Completely unaware and clueless on the topic, I sat down in front of my computer and began to embark on a research project. As an eighth grader, I was relatively new to the idea of research, but for one of the first times in my young research career, I was generally excited to begin. I was going to research nuclear power plants and evaluate whether or not I thought the United States should have and produce active nuclear power plants. I did not know it yet, but this project would change the method I use to choose a position on any controversial issue.
I must admit, I was relatively new to research and had almost no idea what I was doing. I learned to go to the most general sites first, and then use them to pick up clues on what I might want to consider in more detail. I thought I had all of my information, only to find half way through my paper that it might be helpful to have more facts about a particular power plant or a power plant radiation leak. My research process as a whole was definitely a learning experience, but I was still impacted by my findings.
The only prior knowledge I had of nuclear power plants was that they were dangerous and produced power. I assumed it would be fairly obvious that it’s not at all safe to have nuclear power plants in the country, let alone near residential areas. When I began my research, I found a myriad of websites that agreed with my assumptions; however, most of these were published by people with no expertise in the field. As I searched for more credible sources, I began to discover that the more credible the source, the more in favor they were of nuclear power plants. Not all, but a majority of the scientific community strongly believes in the continued development and use of nuclear power plants.
Scientifically speaking, nuclear power plants can in no way explode like a nuclear bomb. Nuclear power plants can occasionally overheat, which should never be an issue if all of the necessary safety precautions and regulations are followed. Nuclear power plants not only create way more power than coal or oil, but nuclear power plants also don’t release any of the same harmful chemicals into the air. Lastly, the vast majority of nuclear waste is safe to handle within twenty years and it can be buried twenty feet underground with no worry of radiation.
In short, it was clear to me that public hysteria and misconception of the nuclear power plant drove many common people to be against the continued production and use of nuclear power plants. Ironically, stopping the production of nuclear power plants is one of the most unsafe things you could do. The technology will only be safer as people continue to work to improve it.
I thought it was a shocking discovery to see that scientific opinion was so different from that of the general public. I was also amazed that so many of the “facts” that people seemed to have about nuclear power plants were just downright wrong. This is how I have developed my method of determining what position I should take on a controversial issue. I learned that the hysteria and confusion of the general public can easily distort facts and opinions, and it is best to do the research myself before taking a definitive stance.