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Nuclear Power

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/14/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,009 times Debate No: 15368
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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I would like to argue that Nuclear power as a technology, which have been largely underated due to events such as Chernobyl, is detrimental to the environment more so than the danger radioactive substances. Although nuclear fission reactors have the downside of producing radioactive substances which take decades to decay to safe levels of emissions. Nuclear power has otherwise a safe history, and it could be argued has produced hardly and pollution relative to conventional fuel sources.


Thank you to my opponent spaceman for this debate.

I will be debating the Con position of....well, I'm not quite sure. I'm going to use this round to untangle Pro's opening statement, as the resolution "Nuclear Power" is a bit broad and vague. I'll take them one sentence at a time.

1. "I would like to argue that Nuclear power as a technology, which have been largely underrated due to events such as Chernobyl, is detrimental to the environment more so than the danger radioactive substances."

Pro first argues that nuclear power, as a technology, which h(as) been largely underrated due to events such as Chernobyl, is detrimental to the environment more so that the danger(ous?) radioactive substances.

Before we can make any sense out of this, we need to define what 'the danger radioactive substances' are. If Pro is referencing the dangerous radioactive substances that are produced as a by product of nuclear reactors, then his first statement could be interpreted as saying that Nuclear power, as a technological idea (as contrasted by physical manifestations of that technology, such as a nuclear reactor) is detrimental to the environment more so than radioactive substances produced by actual applications of Nuclear technology. That is to say, that the idea of Nuclear power is more dangerous than the actual radiation it produces. This is an absurd point to hold, and I would hope that this was not the intended meaning behind the statement.

If this is not the case, then the 'danger radioactive substances' must be external from those produced as a by product of nuclear power as a technology, which would suggest that Pro is referencing radioactive elements that occur naturally in the environment. He would then be arguing that the idea of nuclear technology is more dangerous than the dangerous radioactive substances found in nature. I would countermand this argument by stating that a technological idea or advancement is not inherently dangerous until put into physical application, and I may have to pursue that idea further if this was in fact my opponent's meaning.

2. "Although nuclear fission reactors have the downside of producing radioactive substances which take decades to decay to safe levels of emissions, Nuclear power has otherwise a safe history, and it could be argued has produced hardly and pollution relative to conventional fuel sources."

Here it is a bit easier to define a clear resolution made by Pro. I am interpreting this to mean that, other than the unfortunate property of radioactivity displayed by the waste produced in a nuclear reaction, nuclear power has had an otherwise safe history, and when compared to other conventional fuel sources, has produced less pollution. "Pollution" is a hard idea to quantify, I'm unsure if we are debating physical tonnage of pollutant, or the area affected by said pollution. Perhaps the number of people affected? I think 'detrimental to the environment' would be a bit clearer, but even then, are we talking in terms of area? Time the affected area is damaged? I could counter any of my opponents arguments to the contrary by positing that the effects of nuclear radiation are far more permanent than those caused by conventional fuel sources, and that the measure for danger must be hinged upon severity of the damage, rather than the amount of area it affects.

So, to assemble all this into some kind of definable position:

The resolution seems to be "Nuclear Power", which isn't really enough of a statement to debate. My opponent has taken a Pro position, which I am taking to mean that he is arguing in favor of nuclear power, all of its effects and applications as a whole.

His major points seem to be:

1. Nuclear power, as a technology, has been demonized due to events like Chernobyl, and is in actuality less dangerous than radioactive isotopes produced by Nuclear reactors.

2. Other than producing dangerous radioactive waste as a by product, nuclear power has had an otherwise safe history.

3. When compared to other conventional fuel sources, Nuclear power causes less pollution.

I am unsure by what rules we should constitute a victory. If burden must fall on me, as Con, to refute each point individually, assuming that victory on any one point would lead to Pro winning the resolution "Nuclear Power: Yes.", then I will attempt to refute each point above. If not, and just one point must be negated by me to achieve victory, then pick your favorite from below.

1. This statement is a near contradiction in itself. The position that nuclear technology as an abstract idea is more inherently dangerous than the aggregate of all the dangerous substances produced as by product of that technology is ludicrous. Even if I were to cede that an idea, in and of itself, can be harmful without being acted upon, there is no way that an idea can be more dangerous than the affects it itself produces. Nonsense.

