The Instigator
Sweatingjojo
Pro (for)
Winning
21 Points
The Contender
Lightkeeper
Con (against)
Losing
16 Points

The United States should significantly increase its use of nuclear energy.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/11/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,912 times Debate No: 5700
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (6)

 

Sweatingjojo

Pro

Okay so, I'm gonna run my PF case, since I didn't get to today on the actual tournament.
Nuclear Energy needs to be substantially increased in the United States of America, heres why.

1.Relatively environmentally friendly
2.Economically Sound
3.Safe

1.Nuclear Power plants are the only power source capable of giving energy to people on a massive scale, while still not having major harmful environmental effects like coal and natural gas do. As Patrick Moore, the co-founder of the environmental group Greenpeace describes, "" Times have changed. I now realize nuclear energy is the only nongreenhouse-gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy growing demand for energy."
Unlike nuclear energy, Burning fossil fuels releases an abundance of elements into the atmosphere. Nuclear energy, to the contrary, fully contains all of its byproduct in the form of used nuclear fuel. Such waste is safely managed throughout the world in countries like France, Finland, and Japan.

1.Nuclear Power plants are also cost-efficient and create jobs, making them the most economically sound option for our 21st century power source. As Business Wire explains "During construction, a nuclear plant will provide 2,500 jobs. The average operating plant employs 400-700 people, and jobs at these plants pay substantially more than average jobs in the local area." Nuclear power also saves money, because even after the fuel is used, it can still be recycled. The French, Japanese, and British all recycle their used nuclear fuel. Using that method, America can recycle its 58,000 tons of used fuel stored across the nation to power every U.S. household for 12 years.

MIT performed a study in 2003, and found that when the construction of the plant is factored in, along with general running costs, nuclear power runs at the price of 4.2 cents per kilowatt an hour. Coal power also had the price of 4.2 cents, and gas ran at the price of 5.8.

Also, Considering that our country is spending $700 billion a year on imported oil, it would be foolish not to make maximum use of all U.S. energy resources.
With advanced technologies, energy conservation and improvements in energy efficiency, the United States could move within reach of total energy independence. - As explained by Professor John Mann of University of Illinois

3.My partner and I also support nuclear power because we find that nuclear power is safe for widespread growth throughout the country. First off, the waste that is produced from nuclear power plants can effectively be managed, through the usage of storage facilities in remote locations such as Yucca Mountain, or the Waste Isolation Plant in Carlsbad New Mexico. The second location is actively receiving transuranic waste from across the country in a highly secure manner. Nuclear waste has been transported on roads and railways worldwide for years without a significant incident. More than 20 million packages with radioactive materials are transported globally each year--3 million of them in the United States. Since 1971, more than 20,000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste have been trans-ported more than 18 million miles without inci-dentThis is only the beginning, as nuclear power grows, so will nuclear waste depositories, in the most remote spots in America.
There is also a lot of fear with nuclear power plants regarding their release of radiation into the environment around it. However, this is a completely unfounded claim, as the Heritage Foundation explains. "Indeed, less than 1 percent of the public's exposure to radiation comes from nuclear power plants. The average American is exposed to 360 millirem of radiation a year. About 83 percent (300 millirem) of this annual radiation dose comes from natural sources, such as cosmic rays, uranium in the Earth's crust, and radon gas in the atmosphere. Most of the rest comes from medical procedures such as X-rays, and about 3 percent (11 millirem) comes from consumer products. "
The third major fear with nuclear power is that the power plants could fall victim to terrorist attacks, leading to a disaster. But here are the facts, The United States has 104 commercial nuclear power plants, and there are 446 worldwide. Not one has fallen victim to a successful terrorist attack. Even a large passenger jet, such those that were used in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, would not be able to destroy a nuclear reactor. The Brookings Institution explains that "U.S. nuclear power plants, which are subject to both federal and international regulation, are designed to withstand extreme events and are among the sturdiest and most impenetrable structures on the planet—second only to nuclear bunkers." Speaking of 9/11, since then, a good $1.2 billion has been spent making sure that nuclear power plants are even more secure, outfitting them with bulletproof glass, and 60% more security guards. These days, nuclear power plants go through drills where commandos attempt to raid the facility, in order to regularly lessen the possibility of a security breach, which is quite low, considering that states post state troopers and the national guard to protect nuclear power plants, and the US military is standing by.
Nuclear power is safe for the environment, for the people that work in it, and for the nation.

