“These humans have gotten themselves into quite an energy muddle,” Gram thought to herself. “Fossil fuels have been a relatively cheap and convenient source of energy for generations. But burning them accelerates the warming of the atmosphere which then intensifies severe weather events. Why in 2022 alone, there were18 severe weather events that cost the U.S. over $1 billion each! (The 40-year average has been about 7 billion-dollar events a year.) Even more are likely as the atmosphere warms further. So penny-wise humans are racing to find ways to substitute clean energy alternatives for fossil fuels. Some say the use of emissions-free nuclear energy should be part of the mix. Should it?” she wondered.
As Gram settled into her rocker, she asked the girls to lay out their arguments. “To begin with,” Joy began, “nuclear fusion is safer than nuclear fission. Fusion generates low-level waste that’s less radioactive and has a shorter lifespan than the waste from fission. It doesn’t use the enriched uranium needed to make nuclear bombs. And get this! Nuclear scientists just made a huge technological breakthrough toward making fusion commercially feasible. At least 35 private companies are investing over $5 billion to do so,” Joy beamed.
“Promises, promises,” Ima interrupted. “Remember Doc Brown’s 2015 ‘Mr. Fusion’ powered flying car in ‘Back to the Future’? Hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, humans need the reliable, always-on power that nuclear fission already generates every day around the world. Sure, folks have every reason to be concerned about the safety of nuclear and of any fuel. But natural gas facilities kill 70 times—and coal 600 times—as many people from air pollution and accidents as nuclear power generation does. Even astronauts going to the moon use nuclear power!” Ima concluded.
“Hmm… these humans have some tough decisions to make about atomic energy,” Gram mused. “But they’re clever problem solvers; they’ll find a way to protect their only home because where else would they live? They’re forever…Earthbound.”