The Switch From Coal to Nuclear


Ryan Neff, Writer

The Understanding of Nuclear Reactors

As the global temperature goes up into concerning numbers, we look at the coal power plants as one of the problems for the rising temperatures. Many solutions came up to replace or completely remove them, however, one of them stands above the rest, and that is nuclear reactors. There are many benefits to them, the biggest being that they barely make any emissions that can harm the environment or the world, making them a safer option compared to coal power plants. In fact, the only thing that nuclear power plants do is procure steam, and that steam goes up into the atmosphere and creates clouds that produce rain.

The Fear of Nuclear Reactors

There are fears about anything related to nuclear power or just radionuclides material as a whole. Though that fear is justified due to previous encounters with the power of nukes or radionuclides materials, like the examples of the Chornobyl disaster in 1986 or the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, just to name a few. However, one of them was a man-made problem and the other one was an environmental accident. Those fears are justified, but they are formed from those big accidents that people know. Nuclear reactors are one of the safest reactors that exist in this world. All modern reactors are made with the concern of human or natural errors from those two major accidents. As well as there are rules in place to limit the chance of accidents, not just the safeguards that are in place for those accidents but also the Three Mile Island Accident, as well as a concern as a possible one in the future.

The Fuel That They Use/Can Use

Coal power plants use three different fuels, bituminous coal, sub-bituminous coal, or lignite, which is burned and produces high-pressure steam which is more dangerous than low-pressure steam in terms of what it does to people who work there. In nuclear power plants, the type of fuel used instead of coal reactors is either thorium or uranium.  Both have their highs and lows, however out of the two, thorium is much safer compared to uranium. However, if both are handled correctly, they both will be incredibly safe. Thorium burns much slower and is more efficient, and is found in bigger quantities. Though thorium is in the talks about using, as of right now, the fuel that they use is just uranium.

The Interviews of The People

I interviewed two people, one person has knowledge of the field while the other one is a student. The teacher is Mrs. Hall, who is a (general & IB) chemistry teacher and the student is Drew R. Both of them have a positive view on the switch from coal to nuclear.  With the positive responses to nuclear reactors, This is what Mrs. Hall had to say, “I would live next to a nuclear plant over a coal plant any day,” Mrs. Hall continued, “it’s a very good alternative to fossil fuel.” But there are risks to it as Mrs. Hall said, “If they aren’t kept up to date, that could be a good problem–if we had modern fission plants, updating them and keeping them maintained there shouldn’t be any problem.” This is what Drew R. had to say about it, “I approved–it would be very beneficial and I think we have faster countermeasures than what we used to,” he continues, “and I think people are more afraid of it than what they should be.” this is what he said about the risks by what he knows, “The risk, of course, would be a nuclear meltdown, Chernobyl,” he states, “however we learned from that and saw that ‘oh that was very bad and we can’t have happened again’ it won’t happen again, we have countermeasures and we have better systems.”

The Conclusion of The Switch

The switch from coal to nuclear is something we should really consider for our future. Sure it might have some problems and might cause another issue, however, I think it is the best choice. With what we understand of what we have learned or known from previous events or understanding of mathematics, I think it will be a good idea. Whether it’s the fuel or where it’s placed, I think the overall thing will be much better than what it is at right now with the coal power plants. A better future will depend on a switch.