It comes as no great surprise that now that we have exhausted our planet, creatures, and resources with our merciless, excessive fossil fuel use; our new solution is equally destructive, just on a more long-term scale. Where fossil fuels are directly emitted into the environment, allowing us to observe their immediate impacts through the rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution, nuclear power is much more seductive in its destruction. Nuclear power seems like more effective energy, yet it is simply unpragmatic. Not only is it a finite resource, but it is also a threat to humanity.
We have already observed the brutal nature of nuclear power, the 1986 Chernobyl (Ukraine) and 2011 Fukushima Daiichi (Japan) nuclear disasters, where both exemplify the unreliability of nuclear power. The huge scope of death on a local level and enduring impacts on an international level, from nuclear contamination in fundamental water sources to whole areas becoming uninhabitable for centuries, demonstrate humanity’s inability to cope with nuclear power. The basis of this energy production relies on rapid, uncontrolled reactions in radioactive atoms. So, the attempt to industrialise this process would mean it would have to be reproducible. However, the moment we take this to areas with lesser resources, this would be an international disaster waiting to happen. One small uncontrolled atomic reaction leads to global destruction.
Fundamentally, if we consider Hiroshima, a deliberate nuclear attack, we can also note the slippery slope argument of relying on nuclear power arms all countries with the ability to destroy each other. As with the 20th century Red Scare and Russia-American tension surrounding a potentially nuclear-powered war, nuclear hazards, whether accidental or deliberate, are unequivocally inhumane and immoral. Encouraging the growth of the nuclear power sector of energy would destabilise humanity, leaving us all more exposed to nuclear power-related atrocities.
Perhaps most fundamentally, nuclear power is elitist and monopolised by the rich. Hypothetically, following a future COP, wealthy countries would be happy to reduce fossil fuel power and replace it with nuclear power, perhaps even making it illegal to use coal, gas or oil. Naturally, this leaves poorer, less economically developed countries at a disadvantage and at the mercy of these wealthy countries, relying on them for energy. This would serve only to heighten poverty and reduce the quality of life in these places.
Nuclear power is not an effective solution but a lazy one. It is what we already know works. But as we have seen with climate change, people in authority are willing to risk our lives and our planet for profit. We cannot trust them with nuclear power. It is only an effective resource whilst it works, but it is too easy to lose control of it and hard to prevent it from contaminating our environment. The waste will probably be disposed of in other areas of our planet for unknown consequences. We need a carbon-zero option. We need something that isn’t threatening our lives again, something our children won’t have to beg the government to change when they let it spiral out of control again.