Although nuclear power plants have been in operation for less than 70 years, we have seen three serious disasters. Tragically, it took a horrific disaster in Japan to remind the world that none of the fundamental problems with nuclear power have ever been addressed.
Besides reactor safety, both nuclear proliferation and the required long-term storage of nuclear waste (which remains lethal for more than 100,000 years) make nuclear power a uniquely dangerous energy technology for humanity. Nuclear is no solution to Climate Change and every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on truly safe, affordable and renewable energy sources.
The first nuclear power plant in the world opened in 1954 in Obninsk, Soviet Union and the second opened in UK in Calder Hall in 1956. The fist power plant in USA came in 1958. Today (2021) there are 440 active nuclear plant worldwide and they are placed in densely populated areas, as are most of the waste. Regardless of being for or against nuclear power, the nuclear waste is a problem we all have to live with and solve. Another 3-400 more power plants are planned, while scientists are running out of ideas of where to store the waste.
Today USA has the most active nuclear power plants (93) followed by France (56) and China (50)
The oldest power plant in USA is from 1969 and located near New York.
What Is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy is created through the process of splitting atoms—specifically, uranium atoms. When the atom is split it becomes two smaller, lighter atoms. Because energy doesn’t just disappear, the “lost” mass is converted into heat, which is used to produce electricity.
Low Cost of Operation
After the initial cost of construction (which is extremely expensive), nuclear energy is a cost-effective energy solutions compared to energy from gas, coal, or oil unless those resources are located near the power plant they supply.
Steady Source of Energy
Nuclear power plants are essentially unaffected by external climatic factors and create a steady energy output. A nuclear power plant in full-swing operation can produce energy non-stop for an entire year.
Uranium sources on the planet can last to generate energy for the next 70-80 years, which is longer than many fossil fuels are estimated to last.
Stable Base Load Energy
The stable production of power created by nuclear power plants in USA (20% of the total electricity) means that it can ideally be used in conjunction with other forms of renewable energy like wind turbines and solar.
Produces Low Pollution (if you only consider CO2 and not the nuclear waste)
The current consumption of nuclear energy already reduces over 555 million metric tons of CO2 emissions every year. This reduction in greenhouse gases is an advantage right now, but rather temporary, as the problem of extremely toxic nuclear waste is not solved.
Sufficient Fuel Availability
Like fossil fuels, the uranium used to supply nuclear power plants is in limited supply. However, our uranium reserves are estimated to last another 80 years, whereas fossil fuels have a much more limited lifespan.
Countries like India, China, and Russia are already working towards using the greener and more abundant thorium to power nuclear reactors. If we switch to thorium we will have even longer than 80 years or fuel available. However, if scientists are able to turn nuclear fusion into a reality, we would theoretically never run out of electricity ever again. Turning nuclear energy into sustainable energy requires the use of breeder reactors and nuclear fusion to sustain us for the foreseeable future.
High Energy Density
Nuclear fission (the process used to generate nuclear energy) releases much greater amounts of energy (8,000 times) than simply burning fossil fuels like gas, oil, or coal. Because nuclear energy is more efficient, it requires less fuel to power the plant and therefore creates less waste as well.
Expensive to Build
Despite being relatively inexpensive to operate, nuclear power plants are incredibly expensive to build—and the cost keeps rising ($4-9 Billion) In addition to the expense of building a power plant, nuclear plants must also allocate funds to protect the waste they produce and keep it in cooled structures with security procedures in place. All of these costs make nuclear power quite expensive.
The Chernobyl accident is estimated to have caused as many as 10,000 deaths from the long-term effects of radiation in the region. The Fukushima power plant crisis in 2011 showed that no matter how safe nuclear power plants are designed to be, accidents can and do happen.
Produces Radioactive Waste
Although nuclear energy production does not create any emissions, it does produce radioactive waste that must be securely stored so it doesn’t pollute the environment. While radiation might sound scary, we are constantly exposed to small amounts of radioactivity from cosmic rays or radon in the air we breathe. In small quantities, radiation isn’t harmful—but the radioactive waste from nuclear energy production is incredibly dangerous.
Storage of radioactive waste is a major challenge facing nuclear power plants. Because there’s no way to destroy nuclear waste, the current solution is to seal it securely in containers and store it deep underground where it can’t contaminate the environment. As technology improves, we will hopefully find better ways of storing radioactive waste in the future.
Impact on the Environment
Nuclear power plants have a greater impact on the environment than just the waste they produce. The mining and enrichment of uranium are not environmentally friendly processes. Open-pit mining for uranium is safe for miners but leaves behind radioactive particles, causes erosion, and even pollutes nearby sources of water. Underground mining isn’t much better and exposes miners to high amounts of radiation while producing radioactive waste rock during extraction and processing.
