks.
I think the main reason for fear of nuclear power stems from lack of knowledge about it. What most people know about nuclear energy is that it has the potential to cause catastrophic disasters, such as the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Unsurprisingly, these stories make the front page and are what influence our image of nuclear power. Fear of these leads to the idea that anything with the potential to do such damage will cause similar damage in other ways: if we can’t ever really get rid of nuclear waste, we think that since it is by nature dangerous to be near, it must be dangerous in all cases.
The fact is the potential danger of nuclear waste is blown out of proportion. That does not mean there is no danger to nuclear waste, but the human body does not disintegrate and turn tumorous from any radiation; it can withstand small amounts. As an example, most common building materials — including brick, wood, concrete, and stone — are radioactive. Hundreds of buildings are actually built from stone dug out of quarries with small amounts of uranium in them. We all live in buildings made from these materials, yet we don’t all have cancer. Large doses of radiation will certainly cause damage, and it should be avoided at all costs. I think the fact that nuclear waste has the potential to deliver large doses is what makes us fear it.
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