Opinion | Nuclear energy provides a solution for climate crisis

Nuclear energy can help Iowa deal with climate change’s repercussions.



Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

Iowa should invest in nuclear energy to combat the harmful effects of climate change.

Currently, there are no operating nuclear power plants in Iowa — the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo closed its doors permanently after sustaining damage from the August derecho. Though, it was already slated for closure in October 2020 because, as Duane Arnold officials told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the plant didn’t fit Iowa’s increasingly wind and solar based energy portfolio. The 600-megawatt plant generated power for 600,000 homes.

It is time that policymakers get serious about aggressively cutting back greenhouse gas emissions using pragmatic solutions, like harnessing nuclear energy.

Climate change is wrecking Iowa’s economy as there has been an increase in drought, flooding, and dangerous storms.

In Davenport, flooding has become a major issue. The 2019 flood caused nearly $30 million in damages as entire sections of the city were underwater.

These “great floods” have become much more common and global warming is the culprit, as scientists are 90 percent certain that the rising temperatures caused the flood.

Iowa’s agricultural industry is also recoiling from climate change.

Just last year, Iowa farmers lost 10 million acres of corn and soybean courtesy of the 2020 derecho.

Experts predict that global warming will change the location of future and magnitude of derechos, meaning that we are going to see a lot more of them coming for Iowa in the future.

Furthermore, an abnormal increase in the amount of droughts these past few summers have damaged a great deal of crops, costing the agricultural industry millions of dollars in potential earnings.

Nuclear energy provides a solution for the problems Iowa is facing.

Officials in the U.S. and Europe have highlighted just how important nuclear power is to ending reliance on fossil fuels.

Nuclear power releases virtually no carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The entire process, from uranium mining to waste disposal only emits 2-6 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt per hour, equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by wind and solar energy.

Because of its status as a zero-carbon energy source, it is estimated that in Europe, nuclear power plants have prevented 700 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere.

You might think that the aforementioned environmental activists would champion nuclear energy. On the contrary, they have allowed accidents at Three Mile Island, Fukushima, and Chernobyl to convince them that nuclear power is dangerous.

They often claim that we do not have a safe way to dispose of dangerously radioactive waste and that a nuclear accident would be devastating to the human race.

But the death rate from nuclear energy is .007 per 27,000, much lower than the death rate from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Even Chernobyl, probably the worst recorded nuclear disaster, did not have many negative health risks attached to it.

In a 2008 study conducted by the United Nations, it was found that there were no long-term health consequences to the population exposed to radiation except for a development in thyroid cancers in some individuals who were children at the time of the accident. Out of 6,500 cases, only 15 died.

As for nuclear waste, scientists have developed a safe way to dispose of it.

For a vast majority of nuclear waste, it is encouraged that the waste be treated underwater for five years and then shipped out to dry storage. For highly radioactive waste, experts say that it is best for it to be stored deep underground.

In fact, the U.S. already has designated the Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a disposal site for all highly radioactive waste that Iowa could send to.

Despite the stigma surrounding it, nuclear power is an efficient energy source. If we are going to prevent climate change from damaging Iowa any further, the state government needs to start building a zero-carbon apparatus that includes nuclear energy.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.