Nuclear power presents a unique threat to our national security because it is powered by nuclear energy. Terrorists might target nuclear power plants with the intention of creating a disaster, and the uranium used to produce the power can be turned into nuclear weapons if they end up in the wrong hands. For these reasons, security surrounding nuclear materials and nuclear power plants is extremely important.
Limited Fuel Supply
There might be some important pros and cons of nuclear energy, but one of the most important considerations to keep in mind is that nuclear energy is dependent on uranium and thorium to produce energy. Unless we can find a way to create nuclear fusion or build breeder reactors before our supply dries up, we will be unable to create energy with the nuclear power plants we’ve built for the future. Ultimately, nuclear power is only a temporary solution with a very high price tag.
A Sustainable Future
Learning about the pros and cons of nuclear energy will help you make your own decision about whether it’s a good choice for our future energy needs or whether it’s not a long-term strategy worth pursuing. If you’re interested in doing your part for the environment and finding ways to reduce your energy consumption, visit Spring Power & Gas to learn more about our environmentally conscious products today.
December 5th, 2018
Our warehouse is in a small industrial area with a school bus company as the closest neighbor. There are working around 40 bus drivers. They have never been educated on not to trough garbage out the window and just trashing the area.
We have started a campaign “no trash in our streets.
We have painted oil drums green and with big TRASH sign and placed them strategically on the street together with planters with flowers.
We have made flyers and talked to the managers about the campaign. We have distributed flyers to the drivers, and they are all smiles and hopefully they will be on board. This is the first step.
Trash cans and flower
Starting the campaign with Ben and Mel at the school bus company
The bird habitat in front of the Gaia building was create last summer. During the winter we have fed the birds in this area. We made feeing station out of plastic bottles.
The activity in April was to clean up, plant some bushes. It is done and we have furthermore made educational posters about birds in Chicago and general about birds as they are threatened by destruction of their natural habitat.
We will use the bird habitat as an educational station at our Gaia Climate Center.
Here is the first lesson for staff
We are also posting on Facebook and Instagram for more people to see
Gaia offers an easy way to recycle many items. It is a great way for you to participate in protecting the environment and preventing our landfills to get overfilled.
Step 1. Gather and wash your unwanted clothes, textiles and other items you don’t need. Most household textiles can be recycled. This includes clothing, linens, and wearable accessories. But also, other things can be recycled (see lists below).
Step 2. Ensure all items are clean, dry and free of odors. We accept items that are stained or torn a bit but still wearable. Remove all hangers. Ensure all items are in sealed bags.
What about my fabric scraps or pillow stuffing? Gaia, like most other collectors, is unable to accept these items. Textile Recycling is a complicated process and items go through a series of sorting channels and these items apply to companies that can generate thousands of pounds of materials at a time, all with consistent size and material makeup.
Step 3. Check with the lists, which Gaia can process below:
Acceptable Clothing and Textiles Items:
Blouses, Coats, Dresses, Pants, Shirts, Socks, Swimsuits Suits, Tuxedos, Sweaters, Undergarments, Ties, Socks, Jeans, Hats, Jackets, Scarves
Household Textiles: Bedspreads, Sheets, Blankets, Drapes, Sofa Covers, Quilts,
Towels, Washcloths, Curtains, Pillows Sleeping Bags
Mattresses, Rugs, Carpets. Bigger Cushions, Furniture, Foam Mats, Vinyl Shower Curtains.
All Paired Shoes
Single Shoes, Extremely Damaged/Broken Shoes
Stuffed Animals, Plush Toys, Hard Toys, Wooden Toys, Dolls, Purses/Belts, Purses, Handbags, Backpacks, Tote-bags, Belts, Intact Games & Puzzles, Gently Worn Pots & Pans, Figurines, Smaller Paintings and Picture Frames, Candle holders, Hand Tools,
Large Luggage, Electric Tools, Lamps, Furniture, Appliances, Blinds, TV’s, Computers, Wood Paper, Wrapping Paper, Office Supplies, Books, Car Seats,
Electronics, Strollers, CD’s and DVD’s.
Step 4. Go Donate in a Gaia box. If you do not know where there is a box in your neighborhood, then go to www.gaia-movement-usa.org and write you zip code in the box finder.
Although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, we only recycle around 30% of it.”
Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles make their way into landfills each year. At Gaia, we strongly encourage people to recycle their textiles, with us, or with their local resale store.