2. For me to win this point, I must simply show one example other than the generic waste produced under normal operation when nuclear power has been demonstrably unsafe. A quick visit to wikipedia shows that between 1952 and 2009 there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants "...defined as incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 of property damage, the amount the US federal government uses to define major energy accidents that must be reported"

Anyway, I'll pick one at random. Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. 2 people died, $54,000,000 in damages and cleanup. If that's not enough, I'll keep referencing then until it is, there are 98 more on the wiki alone.

3. I am hesitant to debate this point until we come to a more concise definition of 'pollution', but I put forward that if I can show one example of a conventional fuel source that is less 'polluting' than nuclear power, then I will have won this point. Again, I'll reach into the random hat and pull one.

Wind power.

I welcome my opponent's responses, I hope he can shed some light as to his position in this debate, and clarify a few points that I may more accurately countermand his stance.

Debate Round No. 1


Sorry for the incoherent nature of the opening statement i should have defined it as a look at large scale nuclear power station, as my primary example of nuclear power.

In response to the first point you have produced nuclear power and the bi-products of the process as one and the same and the use of word i would reinforce my point as that the lack of nuclear power being developed as a primary source of energy, has allowed the production of energy from fossil fuels has caused more pollution, Carbon and sulfur emissions from fossil fuels causing acid rain, and the absorption of Carbon dioxide into water cause changes in pH damaging ecosystems. Whereas the only radioactive waste products from nuclear fission based reactor technology has had a relatively small impact globally. I would also state the define that by stating in your response that nuclear technology is an abstract idea seem to be come confusion for you for as far as I'm aware nuclear technology is and has been a reality for over 60 years now, and hence it is no longer an idea. I argue that the power which can be produced from a nuclear reactor is worth producing the radioactive waste.

In response to your second point If you can reference a majority of points which show global damage done by these accidents at nuclear reactors, then i will cede my point. However, as the only major incidents in history of nuclear power are Chernobyl and Green Mile Island, in these incidents radioactive materials were dispersed into the atmosphere, however asides from in the locality of the incidents no long term damage has been proven. I will aslo like to preempt that the incidents with nuclear reactors in Japan can not be contributed to flaws in the nuclear technology but due to extreme damage caused by a random act of God. I would also hasten to point out that the amount of incidents that involve in death of work or costs over $540000 dollars is not confined to the nuclear industry but is common place in oil industries, i need only quote the deep water horizon incident in which lives of works were lost, and the cost of clean-up into billions of dollars, likewise the damage to the ecosystem is severe.

And finally in response to your third point i would argue that in order for you to win on this point you would have to present a feasible technology that could produce power of the same magnitude as that produce by nuclear reactor technology. As such wind power and most renewable sources cannot produce energy on large scales, which would sensibly be defined as over 25% of a countries energy consumption.


I will agree to my opponents wishes and confine my arguments to the subject of large scale nuclear power facilities, but am still unclear as to his overall resolution. Even taking this into consideration, his opening statement is still "I would like to argue that Large Scale Nuclear Power Facilities, which have been largely underrated due to events such as Chernobyl, is detrimental to the environment more so than the danger radioactive substances." This continues to make no sense.

1. I am having trouble fully understanding the argument being put forward here due to improper syntax. To be blunt, your sentence structure is nonsensical in some areas, and my apologies if I misinterpret your meaning in some cases. I'll do my best. For starters, I am not holding that nuclear power and its by products are one and the same, quite the opposite. There is of course a difference between the scientific theory behind a technology, the actual application of theory to a technology, and the physical manifestations of that technology, I don't think anyone is arguing to the contrary. Pro then argues in favor of his position by stating that environmental impact from fossil fuel production and consumption is greater than that caused by nuclear power. While this may be the case, I fail to see the relevance of that statement. No where in the resolution, or anywhere else in Pro's opening statement, does it require that it must be proved that fossil fuels are less environmentally detrimental than nuclear power. That is to say, we are not debating the merits of nuclear energy by contrasting them with fossil fuels exclusively, and I am by no means required to prove the invalidity of nuclear power as a fuel source by upholding the validity of fossil fuels. As to his closing statement in this section, I believe the confusion rests with Pro, in his interpretation of my statement regarding the idea of nuclear technology. I was not holding the viewpoint that nuclear technology exists only as an abstract idea. That would be silly. What IS silly is Pro's assertion that because nuclear technology has been in practice for more than 60 years, it is no longer an idea. He fails to recognize that an idea doesn't disappear because you put it into practice, it doesn't 'cease to exist' as an idea. Pro as completely missed the point of my statement and misinterpreted it about as much as one could. The only reason I even felt I had to delve into such abstract lines of logic was to make sense of his nonsensical opening statement in the first place.

