Iowa nuclear energy bill too costly, too threatening

A huge controversy is brewing over a legislative bill that would allow MidAmerican Energy to build a nuclear power facility in Iowa. One facility already exists in Palo.
Proponents of the bill point out the safety of nuclear power with its carbon-neutral emissions (apart from the cost of building the power plant itself) and the slim chances of a nuclear disaster occurring in the United States. However, with the recent nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power’s credibility for safety has taken a hit. Japan had a reputation for being very careful with its nuclear energy facilities, and if its nuclear disaster hadn’t happened, the passing of this legislative bill would be a piece of cake. Although tsunamis and earthquakes are unlikely events in Iowa, occasional tornadoes should be taken into consideration.
Even compared with natural gas and progressive alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power, the cost per kilowatt-hour of nuclear energy is very expensive. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has emphasized that ratepayers should not have to worry about high prices for their electricity.
Costs for this proposed power plant are estimated at $2 billion, but money is not the only cost; we also shouldn’t overlook the consequences of storing nuclear waste. No method has yet been developed to do away with nuclear waste permanently, meaning that the main option is instead to bury it — hide it from view, essentially, leaving big piles of nuclear waste for future generations to worry about. The conservationists are furious.
Dr. Laura Jackson of UNI, who studies conservation biology and plant population biology, also opposes nuclear plans in Iowa. “The argument [MidAmerican Energy] absolutely can’t win is waste” she said. “I like to stick to the argument that they just don’t have an answer for. And that’s the argument they like to avoid.”
Different radioactive isotopes decay at different rates, known as half-lives. A radioactive particle’s half-life is the length of time it takes for half of it to disappear. It determines how quickly a radioactive particle decays, but it never completely disappears. For example, if a radioactive particle’s half-life is 50 years, 75 percent is gone in 100 years. When the fuel rods containing these radioactive particles are spent, they are either kept forever in a lead tank of hot water or sent somewhere else for storage (for burial). Used fuel rods must be shipped to their final resting places in rumbling trains or trucks — both extremely risky methods of transportation.
Nuclear fission is the process used to generate nuclear power, which involves the splitting of atoms. Plutonium, whose half-life is 24,000 years, is a major waste product of nuclear fission. Plutonium is also used in nuclear bombs.
Nuclear disasters make large areas of land uninhabitable and unusable for farming or any human use. With the prospect of building nuclear facilities in Iowa, such an event could have major repercussions even outside the United States, where other countries also depend on Iowa’s crops. Some of the world’s most productive soils cannot be risked for nuclear power.
Jackson encourages youth to become involved in nuclear conscientiousness: “Your generation will be making very important decisions about it. Understanding what the points of contention are is important.”
Take it from science and history; the cost and environmental risks posed by MidAmerican Energy’s plans to build a nuclear power plant in Iowa are too great.

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