Entrepreneur Elon Musk has called for Europe to restart dormant nuclear power plants to generate more energy in the face of rising gas prices caused by the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Although nuclear power is extremely safe, fictionalized accounts of the Chernobyl disaster have many concerned about the dangers of radiation. These dangers have so seeped into the public narrative regarding the renewable power source that Admiral Rickover once drank a glass of reactor coolant in front of Congress to prove his confidence in the safety of nuclear power.
Elon Musk Receives Criticism For Advocating For Nuclear Power
For those who (mistakenly) think this is a radiation risk, pick what you think is the worst location. I will travel there & eat locally grown food on TV.
I did this in Japan many years ago, shortly after Fukushima. Radiation risk is much, much lower than most people believe.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2022
Over the weekend, the Tesla founder tweeted, “Hopefully, it is now extremely obvious that Europe should restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones. This is *critical* to national and international security.”
However, Musk received pushback from those that were concerned about the dangers of radiation that could affect surrounding towns. Musk publicly addressed this misconception in a follow-up tweet.
“For those who (mistakenly) think this is a radiation risk, pick what you think is the worst location. I will travel there & eat locally grown food on TV,” Musk tweeted, adding, “I did this in Japan many years ago, shortly after Fukushima. Radiation risk is much, much lower than most people believe.”
He added, “Also nuclear is vastly better for global warming than burning hydrocarbons for energy.”
— Sir Doge of the Coin 🇺🇦 🦊 (@dogeofficialceo) March 6, 2022
One supporter of nuclear power posted a graphic of water vapor being the only nuclear power air emission. This stands in stark contrast to coal power air emissions, which produce water vapor, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, arsenic, lead, and many other chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled.
The Blast spoke with a nuclear power operator – the person in charge of how much energy a reactor can generate – to get their take on nuclear power safety.
Nuclear Power Operator Explains The Benefits & Drawbacks To Elon Musk’s Approach
The nuclear source exclusively told The Blast that, although Musk has a history of controversial tweets, they hope that “this represents a new chapter in the use of his public platform, one which puts the good of the public above his need to be recognized.”
When asked about the risk of radiation, the source pointed to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine as proof that nuclear power could be used as a beneficial energy source with minimal risk. “Sailors in nuclear-powered ships all over the world eat, sleep, and work within yards of an operating nuclear reactor,” they explained. “They received less radiation dose than the average person in their everyday lives.”
In addition to submarines, the U.S. government also uses nuclear power to power aircraft carriers, Arctic icebreakers, and floating power plants, among others. The U.S. government is also not alone in these uses. The U.K., France, and other countries, also use nuclear power for many different uses.
However, that’s not to say that the discussion of nuclear power came without criticism. The source pointed out that, “outside of military reactor programs, there’s relatively little standardization in nuclear plant construction, making it impossible to maintain a trained workforce of nuclear construction that gains experience and efficiency with each job, and costly delays during the bespoke process of installing a brand-new nuclear plant.”
When asked how they feel about nuclear power becoming the top renewable source around the world, the source replied, “It’s promising, but there’s a lot of hurdles. Some can be solved with a little political reform, but many require reform of entrenched institutional power structures and a pivotal shift in how nuclear power is discussed and socialized to the public.”
Hopefully, Musk’s recent statements about nuclear power will prove to be a step in the right direction to raise awareness of the safety and benefits that nuclear power represents and gas prices continue to rise around the globe.
Musk has also assisted Ukraine with his Spacelink satellites to connect Ukrainian citizens with Internet services.