His final argument is that the power which can be produced from a nuclear reactor is worth producing the radioactive waste. He makes no support to this statement, just the statement. I will counter it with a statement of my own. No it's not.

2. This section seems to consist mainly of Pro taking liberties and making assumptions that he's not allowed to make. In his first statement, he agrees to cede the point if I can show multiple instances where nuclear power has caused 'global damage.' He then conveniently excludes Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, as if to say because he knows about them and they are commonly recognized, they are somehow invalid in this argument. He further marginalizes legitimate nuclear disasters by stating that monetary damage alone is commonplace, again referencing the fossil fuel industry for similar incidents (again, I'm not contrasting Nuclear Power with Fossil Fuels exclusively, so I feel no compulsion to use it as a measuring stick in this debate.) Pro also fails to recognize that monetary damage implies economic damage, and 'global damage' is not simply confined to the environment, there is 'global economic damage' as well. As the resolution does not specify what type of global damage we are to consider, we must consider all forms of global damage as legitimate. I hold that Nuclear Power has caused over 20 billion dollars in property damage alone from 1952-2009, and thus I prove my point that it does not have an "otherwise safe history", as held by Pro. You must vote Con on this point alone.

As to his attempts to preempt of any reference to the Japan disaster by reason of claiming the damage caused was not inherent to nuclear power specifically, but rather to an act of God, I refuse to validate such a thoroughly illogical claim. The propensity of a nuclear reactor to cause damage if compromised is directly relevant to its inherent safety and must be considered when evaluating the technology as a whole. If I invented a source of power that ran on peanut oil, but my Peanut Oil Reactor could detonate and irradiate several square miles if it got hit with a snowstorm (act of God), I could hardly be justified in calling my Peanut Oil Reactor 'safe.' Conversely, if I put a wind power generator on a hill, and it gets hit by an earthquake, the wind power generator doesn't explode and cause radiation. Therefore, the nuclear reactor by its very presence has caused nuclear damage in the Japan disaster, and I refuse to accept your invalid and illogical dismissal of it. Pro has clearly failed to demonstrate that nuclear power has 'otherwise a safe history' and thus this point must be given to Con.

3. My opponent here tries to construct a series of criteria which I must meet with my argument in order to win this point. He states that for a technology to even be allowed to be considered as meeting this criteria, it must be able to produce energy comparable to that of a nuclear reactor. My opponent fails to put forth any other requirements, such as cost, or area required to construct, so I hold that even wind power, given unlimited funding and space, can produce enough power to meet this criteria. Even if it takes wind farm the size of Kentucky to produce as much power as one nuclear plant, this point will have been won by Con, as it shows a source of power that is less 'polluting' than nuclear energy. Again, this is just ONE alternative fuel source, there is still hydroelectricity, bio fuels, liquid-hydrogen, solar power, kinetic generation, and others. If my opponent is attempting to claim that nuclear power is definitively safer and cheaper than every one of those technologies, then he has a hard road ahead of him.

In summary, since my opponent has not further clarified his Resolution or initial points, we must rely on the list I supplied in round 1 for the criteria with which to judge victory.

The points are as follows:

1(amended). Large Scale Nuclear Power Facilities have been demonized due to events like Chernobyl, and are in actuality more dangerous than radioactive isotopes produced by Nuclear reactors.

This point continues to be absurd, and will be so until Pro defines it more clearly. As of now, it must be considered a point for Con as it contradicts itself.

2. Other than producing dangerous radioactive waste as a by product, nuclear power has had an otherwise safe history.

I have clearly proved that this is not the case. I only needed to show one example where nuclear power has been demonstrably unsafe, other than in the normal operation of a reactor, and I have clearly done so. Point to Con.

3. When compared to other conventional fuel sources, Nuclear power causes less pollution.

I have rejected Pro's inference that I must, as Con, attempt to defend fossil fuels. He makes no reference to that requirement in the Resolution or opening statement, and I do not recognize my need to do so. I have provided several alternative power sources that would qualify as 'conventional' (solar, hydroelectric, wind, bio fuel) that all produce less pollution than nuclear power. All points must therefore go to Con!

Debate Round No. 2


Spaceman forfeited this round.


Cutty forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
Darn, why couldn't you have been Con so I could be Pro. I rocked this debate last time I did it.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FAIL DEBATE, as both sides dropped out... (checking the voting period debates, from Least To Most votes. By giving this one, it won't be prioritized in the system anymore.)