So to summarize, its pretty good for the environment in that it is better than any of the alternatives that are able to produce at such a level. It would help the economy by providing for the creation of jobs, and cheaper than the alternatives. Finally, nuclear energy is safe because of the plans we have to store waste, and the very strong safety measures that are taken to protect plants.
Lightkeeper

Con

I thank my opponent for this opportunity.

I disagree with my opponent that the US, or any other country, should increase its use of nuclear energy.

My opponent's argument relies on 3 contentions, namely that nuclear energy is relatively environmentally friendly, economically sound and safe.

1. Relatively economically friendly.
It is not without reason that my opponent used the word "relatively". In effect what he's saying, and rightly so, is that nuclear energy is more environmentally friendly than some other options. It is also less environmentally friendly than others.
While typically the running of a nuclear plant (leaks and accidents aside) has indeed little harmful effects on the environmnet, the construction and maintenance of one is anything but environmentally friendly. The amount of fossil fuel spent in the construction of a nuclear power plant is nothing short of astounding. A serious nuclear waste leak (not to even mention a reactor meltdown) would have truly devastating effects on the environment.

2. Economically sound
It is true that the cost of nuclear energy is somewhere in the vicinity of 4.2 cents per kWh. This compares with 4-6 cents for wind power, 2-10 for large hydropower, 3-12 for biomass energy, 0.5-5 for geothermal energy, 1-6 for biomass heat. (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

These sources, so called "renewable" energy sources, are admittedly more expensive at the current time. However, with continuing development and improvement as well as the implementation of mass-production technologies, these costs have been decreasing and will continue to decrease. Yes, at the moment these alternatives are more expensive. But let us remember, nice things cost money. The costs of cleaning up serious cases of contamination are enormous and vary from financial to life and limb. The financial costs by themselves can be huge. For example the 1987 costs of cleaning up contamination caused by the Hanford Engineer Works reached over 48 BILLION dollars. (http://www.lutins.org...). More on this incident later.

Electricity costs are marginal as a factor of costs of living and are also a minor component of the cost of production per unit of most products. I would much rather pay 50% more in my electricity bill than risk even a single nuclear disaster and its potential to contaminate the environment and put human life and health at risk. This brings me to my final point. Risk.

3. Safety
It is one thing for my opponent to say that nuclear energy is safe. It is another to look at cold facts.
a) Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project released its statistics in 1997. It was revealed that in all 270,000 people were affected by radiation spilled into the atmosphere and the Columbia River. Of these, 13,500 received radiation levels 1,300 (ONE THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED) times higher than the annual dose considered safe for civilians by the Dept of Energy. (http://www.lutins.org...)

b) May 1997. A 40 gallon tank of toxic chemicals, stored illegally at the U.S. Government's Hanford Engineer works exploded, causing the release of 20,000-30,000 gallons of plutonium-contaminated water. (same source)

c) August 1999 The Washington Post reported that thousands of workers were unwittingly exposed to plutonium and other highly radioactive metals over a 23-year period. One might say this is high cost of having jobs.

d) July 2000 Wildfires in the vicinity of the Hanford facility hit the highly radioactive "B/C" waste disposal trenches, raising airborne plutonium radiation levels in the nearby cities of Pasco and Richland to 1,000 above normal.

e) December 1962 A summary report was presented at an Atomic Energy Commission symposium in Germantown, Maryland, listing 47 accidents involving shipment of nuclear materials to that date, 17 of which were considered "serious."

f) Between 1962 and 2000, an additional 25 or so incidents occurred. Two of these involved trucks accidentally dumping radioactive material en route. In one of them this was not noticed untill the truck arrived at its destination (http://www.lutins.org...).

g) The ultimate disaster would involve a reactor meltdown. This has in fact occurred in Chernobyl in the Ukraine. The total cost to life and health is still not fully known but is in the thousands. One could argue that this was not in the USA and that the USA has superior technology. It does. But we would be kidding ourselves if we said it could not happen in the US. A partial meltdown did in fact occur at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station in 1979.

It is true that the chances at any one time of a devastating nuclear disaster are remote. But they are there. When assessing risk, we must look not only at the odds but also at the gravity of its consequences. The more plants we build, the higher these risks. No amount of control and safety measures can eliminate them. What price tag could we put on the lives of 2,000 civilians? Let's keep in mind the laws of probability. If something can possibly happen, it will, given sufficient time.

