In 1986, the disabling of safety systems coupled with human error and poor nuclear reactor design would ultimately manifest itself in the form of an explosion that would ultimately become known as the worst nuclear accident the world has ever known (Wittgott). In day-to-day speech, this tragedy—a tragedy that would kill 31 people and sicken thousands more—is known as Chernobyl (Wittgott). And while the physical effects of the explosion can still be felt more than 30 years later with still-lingering radioactive Strontium-90 and Caesium-137 (“Chernobyl questions”), the implications of Chernobyl and other massive nuclear disasters on the future of nuclear power are nearly just as large—following the event, the growth of nuclear power slowed, partially due to the birth of new public fears and a reluctance to invest in such plants in the wake of Chernobyl (Wittgott). Additionally, the issue of disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants has been a point of contention as well (Wittgott).
However, in an era where global warming threatens and looms closer to destroying the wellbeing of some ecosystems, individuals, communities, and nations—the possible sinking of entire nations like the Maldives and the threatening of various ecosystems—a great exigence for renewable energy sources becomes even more evident (Wittgott). One of these energy sources, as we know, is nuclear energy as it does not directly contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases (Wittgott). However, as we also know, nuclear energy has its downsides as well.
This demonstrates the necessity of equilibrium, of a near-perfect balance in science. While power plants run a small risk of disaster and difficult waste disposal (Wittgott), continuing to use nonrenewable energy sources instead of renewable energy sources like nuclear power may be putting the planet on an even larger trajectory to disaster. Thus, it’s imperative to find the appropriate balance between nuclear power and other sources of energy, which may include greater use of nuclear energy—otherwise, if we lose this balance, we may be destined for catastrophe.
Withgott, Jay, and Matthew Laposata. Environment: The Science Behind the Stories. Pearson, 2016.
Frequently asked Chernobyl questions. (2016, November 07). Retrieved February 06, 2021, from https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/chernobyl/faqs.