Power to Save the World

By Sarah Tiemann, a research report for Mr. Signore in US History, 2° February 29, 2016

The history of nuclear energy is a controversial one; from passionate support to radical opposition, people all over the world have debated whether nuclear power should be used as a reliable source of energy. Nuclear power is “a method of producing energy that makes use of nuclear fission or nuclear fusion reactions” and nuclear power plants apply the energy generated by these reactions to “turn turbines to generate electricity” (Nuclear Power). Though this energy is hugely efficient, non-pollution, and reliable in comparison to the burning of fossil fuels and the use of wind or solar power, diverse “concerns about the safety of nuclear power. . . . have kept many people opposed to using nuclear energy as a major power source” (Nuclear Power). Research on nuclear power and energy at the beginning of its development in the late 1930s to early 1940s was extravagant and by and large financed by the American military and govern (Antinuclear Movement).  During World War II from 1939 to 1945, inventor and Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi built the first nuclear reactor, and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer built the first atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project (Nuclear Power). “The world’s first exposure to nuclear power came with the detonation of two fission (atomic) bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, as part of a U.S. effort to end World War II” (Newton). Although scientists “hoped that the power of nuclear energy could be harnessed for human good . . . intense political opposition to nuclear power arose in many nations, including the U.S.” (Newton).  These detonations effectively ended World War II, but the shocking destruction and suffering they caused raised concerns from the general public about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the threat of radiation as a result, as well as the fear that hostile enemy nations were in possession of such weapons.  Spurred from such deep-rooted concerns and many others, the anti-nuclear movement arose against the development of energy by nuclear power and the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, “[emphasizing] peace and environmentalism, intellectual social activism based on knowledge of nuclear technology and political and moral activism based on conflicts between nuclear power applications and policies and personal values” (Antinuclear Movement).  Although the anti-nuclear movement has greatly hindered the progress of nuclear energy, perpetuating the problem of global warming, it eventually made way for further research and awareness, and the development of safer technologies that have beung to change the minds of anti-nuclear activists, thus making stronger the fight against climate change.

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