I firmly contend that nuclear power is a thing of the 20th century. We now have the technology to explore infinitely safer and less environmentally harmful options. Renewable energy is the only way to a safe future.
Debate Round No. 1
Sweatingjojo

Pro

Although I was hoping this debate would be conducted in similar style as Public Forum (American debate format), the common style employed here will suffice, and I thank my opponent for accepting this debate.

Onto my points.

1. As I've shown, nuclear energy is able to get more 'bang for our buck' in an environmental sense, in that it is able to create a substantial energy output, at a very low environmental impact. The potential for a serious nuclear waste leak, while always existing, is extremely low, because of the extensive security procedure and establishment that accompanies all nuclear power plants in the United States. We can look back to the Three Mile Island incident in 1979, where there was an accident in an American nuclear power plant. Because of stringent safety laws, no one died, and no one became sick from any radiation released.

2. The fact is that the other sources, such as geothermal, hydro, and wind only work in certain areas, and even then, there are other issues involved, including one that my opponent pointed out, the fact that the technology doesn't yet exist on a broad enough scale for the United States. My opponent goes on to list various incidents that have occurred in history relating to nuclear energy. Only 8.5% of those that have been recorded occurred since 1990, a testament to the advances in nuclear safety the United States is promoting. Electricity costs are going up and up as fossil fuels become more and more scarce, nuclear is the way to go to help the US' economy.

3. What my opponent doesn't want to tell us about this unfortunate nuclear incident is the fact that the event itself took place in the 1940's, when nuclear energy was literally in its infancy. My previous point about how the past 18 years have held only 8.5% of the US' nuclear incidents is proof of the safety that now exists with nuclear power in the US. Furthermore, only 3% of those incidents have occurred in the last 8 years, none of them occurring more recently than 5 years ago.

This basically segues into my opponent's argument, which is a listing of various minor nuclear incidents.

One thing that I would like to respond to specifically is with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. First off, the Chernobyl disaster was the product of Soviet incompetence and lack of safety regulation. Three Mile Island on the other hand could be classified as a "major incident" instead of any type of disaster, mainly because of the strong safety requirements that go into place when building nuclear power plants in the United States. Basically, even when something goes wrong, little to nothing happens.

Its important to be reminded that everything on earth carries with it a risk, and that somethings in life are inherently risky to a degree. When the risk can be reduced to an extreme amount, as with nuclear energy, then it should be deemed safe.

My opponent ends his case with a fallacious statement on probability. There is no indication that something is required by the laws of nature to happen.

Lets think and ask ourselves what would happen if the United States' didn't increase its use of nuclear energy? Well, then this country would still be addicted to foreign oil and coal, which effectively kill our planet, and are bad for the already struggling economy of this nation. We can't let an absurdly unlikely occurrence stop us from ensuring the prosperity and well-being of generations to come in the United States.
Summary:
So far I've shown that nuclear energy can give the United States the most bang for her buck in an economic and environmental sense. I've also shown how the United States is working to ensure the safety of nuclear energy facilities, and how it will continue with the expansion of more in future years. All my opponent can do is try to scare us with events of the past.
Lightkeeper

Con

At the outset, I thank my opponent for replying. I regret that my opponent is disappointed with my debating style. However, should he wish for a different style debate, it might have been useful for him to stipulate so in his opening post and I would have been more than happy to oblige. There are many things I am but mind reader is not one of them.

I will now address my opponent's contentions point by point.

My opponent's numbered points:

1. My opponent has not shown that nuclear energy gives us more "bang for our buck" in an environmental sense. He has contended that nuclear power is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuel power. He has done so, I might add, by providing us with information (including statistical information) without adequately quoting a single source. Be that as it may, he has not addressed a single one of the many non-nuclear options other than fossil fuel power.
He now contends that the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 has resulted in no deaths and no illness because of "stringent safety laws". He has not shown any causation between such laws and his contention.
Additionally, he appears to completely disregard the fact that some 200,000 people were forced to evacuate during the incident. He claims that there were no deaths. And yet a study conducted by Prof Sternglass at the University of Pittsburgh concludes that the incident was responsible for 430 INFANT DEATHS (http://www.lutins.org...).

2. My opponent says that other energy options (such as the ones I have proposed) are not available because the "technology does not exist on a broad enough scale".
With respect, what I am proposing is that instead of investing billions of dollars into building new nuclear power stations (this construction will take significant time, I might add), we invest that money to MAKE those alternatives available on a broad enough scale.
He then goes on to say that ONLY 8.5 percent of nuclear incidents have occurred since 1990. This is, he says, a testament to the fact that nuclear technology has advanced. No doubt it has. Does it make it safe? No, it does not. 8.5% of incidents is 8.5% of incidents. Radioactive spillage has huge destructive potential. 8.5% is 8 percent too many.
It is true that fossil fuels are becoming more expensive. However, it is equally true that wind, solar and other options are becoming progressively cheaper.

