The Alternative Energy Source with the most Potential

Two potentially viable alternative energy sources are nuclear power, and hydrogen fuel cells. Many discuss nuclear fission in a negative light; they feel that the risks of accidents such as meltdowns or waste spills actually outweigh the benefits of nuclear power. An interesting fact raised by opponents of nuclear power is that it produces as much air pollution in the form of carbon monoxide gas as does power produced through coal-burning. This was said to be due to the fact that air pollution is produced through mining for the uranium used in nuclear fission reactions.

The other energy source, hydrogen fuel cells, are generally viewed in a more positive and hopeful light. These fuel cells rely on the breakdown of water into its component parts of hydrogen and oxygen through passing an electric current through it. One of the products, hydrogen, is a highly combustible gas which could then be used to power the car. The benefits of this technology are many, including the lack of harmful waste products, the virtually limitless supply of the fuel required, and the simplification it would allow to occur in vehicle design.

The one disadvantage discussed is the fact that the current world economy is based upon oil production and trade. To undercut this by introducing a new technology would lead to a catastrophic collapse of the current economical system. It is highly probable that this technology will in fact come into standard use sometime soon within our lifetimes, and that it would be highly beneficial, but it must be introduced gradually.

I am a major proponent of finding alternate sources of energy. I agree with the proponents of hydrogen fuel cells; they are an intriguing new discovery that will undoubtedly change transportation for the better.

However, I disagree with the way that nuclear fission as a power source is presented. Opponents focus heavily on such problems with nuclear power as the famous disasters of Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, rather than its vast benefits. Those meltdowns were anomalous; in each case some sort of problem arose that would not under the normal conditions and precautions used by nuclear power plants today. In fact, they are highly safe and equipped with multiple systems of fail safes to ensure that such disasters as these meltdowns do not occur again.

Also, the waste products produced by nuclear power, while dangerous, are their effects are not as harmful and prevalent in our environment as those caused by such unclean power-production methods as coal, gas, and oil burning. Stored properly, the waste products of nuclear fission will have no chance to harm the environment or those who live in it.

A third issue I have with the negative presentation of nuclear fission is the alleged fact that nuclear power produces as much air pollution as coal-burning does, due to the mining processes used to extract the uranium. I have no idea where those who allege this got this piece of information, and it seems neither do they. It may be an example of biased information supplied online. Whatever the case, without any sort of evidence to support the statement, I feel that it’s most likely completely false. In order to extract coal to burn in coal-burning plants, mining must be done as well, which should produce comparable amounts of air pollution to the mining of uranium.

Also, the sheer quantity of harmful wastes produced by the burning of fossil fuels in power plants (approximately 72,000,000 tons in 1997) far outweigh the amount of waste emissions produced by the actual process of nuclear fission: none. It is clear to me that alternative energy sources, such as nuclear power and hydrogen fuel cells will be a valuable investment to be made for the near future, and their many benefits far outweigh their costs