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Nuclear Energy in Vermont and the US

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/16/2012 Category: Technology
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 811 times Debate No: 21192
Debate Rounds (3)
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I use this argument because a primary concern anti-nuclear activists bring up is a small tritium leak from the plant Vermont Yankee.
If, on the off chance that you ingest all of the tritium that is in a rifle sight, your radiation intake for this instance would be about a two year dose of natural radiation. Now, before we jump down my throat for saying that's too much, let's be logical and say, it is VERY unlikely you could ingest that. A more likely ingestion would be about 5% of the sight due to it breaking and getting rubbed off on your skin. This dose would be closer to 1.5 months worth of natural radiation. If you want to complain about such an exposure, I hope you are praying to whatever deity you worship that you never need medical testing, and if you are a smoker, I'm going to entirely throw your argument out the window, a worker at Yankee will get 1/5th of the amount of radiation you would as an average smoker per year. A CT scan is an effective way to get similar dosages of radiation. A CT scan of the abdomen, chest, or spine is a three year dose of normal background radiation. A mammogram, or a CT scan of the sinuses are 3 and 2 months of regular background radiation.
Now to address statements about VY becoming the next Chernobyl.
The best example that this is simply not the case, the Chernobyl disaster was in a reactor that was not built to meet rigid safety standards that are in place in the United States.
It is well known that there were construction flaws at the power station, they were documented. Furthermore, the design of the reactors, a design called RBMK, was severely flawed, and one that this country has regulations against. These reactors were controlled by graphite, powered by uranium, and cooled by water. Such reactors under some conditions when they lose their coolant will increase reactivity, quickly running faster and hotter, rather than shutting down. This flaw is not present in US reactors. Another design flaw at the facility in Chernobyl is that, unlike the federally mandated containment structures in place at all US reactors, the reactors were only shielded by concrete covers.
Beyond that, an ill thought out and poorly timed experiment led to such conditions. While I will not go into the experiment, as it is not vital as to WHY such measures were taken, suffice it to say people wanted to push limits. Previous tests of the same idea (three prior tests) had all yielded negative results. Unexpected electrical demands during the day prior to the accident pushed the test from day to evening, when documents suggest a less experienced crew took over for the day shift. For this test, all of the safety measures in place, crude as they were, were overridden. In a rush to make up for so-called lost time, the operators reduced the power level of the reactor too quickly, to compensate, the operators removed the majority of the control rods to increase the power being produced. Russian nuclear engineer Grigori Medvedev wrote that at that point there were two options, to increase power immediately or powering down the reactor for 24 hours. The operators chose to increase power whilst they had deliberately shut down every safety system that had been set in place, up to and including the emergency core-cooling system. To add to the disastrous mistakes, they disconnected every backup electrical system, even the diesel generators, that under normal circumstances allowed them to operate the reactor controls in the event of an emergency. The under experienced Deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov should have powered down the reactor. Instead he removed all but six control rods, well under the 30 rods the plant's safety rules dictated. In the early hours of the morning, operators shut down the turbine generator which in turn reduced the electrical supply to the water pumps, which reduced the flow of cooling water sent through the reactor. In the coolant channels in the graphite-uranium fuel core, water started to boil. In a reactor such as those in the Chernobyl plant, the water coolant is used to slow down the neutrons within the reactor. When the water in the six inserted control rods began boiling, fewer neutrons were slowed. Noticing the drastic power surge, operators were quick to began driving the remaining 205 control rods AND the emergency control rods into the core of the reactor. Unfortunately, the rods were fatally flawed. The tips were made of graphite, followed by a little over a yard of a hollow segment. When all the rods were driven in at once, the graphite and hollow segments hit the core first, speeding the reaction instead of slowing it, the newly inserted control rods further displaced the cooling water. The increased heat caused the reactor to explode. This was NOT a nuclear explosion, the sheer amount of uranium (or plutonium) needed for such an explosion cannot be found in ANY commercial reactor. The explosion itself was caused only be the steam and gases produced by the loss of control of the core.
Simply put, no US reactor has contained the same flaws, and the safety features cannot be overridden the same way they were in Chernobyl.


I'm running out of time on this, so I'm just going to make some quick, broad points, then provide some sources. On the surface, nuclear energy seems like a powerful alternative to many mainstream sources of energy (particularly fossil fuels considering their pollution of the environment). However, when looking at the acquisition of resources in order to feed nuclear power plants, this is when the environmental damage seeps in: the mining for uranium in order to acquire resources to power these plants. The mining of uranium (a radioactive metal) has caused numerous instances of cancer and other health complications due to the exposure of radioactivity in communities. The actual process of the mining also destroys the surrounding environment, which is not environmentally friendly either. The disposal of nuclear waste is also a problem, where the amount of places where the uranium can be stored in order to prevent the afflictions of the community are limited and any "good" solutions are only temporary. This is not even to mention the environmental damage that would result in the destruction of a nuclear facility through meltdown or natural disaster, as shown by the instances of Fukishima in Japan after the tsunami or Chernobyl during the 1980s (where radiation from the nuclear plant still remains today and has caused radiation poisoning among many visitors).

Mudd, Gavin M. "Uranium Mining: Australia and Globally." Energyscience, Nov. 2006. Web. <" target="blank">;.