3. As I said above, I am not a mind reader. That being said, it appears my opponent believes he is. He now claims to know what I "don't want to tell you". And what I allegedly don't want to tell you is that the disastrous incident at Columbia River took place in the 1940's, he claims. Well, I have resourced that. It's linked to a source. If anyone clicked on it, they would know when it happened. Did it happen in the 1940's? No, it did not. It happened between the 1944 and 1966. It was known in 1948 but remained classified and the pollution was allowed to continue. It is true that that was a long time ago. It was the most serious example from a long list of examples of nuclear incidents with varying degrees of risk and damage. These incidents have taken place throughout the last 70 years, beginning in the 1940s and going into the current century. This point was made to contradict my opponent's claimed safety of nuclear power. He claimed in his first argument that there was not a single serious incident. In fact there were many. A good record of the last 5 years is nothing to give us any sense of security, unless my opponent can show that a serious incident is impossible and WHY it is impossible. Otherwise, we remain with the status quo and that is that nuclear power carries with it risks that are nothing short of humongous.

Other points:

4. Chernobyl. My opponent claims that this incident was the product of Soviet incompetence. He appears to be saying that the Soviets were inherently incompetent while the Americans are inherently competent. What I have demonstrated was that the ultimate disaster (meltdown) carries with it horrendous consequences. Has he demonstrated that this could not happen in the USA? No, he has not. Has he demonstrated that the US is more competent? No he has not. All he has done is referred to a (disproved by me) clean record. Well, prior to Chernobyl, a meltdown had not occurred in the USSR either. Could they have claimed back in 1985 that they have a good record and therefore it will not happen? I contend they could, very much like my opponent does now.

5. My opponent then goes on to repeat the woes of fossil fuel power and completely disregards the alternatives I have suggested.

6. At the end, my opponent claims that all I am trying to do is scare you with the events of the past. Two aspects to this:
a) It was my opponent himself who had misrepresented the past and attempted to use it as evidence of how safe nuclear power is. I am therefore very much entitled to use the past to demonstrate otherwise;
b) One of my opponent's main 3 contentions was that nuclear power is safe. I have shown otherwise. I have shown that it has been anything BUT safe. My opponent has done nothing to demonstrate why and now it is acceptably safer now.

In conclusion, nuclear power carries with it huge risks. No evidence has been presented that those have been substantially alleviated. No evidence or argument has been presented to discount other non-fossil alternatives, even though I have argued that those are safer, more environmentally friendly and progressively cheaper.

Therefore my opponent's case fails on two of his own grounds: environmental friendliness and safety.
Debate Round No. 2
Sweatingjojo

Pro

Sweatingjojo forfeited this round.
Lightkeeper

Con

My opponent has resolved that the USA should significantly increase its use of nuclear energy.

To support his resolution he has claimed that nuclear energy is relatively environmentally friendly, economically sound and safe.

In have presented a rebuttal of my opponent's arguments on two fronts:

Firstly I have shown that nuclear energy is not in fact safe. I have pointed to a number of incidents of varying degree of seriousness. This was my response to my opponent's claim that there has not been a single serious incident. I have also pointed out that the ultimate disaster is a reactor meltdown and that the consequences of one would be nothing short of devastating.
My opponent's argument to this is that a meltdown has never happened before in the USA. He claims that the Chernobyl tragedy was attributable solely to Sovite incompetence. I have questioned his assumptions about USA competence versus Soviet incompetence. However, he has not addressed this point.
Further, on one hand my opponent attempts to rely on the past (eg, his claim that in the last 5 years there have been no serious incidents) while on the other he attempts to dismiss my argment with an offhanded claim that I rely on the past to try and scare the reader against the risks of nuclear energy. Would we be excused for thinking that he wants to "have it both ways"?
We have had a good run for the last 5 years, that much is true. I have asked my opponent to present some evidence of HOW and WHY nuclear energy is now safe enough for widespread implementation. In other words, what makes it safe now. Again, no response to that question. It would seem that 5 years of what I could just call good luck is all he has to support his point.
The risks (in terms of the gravity of some possible consequences), I repeat, are humongous. There is nothing irrational about wanting to be 100% sure of this technolgy before agreeing to a blanket implementation. When it comes to things that have the potential to cause enormous pollution and large numbers of deaths and disease, one simply can't afford to be blase and dismiss such concerns with 5 years of good luck. Not without some independent evidence of the supposed safety of the technology in question. My opponent has offered none.

