It's a proven fact that electricity is vital to economic growth in America. In addition, demand for electricity is projected to grow about 36 percent by the year 2000. Such an increase will bring us more of the same environmental problems we face now for decades to come. We need a clean, proficient, independent source of electricity - nuclear power.
So much was said about the trade deficit during the presidential campaign, but how many of you know the impact of imported fossil fuels on the deficit? Oil imports accounted for about 40 percent of the U.S. trade deficit in 1989. Nuclear power, on the other hand, has directly displaced 4.3 billion barrels of imported oil since 1973 - oil that would have required a cumulative $125 billion increase in the trade deficit. If the nation's nuclear power plants were shut down, oil imports would increase by one million barrels per day, doubling imports from the Middle East. It is obvious that nuclear power has played a key role in limiting the trade deficit.
It's about time America acts responsibly to look for energy sources that are good for the environment. Nuclear power plants produce electricity by the fissioning of uranium, not the burning of fuels. As a result, nuclear plants do not pollute the air with sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, dust, or "greenhouse" gases like carbon dioxide. By using nuclear energy, the U. S. avoided emitting 5 million tons of sulfur oxides and 2 million tons of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. If the U.S. wants to protect the environment, including smog reduction in major cities, it must support cleaner energy alternatives.
When discussing nuclear power, the topic of safety is unavoidable. The fact is there has never been a nuclear melt-down, and due to the strict construction regulations of U.S. plants, probably will never be. Unwarranted public fear and prejudices against nuclear energy has caused the United States to slow the rate of plant construction, thus leaving us in a position where we must be more dependent on foreign oil.
Now is the time to prepare for our future, and for an effective, environmentally safe source of electricity, the only reasonable way to go is nuclear power. Many communities are frightened by the thought of having a nuclear facility in their "backyard," but we must inform these people that nuclear power is safe ... and clean.
All statistics derived from the U.S. Council on Energy Awareness. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.