Nuclear power is one of the more politically controversial sources of electric power around the world. It is used to produce electricity in countries including the United States, France, Germany, Russia and Japan. It is controversial because of its role in debates such as global climate change, energy independence and safety issues.
Arguments about the costs of nuclear energy are a double-edged sword. Proponents can point out that in most cases it is a cheaper source of carbon-free electricity than solar or wind, but opponents of nuclear energy can point to numbers showing that it is in most cases still more expensive than coal or natural gas.
Arguments about the safety of nuclear energy are also plentiful on both sides of the debate. On one hand, detractors often point to the potential for a meltdown that could release radiation into the atmosphere, citing Chernobyl as an example. On the other side, proponents argue that such an accident is impossible with modern reactor safety technology and that empirically, nuclear energy is one of the safest forms of energy.
Proponents of nuclear energy often argue that only nuclear power is currently capable of providing the baseload energy, or electricity that is needed 24 hours a day, to replace carbon and natural gas without the associated carbon emissions. They argue that starting to reduce carbon emissions by transitioning away from fossil fuels is the only way to prevent climate change. Opponents claim that other sources of energy are capable of producing carbon-free energy without the same risks.
Spent Fuel Disposal
Many opponents of nuclear power argue that there is no solution to storing the hot and radioactive fuel after it is pulled out of a reactor. The political process of selection a site for a long-term repository and the technical and political challenge of safely transporting all of the spent fuel there both pose problems for any potential solution. Proponents argue that spent nuclear fuel can be disposed of safely and is a better alternative to emissions from other energy sources such as coal plants.