The Great Debate

January 3, 2012
By
The date was April 26, 1986, when a catastrophic power increase occurred at the Chernobyl Power Plant in Ukraine. This led to a massive explosion in the core of reactor number four and dispersed massive amounts of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. The effects of this explosion still lurk in the area today, and we will never forget this accident.

Moving forward twenty-three years to my Introduction to Physical Science (IPS) class, an article was given to my fellow classmates and I about the Chernobyl disaster.

“Why would we ever use nuclear power?” One student yelled across the room.

“It is obviously way to dangerous to be used efficiently,” another ‘know-it-all’ said smugly.

How can these kids be saying this after reading this article? It was quite clear that the accident at Chernobyl was completely human error and lack of experience by the plant operators. At the time of the explosion, very inexperienced operators were working at the plant and going over various protection systems and testing routines. During this time, different aspects of safety regulators were turned off in order to run the certain tests. There were also many different design deficiencies that were later found in the plant. For example, the control rods, whose job was slow nuclear reactions, were found to be to short and allowed a very strong reaction. All in all, nuclear power was not at fault in this case, the operators at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant were.

Minutes after the argument took place, the bell rang, and it was time to leave. But, the thought of nuclear power, and its advantages stuck with me throughout the day. I was only a freshman at the time and little did I know that nuclear power would play a much larger role in my life.

When I went home that night, Vermont Yankee, the local Nuclear Power Plant, came up in a discussion at dinner.

“Have you heard about all of the protests around Brattleboro?” my mom asked.

Obviously we had, we lived in Vernon, and our claim to fame is Vermont Yankee. Not only does the plant provide energy for 1/3 of Vermont, but it provides over 700 jobs and countless charitable donations throughout the state. Now, our town was turning against it for reasons that did not seem legitimate.

That night, I decided to shut myself out from the outside world and learn about nuclear power and its benefits. For hours I read about the controversies and advantages surrounding nuclear power. When I felt like I had a strong grasp on the subject, I closed my laptop, barely noticing that the clock had just struck 1:00am. A part of me felt accomplished and prepared for the inevitable debates I would undergo throughout my high school career about nuclear power. Little did I know, my opportunity to debate would come so soon.

The next day at school I slowly walked into my IPS class. My eyes were heavy and I moved about like a zombie due to my lack of sleep the night before. As instructed, we took out the article from the previous day about the horrible disaster at the Chernobyl power plant.

“Not this again. Didn’t we already decide nuclear power was a bad idea?” one student whined.

I was not about to let this comment bother me. I was fully equipped with an abundance of information on nuclear power.

“Did you know nuclear power is the most efficient energy source and does not depend on our depleting source of fossil fuels?” I shot back at the student. Then I got the best respond I could have asked for, complete silence. That was easy. Within seconds I had shut down the snobby comment of one student and showed the class one benefit of nuclear power.

Over the next few years, I have joined in a number of debates surrounding nuclear power and Vermont Yankee. Unfortunately, my opinions are different from much of my classmates. But, every now and then a debate comes up that I cannot resist taking part in. Maybe my peers do have an argument against nuclear power. It can be seen as dangerous if we look at disasters, such as, Chernobyl. However, these tragedies can be prevented, and nuclear power can only get safer, as we learn more about its effects and advantages.





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