November 28, 2020

Meltdown: Ameren goes Nuclear

Andrea Sisney is a junior journalism major and staff writer for The Journal

For decades, people have struggled with weighing the pros and cons of using nuclear energy instead of coal energy. In Missouri, the conversation is no different.
The newly proposed Ameren UE Callaway II nuclear plant has sparked the debate up again in St. Louis. Ameren would like to build a second plant, near their first, and would like Ameren customers to cover the costs up front.
In time of economic recession, any rate increase to energy consumers is going to upset some people. While Ameren says the rates will only be raised about $2 annually, St. Louisans don’t seem to be willing to fund the project. People are still struggling to put food on the table, and now Ameren asks them to pay for a huge new plant?
But the controversy isn’t just the money. Nuclear energy is still a polarizing topic in this country. There are still hundreds of coal plants around America, which employ many workers. Missouri is a coal state, and residents aren’t so sure they want to shy away from their history.
Nuclear energy still poses several potential dangers. Nuclear plants must be held to strict regulations or a serious accident could happen. Not to mention that America still doesn’t have a well-formulated plan for disposing of used nuclear reactor cores. We’ve thought of everything from sending them to the moon to burying them in Mt. Yucca, but nothing has seemed viable enough to keep the US safe.
With the world turning to environmental sustainability more and more each day, nuclear energy becomes even trickier. Ask a group of environmentalists how they feel about nuclear energy.
For some people, anything that cuts down on the amount of coal ash being leached into our water and CO2 being released into the air is great thing. To them, the potential dangers of nuclear power are so far off that the immediate cut back on smog seems like a genius idea.
Then there are others who worry about toxic waste from nuclear plants causing serious harm to anyone who may be in contact with it. They are concerned about where the pollutants will go and how we can be assured that plants will not malfunction and expose cities to toxic waste.
Business owners and government officials can go back and forth on this topic forever. They each have their set of statistics that proves their argument, and they have wealthy backers to support their campaigns.
It seems to me that they are missing the real issue. Trading coal energy for nuclear energy is neither an improvement nor a decline — it is a change in kind. If we really want to cut down on pollutants in Missouri, and even cut down on costs in the long-term, we should be researching renewable energy.
Creating wind farms or solar farms would create jobs, just like Callaway II. Building facilities for renewable energy costs money, but in the end, using solar and wind power can lower rates. Public figures don’t want to acknowledge renewable energy as a viable option, saying it’s not efficient and too expensive.
That is just not true. People are afraid of changing the system that has been working for them for a long time. But it isn’t working for those of us concerned with preserving our planet. We need to push for cleaner, more sustainable energy instead of choosing the lesser of two evils.

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