16 April 2006

Ethics in Nuclear Power

Is producing nuclear waste wrong if we don't have a viable long-term disposal plan? A lot of environmentalists say yes. But is it really different from other sources of waste, from coal, natural gas, and oil?

Conservation will come from increasing costs. However, we typically are only paying for our individual consumption and not for the affects that our consumption has on others.

I'm particularly interested in the effect on future generations due to present consumption. They derive no benefit yet will be stuck with clean up costs. For nuclear power this would mainly consist of high level waste (spent fuel rods). Of course the risk of proliferation and terrorist uses cannot be discounted (they may be even greater). In fossil fuels, there is no risk of terrorism or proliferation, but there is the greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

So to me, if we can reasonably expect to operate safely and securely, then nuclear power is the best option. And if we don't expect things to go well, we still need to move away from energy from fossil fuels as they are a major source of greenhouse gas production.

If we account for all future risks and costs, renewable energy may a good option for richer nations. But there is this whole, "well, if they don't have to do it, then why to we" mentality. This will be especially prevalent with Iran and it growing nuclear capability. Especially since we will likely operate our plants more safely and securely.

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