"Environmental Aspects of Uranium Mining: WNA." World Nuclear Association. Feb. 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.

"Radioactive Waste: What Health Effects or Risks?" 53 (2005). Web. <" target="blank">;.

"Uranium Mining Case Studies." EARTHWORKS. Earthworks. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <." target="blank">;

Debate Round No. 1


While it is true that nuclear energy is not 100% safe, it is also not true that there are no alternative options to store depleted fuel rods.

The current alternatives, let's start with solar panels, require a huge amount of power to manufacture, and the leftover products, like mercury and chromium, can be just as devastating as nuclear waste, when considering the vast quantities made. Installation of solar panels also includes PVC, which when heated causes dioxin, much of the glues and materials used are toxic if inhaled, or if you are otherwise exposed. Also, aluminum is put into the environment as well, which will eventually make its way into the groundwater and soil. If you use solar to go off the grid, you will need a pack of deep cycle batteries, that will give off gases during their lifetime and are also toxic when being disposed of. Panels typically last only so long, and can have their lives shortened if they crack. What do we do with them then? Another issue, cadmium telluride, used in solar cells, is ALSO toxic, and the long term disposal of that is a problem, in the EU, it is considered a toxic carcinogen, and China only allows cadmium products if they are being exported. Then, if solar were to actually provide a significant percentage of energy worldwide, the tellurium must not only be mined, but will cause a problem in supply, and the availability will be a huge problem to overcome.
"Compare solar power to nuclear power: a typical nuclear power plant is capable of producing about a billion watts (one gigawatt) of electrical power. �To replace this plant with typical commercially available solar panels, which are about 3 feet by 4.5 feet in size and are rated at 150 watts (less in overcast conditions), would require almost 7 million solar panels. �If you were to stand these solar cells next to each other in a line, that line would be 3,295 miles long. �That's enough to go from New York to Los Angeles, and one third of the way back again. �To replace all of the coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants in America with these solar cells would require enough cells to wrap around the earth 120 times."

Read more:

Wind: To save some space, I will only provide links.

Hydro: Again, I'll only provide a link here.

Hydro is indeed another option, but for the state I'm focused on, would require importing energy from a Canadian company. In and of itself, I'm not saying importing is bad, but combine that with our struggling economy, and the price tag that comes with the imported electricity, losing a plant due to relatively small risks associated with it would do more harm than good, costing many jobs, a loss in tax revenue, a loss in contributions made to the local communities and increase the cost of electricity for everyone.

To tackle the health risks associated with mining for uranium, let me first point out that my opponent only names the articles, and gives links to the main site, one of which is not even in the language of the debate. So I feel that he is asking me to do my own research to prove his points, rather than providing me with direct access to the research he is using, making his sources pointless additions to his argument. With that said, uranium can be extracted from other ores, such as copper, reducing the cost of mining where two valuable ores are being mined, and in and of itself, is not the radioactive material that causes problems, it is radon, and steps in recent years (1995 on) have made uranium mining much safer. I would also like to point out that there is no solid research around deaths and health risks associated with uranium mining, as most of the deaths are from lung cancer, and there are a number of things that can cause lung cancer, for example smoking. Compare this to coal mining, where there are solid statistics, including multiple deaths a year, and documented cases of "black lung" associated with coal mining.

I will also agree that currently, in the US, disposal of waste is a problem, because we refuse to reprocess our spent fuel rods, making the waste extremely small compared to the output of the plant, and it should also be pointed out, that yes, it takes 500 years to make the disposed product LESS radioactive than the original ore. The original product is only weakly radioactive, emitting only alpha particles, which can be stopped by a piece of paper, as anyone who has gone through high school may remember.

As for the stab at Chernobyl, I have already argued that case, and WILL NOT reiterate that. As for the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, which was estimated as releasing one tenth the amount of radioactivity as Chernobyl, was partially poor planning and bad choices. The plant and government was known to have falsified safety records in the 70s, had prior issues with flooding and their generators, which was not fixed, in 1991. In 2006, the government opposed a court order stating the plant was safe. In 2008 it was pointed out that immediate attention was needed to improve the site's protection from flooding by seawater. The study was not taken seriously, and was called unrealistic.

Being said, both plants were isolated incidents, when you look at how long nuclear plants have been operated. These things in consideration, nuclear energy IS a powerful alternative, and with heavy oversight is a safe and good alternative to the use of other sources of electricity, I contend that nuclear energy IS a mainstream energy source, taking into consideration that in 2006 nuclear power made up almost 6 times the energy consumption worldwide that geothermal, wind, solar, wood, and waste, with nuclear coming in at 8.14 petawatt hours(5.88% of all energy consumption worldwide), while geothermal, wind, solar, wood, and waste combined produced only 1.38 petawatt hours (less than 1% of all energy consumption worldwide.)


ScarletGhost4396 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Orionsdream forfeited this round.


ScarletGhost4396 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by 16kadams 4 years ago
Coal ash is more radioactuve then nuclear waste!
Solar panels mine too!
Coal mines too!
Wind kills birds and mines as well(metal)!
Fossil fuels burn a lot of CO2!
Nuclear emmits no CO2 in the fission process!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: She FFd twice, him once. She dropped his arguments and refuted hers. He proved it was efficient and was a viable alternative. He proved it was more efficient then other energy types. Also as he said all accidents except 1 where contained accidents.