Debate Tools

What information can I use to counter arguments made by people who are opposed to Nuclear Power?

What do I say if an opponent says that Nuclear Energy Is Not Safe?

  • Nuclear Energy is safer than any other form of energy available.
  • No member of the general public has ever been killed or injured in 40 years of commercial Nuclear Energy generation in the United States
  • The OSHA Accident Rate for the Nuclear Power Industry is lower than the accident rate for the Finance, Education, and Artist industries

Table 1


What do I say to opponents who claim that nuclear power plants could explode like a nuclear bomb?

  • A nuclear reactor can never explode like a nuclear bomb. The fuel (Uranium) in reactors is only enriched to about 3%, a nuclear bombs fuel is enriched to over 95%.
  • The MOX fuel program is currently down-blending Russian Nuclear weapons grade uranium to produce a lot of fuel for the nuclear power industry. This is helping to deplete the number of nuclear warheads around the world.

What do I say if an opponent says that as nuclear plants get older they become more risky to operate?

  • Safety and Reliability of Nuclear Power Plants has improved over time. Plants have increased their electrical output to over 806.5 Billion kWh. Unplanned shutdowns have decreased tremendously, see Table 2 below.

Table 2


Table 3


What do I say if an opponent says that Nuclear Plants Cause Cancer?

  • Nuclear Plant workers have a lower mortality than average Americans. 35% lower for all cancers and 66% lower for all non-cancer deaths (NEI)
  • Americans receive more radiation from natural sources than from Nuclear Plants (NEI)
    • Average Resident Receives 360 millirems per year
    • Average Nuclear Plant worker receives 160 millirems per year
  • Pilots receive many times more radiation than the average nuclear plant worker. The higher in elevation you are the more radiation you receive.

What do I say if an opponent says that all radiation is negative, no matter the level?

  • Everyone receives radiation on earth. The sun, rocks, dirt, anything on the earth emits radiation. It is known as background radiation.
  • Radiation is highly used in the medical field for cancer research, cancer treaments, X-rays, etc.
  • The granite walls of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. emit so much radiation from the contained uranium, that it could never be licensed as a Nuclear Power Reactor Site (PBS) and if it were a Nuclear Power Plant, it would be decommissioned.
  • Dispersions from coal combustion result in effective radiation dose 100 times greater than nuclear energy production.

What do I say to opponents who claim that Nuclear Energy is too costly?

  • Nuclear Energy is competitive with other forms of baseload power generation. (Table 5, Table 6)

Table 5 : Baseload Power Costs


Courtesy – NEI

Table 6

comparingcosts1Courtesy – Dept. of Energy, Energy Information Administration 2009

What do I say to opponents who claim that Nuclear Power Generation is not reliable?

  • In 2004 Nuclear Power Plants in the United States operated at an average of 90.5% capacity.
  • The increases in capacity factor at 103 nuclear power plants across the country have been equivalent to the addition of 26 new 1,000MW power plants.
  • Nuclear power plants are available 24/7 day and night and release no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It accounts for about 75% of all non-greenhouse emitting energy generation.

U.S. Capacity Factors by Fuel Type (2007)

Fuel Type Average Capacity Factors (%)
Nuclear 91.8
Coal (Steam Turbine) 71.8
Gas (Combined Cycle) 43.3
Wind 30.4
Hydro 27.8
Solar 19.8
Oil (Steam Turbine) 19.6
Gas (Steam Turbine) 16.0

What do I say to opponents who claim that there is not enough uranium to support building new Nuclear Plants?

  • There is enough Uranium today to last hundreds of years.
  • 96% of today’s spent fuel can be recycled. The United States is the only country that does not recycle the spent fuel.
  • Advanced breeder reactors could increase fuel inventories by 50 times.
  • Thorium which is found in large supplies within the United States could be converted to U-233 and used to fuel reactors.
  • Fuel costs are roughly 2% of the total cost of a MWhr in currently operated plants.
  • Current MOX Fuel technology can turn nuclear weapons into nuclear fuel for your home.

What do I say to opponents who claim that Nuclear Power Plants are terrorist targets?

  • Nuclear Power Plants have the highest security of any American industry
  • Well armed, trained security forces
  • New, strong physical security barriers
  • The containment dome is conservatively designed to withstand impact from a commercial jet and still stand, along with continuing to protect and contain the reactor.
  • Containment structure is 4-5 feet of concrete, 1.5 in thick steel liner, and has a negative pressure.

What do I say to opponents who claim that Americans are not in favor of Nuclear Power?

  • Support for Nuclear Energy is WIDESPREAD and GROWING! (Table 7)

“Overall, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States?”

Table 7


Courtesy: Bisconti Research Inc./GfK, September 2008