Social, Economic and Political Concerns
So here we are one hundred years later and nuclear chemistry applications
have touched the vast majority of developed societies. There is no
denying that the benefits we have derived from it's unique properties
have been a boon to humanity. It would be a difficult task to imagine
stepping back in time and in the process losing all that we have gained.
How far we have some in such a short time. This road that has lead to
intimate understanding and knowledge has been an exciting, yet sometimes
Looking back, one can see the first half of this century as a time of
exploration and intellectual adventure. Then World War II swept over the
globe, and with it the first atomic weapons were born. Since this time
humanity has wrestled with the social, economic and political
ramifications that nuclear chemistry, by it's very nature, has left us.
So don't turn back now, for the remainder of this material will employ
interesting and thought provoking questions that contemporary societies
are struggling to answer.
Hair Dryers Vs. Global Warming
As every year goes by the demand for energy increases as the global
population increases. How do we as a society provide for our energy
needs? Do we burn more and more fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas
or petroleum? If so then we almost certainly run the risk of global
warming. Current research shows that the combustion of fossil fuels
liberates CO2, and that CO2 is
one of the main
culprits of global increases in temperature. Lets not forget the problem
of acid rain! Current theories attribute the combustion of fossil fuels
to our continued increase in acid raid pollution.
Alright, maybe we should just build more nuclear power generators whcih
do not add to the global warming or acid rain problems. If we take this
approach we can certainly reduce or even eliminate our dependance on
fossil fuels. At what cost though? Although we have solved a couple of
serious environmental problems another problem arises. What do we do
with all the nuclear waste that is generated? And what about the
economic costs involved with building and maintaining nuclear reactors?
Fossil fuel power stations are significantly less expensive to build and
operate. It is becoming apparent that the solution to this dilemma is
not as easy as it may appear. There is an opportunity cost to every
choice we make.
You Tell Us :
Can't we just send it to the moon?
What do we do with all the nuclear waste that has been generated by the
nuclear generators throughout the United States? This problem still
remains unanswered! The current situation is that all the waste is
essentially in temporary storage until a permanent solution is found. So
what do we do?
One possible solution is to bury the stuff deep underground in an area
that is geographically quiet (i.e. no earthquakes or water penetration).
After it is buried, then seal it up forever. But is this the right thing
to do? The answer may not be as easy as it appears. What if in a couple
of hundred years a bright young chemistry student figures out a way of
turning this waste into a new power source that produces virtually no
hazardous by-products. Surely our energy needs in the future will be
more critical. Alright then, maybe we should bury it but leave it in a
retrievable fashion. Yeah..that sounds better. Hey wait a minute, if we
leave it in a retriveable fashion any Tom, Dick, or a terrorist might be
able to access this material and use it to a bad end. Alright already,
lets put guards around it and make it a permanent military outpost. Yea,
that makes more sense. Just a second! Who is going to pay for all
this?? You guessed it, we all are.
As you can see there is no easy answer to this problem. If there was it
would have been done a long time ago. So as we contemplate this dilemma
the waste continues to pile up.
By the way...sending it up in the space shuttle is probably not a good
Your Turn :
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