Nuclear and You

Nuclear is a weird thing. And the science behind it is not the weird part, that’s a very simple concept really, fission splits the nucleus and fusion, well, fuses them. No, the most complex part of nuclear anything is actually the social and moral uses of it. Now, disregarding moral for this part, and looking at the purely logical standpoint of it. Now I’m not a nuclear engineer (yet), so I’m not a complete expert, but I know more than the average person about the issue, and that’s one of the main problems, people are uneducated.

Now, I’m not saying they need to know the intricate ins and outs of the scientific explanation behind nuclear power/weaponry, but people need to understand the massive difference between the two, and use a collection of both historical events and actual experts scientific knowledge to understand the severity of each respectively.

We’ll start with nuclear weaponry. Out of about 200+ countries on the planet, there are a total of 8 whole countries that for sure have nuclear weaponry, the biggest of which by a mile are the US and Russia, previously the Soviet Union. The US however, are bigger than Russia by sheer number of weapons, and they spend most of their time talking about how dangerous is it for other countries to have them. The bombs dropped in Japan, Little Boy and Fat Man, are estimated at around 18-22 kilotons of TNT. These wiped out whole cities. The largest bomb tested by the US was Castle Bravo, tested in 1954, so 61 years ago, and was 15 Megatons on TNT. If that was 61 years ago, think of the destructive power these bombs have now,

Yet people still defend the use, and one of the most common arguments is that it is to prevent other countries from using nuclear weaponry. Out of the 5 main countries with a nuclear weapons program, the top 4 are all members of the G8, a gathering of the worlds most powerful and wealthy countries. Now, North Korea are always listed as a credible threat, yet the strongest weapon they have tested to date has actually been about as strong as the Little Boy at around 20 kilotons, dropped in 2013. Now the fact that the current most powerful countries on the nuclear weapons front actually had this power 70 years ago goes to show how little of a threat they really are in that way.

However, lets say North Korea had the firing power the US had. If North Korea decided they wanted to fire their nuclear weaponry upon the US, the fact that the US has nuclear weaponry would not prevent this. The power currently available is enough to wipe entire countries and even greater regions out with just 1 bomb. If someone wished to use this power, the idea of retaliation would not deter them, as this is massive destructive force. Both the physical and the political implications of doing so would be huge, and as such if they decided to do this, they would not stop because our countries have bombs too. And if we did retaliate, then it would surely be the end of the world, as the destructive power would wipe out most of the life on the surface of Earth. This shows why we need to lead by disarming the nuclear weaponry, and encourage others to as well, as all they are doing is sucking up money, that could be much better spent elsewhere.

However, to counteract this, nuclear power is very often opposed heavily by people, many of whom also support the keeping of nuclear weaponry. One thing people always talk about is Chernobyl, the reactor explosion at Chernobyl being the only major accident in a nuclear power plant ever in the history of nuclear power. There have been many accidents, however almost all have resulted from things that could easily occur in any other plant, such as equipment ruptures, safety failures etc. Not only that, but essentially what happened in Chernobyl was that the safety systems were switched off in order to achieve a larger energy yield, and this was accomplished, the issue of course arising that the larger energy yield was dangerous. However, nuclear power plants are most likely the safest power plants on the planet. I am studying to be a chemical engineer, and I wish to become a nuclear engineer when I graduate, and we’ve learned about the rigorous safety meetings that go on for nuclear power plants. Because the result COULD be devastating, there are many safety systems put in place to make an issue essentially impossible without some sort of human error due to lack of training.

Overall, I feel that people really need to be educated in the facts of nuclear power and nuclear weaponry, and shown that they are not synonymous with each other, and that actually, you are more likely to die because of an oil factory explosion than you are a nuclear power plant meltdown, yet you don’t see people protesting oil, especially considering the energy yield from 1 nuclear plant could probably equal around 10 oil plants. I feel if people were more educated on the topic, there would be less hostility in the wrong areas, and funding would actually go towards bettering things like nuclear fusion, a nuclear process which when fully developed, could in fact provide more energy than the current fission reactors, with no toxic waste. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me, and I will answer to the best of my knowledge.

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