Does Nuclear Power Safety Merit the Collective American Fear and Skepticism?
Nuclear power or nuclear energy is produced in nuclear power plants through the fission process resulting in heat and radiation. The heat is used to generate electricity while the radioactive material is safely stored in tanks for a period of time to allow for the radioactivity level to decrease before being treated and released in a monitored way.
America is the world's largest producer of nuclear power operating 100 nuclear power reactors in 31 states. The biggest concern among Americans is nuclear accidents due to human error, plant malfunction and natural disasters resulting in radioactive material leakage. The Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident of 1979 in Pennsylvania, America was due to a cooling malfunction. There was minimal release of radioactive gases into the atmosphere with no known health effects. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in Ukraine was due to a flawed reactor design and inadequately trained personnel. 31 people died and massive amounts of radioactive dust were released into the atmosphere. People were evacuated from their homes and cases of cancer have been noted with no other known health effects, 20 years after the accident. The 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan was due to a massive earthquake and tsunami. No deaths or cases of radiation sickness were reported, but people were evacuated from their homes.
As a result of these accidents, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) were established to regulate the nuclear industry. Other measures have been put in place at the plant level to guarantee safety like: detailed emergency response plans; trained operators with valid federal licences; background and criminal history checks of all staff; radiation monitors around the plant; four-foot-thick concrete and steel containment domes that surround the reactor; and automatic shutdowns in cases of emergency and many more measures.