Many of the political discussions taking place in 2016 revolve around energy. People debate whether the US should be getting any of its oil from overseas because it means having to be involved heavily in regions like the Middle East. Other people question the US policy of offshore drilling, believing it to be very detrimental to the world’s environment. Still other people question natural gas exploration, believing that it leads to earthquakes and water contamination. There are also debates around energy involving climate change and how much energy the world is still getting from fossil fuels, while other people argue that coal and oil are much cheaper than solar energy and thus should continue to be used. These sorts of conversations tend to get very heated, and typically very little is achieved.
Of course, there is one form of energy out there that most people fail to talk about, and that’s nuclear energy. The process of creating nuclear energy starts with uranium mining. The vast majority of uranium mining that’s done in the United States occurs in western states like Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. Thanks to the Rocky Mountains and other geological features, this just happens to be the part of the country where uranium can be found in large concentrations. In fact, most of the country’s minerals are found in these states. Once a company like Energy Fuels has identified the location of a uranium deposit, they begin to mine the area. Fully mining a particular area for uranium can take years and it requires digging up thousands of tons of earth. In other words, it’s not a job for the inexperienced.
Once the uranium is mined it can be transported to a facility where it’s turned into nuclear energy. The fact that nuclear energy never comes up in these political discussions of energy is truly mind boggling. For starters, nuclear energy produces a huge amount of energy. A nuclear reactor facility can produce as much energy as is needed for incredibly large numbers of people, making it a feasible option to replace fossil fuels. On top of that, when you create nuclear energy very few greenhouse gases are emitted. The vast majority of emissions come from mining and transporting the uranium, but the actual creation of nuclear energy produces essentially zero emissions. Thus, not only is there a great deal of nuclear energy to be had in the world, but it’s also great because it drastically reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The bulk of emissions come from the uranium mining companies, but compared to burning coal they’re virtually nonexistent.
As you can see, it’s difficult to understand why nuclear energy doesn’t come up more often. There have been accidents in the past, but with the proper safeguards there’s relatively little to worry about when it comes to nuclear energy production. If the world is going to transition to cleaner energy while still meeting energy demands, then uranium mining and nuclear energy are going to have to be a part of that.