The second point of my argument was focused on other alternative sources of energy. I have mentioned a number of them. I have asserted that they are getting progressively cheaper and that instead of investing huge sums of money and time into building new nuclear power plants we should focus on exploring these alternatives and making them available for mass production. My opponent has not taken these suggestions very seriously, it seems. To him, we have two choices: fossil fuel or nuclear. If those indeed were the only available choices or if he had showed that these alternatives are economically inviable then perhaps his argument and his resolution would hold some water. As things stand, however, my opponent has not done any of those things. With respect, all he has managed to do is dismiss my legitimate and well backed-up concerns out of hand and accuse me of irrationally spreading fear.

Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent has set out to prove that the US should increase its use of nuclear energy significantly. To do so, I suggest, he would have to satisfy us that this energy is acceptably safe and that any risks it might carry would be outweighed by its advantages over EVERY alternative. He has not done so.

I therefore respectfully submit that you should vote Con.

I thank you for your attention and I thank my opponent for this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Sweatingjojo 8 years ago
Sweatingjojo
I'll keep this all quick, since its in the comment section and such.

To summarize, I've said that nuclear energy is safe, economically sound, and relatively environmentally friendly. It is safe in that there are ways for the waste to be stored, and that the chance for an incident to arise is minuscule, and is constantly dropping, as I've shown.
Economically sound in that it is a cheaper power source than most others, and is able to be deployed on a much broader scale than wind or solar power, with constant energy yield. Environmentally sound because we are able to store it safely, and also be carbon neutral, or very close to it, which is key to helping the environment.

My opponent's case relies on fear and past occurrences. Tragic as they may be, the incidence of problems at nuclear power plants have been dropping significantly as I have shown. While always there will be risk, it is important to note that there is risk of catastrophe in everything we do, and it is important that while we work hard to minimize the risk, as current nuclear power stations do, we do not let the risk make us act irrationally. A vote for con would be a vote against rapidly attainable energy independence, against the creation of new and sustainable jobs, and for fear.

Thanks for the debate, and thanks to lightkeeper for letting me finish in the comment section.
Posted by Lightkeeper 8 years ago
Lightkeeper
No worries :)
Posted by Sweatingjojo 8 years ago
Sweatingjojo
If my opponent would give me mercy as to wait a little while, I'll have my brief argument posted in the comment section once I get home from school. (21:30GMT)
Posted by Lightkeeper 8 years ago
Lightkeeper
*RoFL*
Posted by JBlake 8 years ago
JBlake
"Secondly, please don't give me any ideas here. Because once you do, I can't use them against Pro"

Quick! Someone post all possible arguments for Con!
Posted by Lightkeeper 8 years ago
Lightkeeper
Hmm sometimes it's better to take one approach, while at other times the other.
If you're arguing about something where breaking any link in a chain of thought destroys the substance of the whole argument then point-by-point approach is ideal. By the same token, if pro's points are well defined, it also might be the way to go. In the present debate, you have made 3 definted points. Each consisted of a bulky paragraph. I therefore focused on those 3 points rather than trying to break them down further. But I do love xxn (c/x).
Posted by Sweatingjojo 8 years ago
Sweatingjojo
Oh well yes, it is a team based debate, and C/X is probably the central component of it. Probably C/X is the core of every American academic debate format.

The style used in academic debate that I was referring to is one that focuses more on each point made, versus the more holistic debate approach that compares each side overall to one another. Its really no big deal.
Posted by Lightkeeper 8 years ago
Lightkeeper
Sure, we'll continue. Still eager to find out what you mean. From what I've learned about PF (and I don't know much about it), cross-fire is very much a central feature of it. Along with usually a team-based approach.

Please elaborate as I'd love to learn something :)
Posted by Sweatingjojo 8 years ago
Sweatingjojo
I was referring more to certain principles and style of argument that is typically used in PF.

Its no matter though, let us carry on with this debate.
Posted by Lightkeeper 8 years ago
Lightkeeper
Sweatingjojo,

When you say you wanted a Public Forum debate, do you mean crossfire?
I would have loved to cross examine you :)
The problem is that this website doesn't really accommodate that style.
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