Even further, we truly desire to see each of you go beyond recycling only textiles to eco-consciously disposing of all recyclables you come into contact with, from plastics to aluminum, cardboard and paper to anything that can be kept out of landfills by using one of these 5 R’s. below:
- Refuse – plastic bags, straws, cutlery, etc.
- Reduce – use of plastic in packaging.
- Reuse – versus disposing; may include repair.
- Recycle – into same or another product.
- Repurpose – use an item for something else.
Refuse – plastic bags, straws, cutlery, etc.
The first “R” is to refuse plastic bags, straws, cutlery, etc. When out and about, it is so easy to stop by a store and buy an item and simply accept a plastic bag upon purchasing that item. If it is something small, choose instead to carry the product(s) out of the store in your hand or purse after purchasing. Even better, place a few reusable grocery bags in your trunk, and put them back in there after unloading each time when you get home. That way, you are never in need of a plastic bag even if you’re simply making a quick stop on your way home from work.
Refuse straws and plastic cutlery by drinking with an open lid or also stocking your car with reusable straws and cutlery when out and about. Go one step further and bring your own reusable travel cup. These are small items that could even fit in your purse or backpack if you use alternative transportation getting around in daily life. Small efforts go a long way in helping reduce your carbon footprint. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put that in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.
Reduce – use of plastic in packaging.
The second “R” is to “Reduce” the use of plastic in packaging. An example of an alternative to plastics in packaging is the use of banana leaves in parts of Asia. Biodegradable types of packaging are starting to pop up. Use of recycled textiles and other recycled materials. The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year.” The other part of the problem is simply reducing the need for this packaging with creative solutions. The amount of plastic film and wrap produced annually could shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
Reuse – versus disposing; may include repair.
In our consumer-driven society, we often choose to throw away something when it needs repair rather than taking time to mend it or have it mended. A hundred years ago this was not the case. Most belongings were made with high quality and longevity in mind, so when they did break or need mending, there were shops in place or know how by the public in fixing these items at home. Many women sewed the family’s clothes, so when there was a rip in the fabric or a hole in a sock, repairs were easy and done right at home. This newer proliferation of consumerism and the ease it brings in replacing rather than repairing has led to an overabundance of items ending up in our landfills when they could have lasted longer with a bit of loving repair. Our third “R” is “Reuse” – versus disposing, which may include repair. Learning the basics of sewing can help many of your textiles have a longer shelf life at home and making good use of YouTube videos can also help in minor repairs of items around the house. With landfills reaching their limits, it is increasingly important that we seek out items that are made with high quality and return to the mindset of repair and restoration over replacement.
Recycle – into same or another product.
The fourth “R” is “Recycle” – into the same or another product. Reuse and recycle are often confused terms so a simple explanation to differentiate the two is that reuse involves using the same product in its original form for the same or a different purpose. Recycling is a process and involves turning one product into a new product so as not to waste the material. Recycling can involve numerous products, from cans to paper to textiles to plastic bottles, and much more. Some even make businesses out of collecting and creating art to sell with other people’s recycled goods. You can recycle paper down to pulp and create new paper or recycle blue jeans into insulation for homes.
There are many ways that recycling companies have figured out how to create new products from older products with life still left in them. As many of you know, the heart of who we are at Gaia is about educating our community. Knowledge has been growing in the problem of textiles in landfills, and so has the pursuit of creating a closed loop of textiles and fashion. Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes and textiles make their way into landfills each year. Donating your textiles to resale stores and donation bins is one big way you can give your textiles another life. The same is true of other goods in your home with regards to being recycled versus placed out by the curb on trash day. Textiles can be recycled in almost every case, with the majority reused and resold in other countries. Other textiles are recycled and cut into wiping rags, and others are recycled and broken down into fibers to make filling for car seats, insulation and other products.
Repurpose – use an item for something else.
The fifth and final “R”: “Repurpose” your items for something else. There are many ways you can do this. Cutting an old coat down to a vest, using recyclables to make art, using old wood flooring to make picture frames or child size furniture, or turning old bed sheets into new clothes are just a few ways household items can be repurposed. One example of this in our very own backyard is the Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago. Local artists have created sea animal sculptures outside the aquarium on display made from trash collected from our oceans. With a little bit of creativity, new purposes can be found for items anywhere you look.
With a little extra effort, you can easily work these five R’s into your daily routine. Recycle textiles, bring along reusable bags and dining accessories, become educated in what to recycle and how to recycle it, and use a little bit of creativity when items in your everyday no longer serve their purpose. When each of us plays our small role in reducing our output to landfills, we can make a large difference in impacting our world for a better tomorrow.