Why nuclear power is no silver bullet

In the past few weeks, France has had a barrage of bad luck when it comes to the intricacies of fusion and fission. In July, uranium was accidentally poured into a river at the Tricastin nuclear power plant, which prompted safety checks at all of France's 19 nuclear sites. Not long after, a pipe burst at another site, leaking uranium and accidentally contaminating 100 staff with a low dose of radiation. Two weeks, two nuclear accidents. Scary.

Adding more fuel to the fire, another accident at Tristan occurred in September when two fuel units snagged in a reactor, prompting an evacuation. Luckily, site workers were not affected and no external leak was found.

These so-called “incidents” have put a damper on nuclear power enthusiasts eager to use global warming as an excuse to build more nuclear power plants. The emergence of climate change certainly has boosted the once despised technology’s popularity, making it an eco darling among politicians and even among environmentalist big whigs like the Environmental Defense Fund. Shoot, even Plenty has taken a second look at nuclear’s possibilities in light of the global warming issue.   

That’s because until now nuclear power has enjoyed a relatively unscathed history, except of course for Three Mile Island in 1979 and that tiny little Russian blip in 1986 that’s been deemed the worst nuclear power plant accident EVER. McCain loves to capitalize on this little bit of history, as well as point out France’s ability to get 80 percent of its power from nuclear sources.

So do France’s most recent nuclear snafus signal an unfortunate coincidence or a sign of times to come if more nuclear power plants are built? Only time will tell, but for now what these so-called “incidents” should do is serve as a reminder that using nuclear power comes with risks, no matter how badly we want that silver bullet. That’s not to say that nuclear could never be safe; it’s just something we think useful to keep in mind when sizing up the presidential candidates’ stances on nuclear power this November. Or, maybe we should just do as the French do with any issue and protest the hell out of it.


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