The Rhetorical Analysis: Nuclear Wastes Challenges Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Wastes derived from nuclear reactions are a health hazard with long-term effects on people who are exposed to them. While it is possible to assume that all people know this fact, the nuclear waste question attracts heated debates among scientists, politicians, and other interest groups of health hazards that people create everyday (Wald 12).

Politicians campaign for enactment of policies to resolve the nuclear waste question that they do not understand. On the other hand, scientists make incredible attempts to research on the possible strategies that can be put in place to dispose nuclear wastes (Gwyneth 35). From the public eye, the challenge is even more amplified since the public absorbs all information it receives with a presumption that it is correct.

The dilemma that rises is knowing the extent to which nuclear wastes are dangerous and or what the way forward can be to handle the problem. As the paper unveils, all people engaging in the nuclear waste debate are not so correct yet not too wrong. This position is discussed in the paper by considering Richard Muller’s article on how important the subject of nuclear waste is relevant in the scholarly and contemporary world.

The challenge of nuclear waste

At first glance, Muller’s Nuclear Waste They Say / I Say: the Moves That Matter in Academic Writing seems inclined to the face of anti-nuke while engaging in the arguments about the problem of nuclear wastes. In his arguments about his position on nuclear wastes, he presents enormous number of disputes that favor his position about the significance of handling nuclear wastes in an appropriate manner particularly waste disposal.

His readers are incredibly persuaded by his argument by interrogatives, which send readers consistently looking for the answer about particular debates on nuclear waste. For instance, he poses the question of how “we possibly certify that this material can be kept safe for 100,000 years” (Muller 207).

This question is strategic in defending his positions on nuclear waste. The question calls readers to take on the subject of debate of nuclear waste by helping to reinforce the magnitude of the problem. It also makes readers assume and speculate on particular actions to curtail the problem. By creating this atmosphere, one wonders how people would create such an immense health hazard and yet remain non-cognizant of its implications.

From the point of Muller, production of nuclear waste seems like the worst mistake that people have ever made in the history of the human race. Muller argues that he is so concerned about the problems since, even without presenting a large number of facts, people would still draw conclusions (Muller 209). Nevertheless, Muller continues to provide statistical evidence on the negative implication of nuclear wastes on human health.

Although Muller seems convinced about the health hazards of nuclear wastes at the beginning of his book, he later provides statistical evidence that contradicts his position. For instance, he claims, “to present the facts and just the facts, and let you draw the conclusions” (Muller 209). In this extent, he does not provide a consistent position about nuclear wastes disposal.

Although he thinks nuclear waste is problematic, he is not convinced about how serious the problem is to people. For instance, towards the end of his book, he posits, “if the Yucca Mountain facility were at full capacity and all the waste leaked out of its glass containment immediately and managed to reach groundwater, the danger would still be 20 times less than that currently posed by natural uranium leaching into the Colorado River” (Muller 212).

The impression created in the reader’s mind is that the position taken earlier in his book is not the appropriate one. However, this confusion on the subject of nuclear wastes reinforces his argument that the subject attracts valid views among different people (scholars, politician, and other interest groups) for which none of the views can be considered right or wrong.

Based on this argument, nuclear waste is not perhaps the only threat that people face. In comparison with some other threats, it does not top the list. Nevertheless, the emphasis of Muller on the dangers of nuclear wastes through statistical evidence makes the problem stand out as a harmful risk with the potential of causing death.

In this regard, Muller’s work may be interpreted as endeavoring to forcefully draw the attention of people to focus on the dangers that may emanate from improper disposal of nuclear wastes. Orientation of the attention of people to look into a mechanism of handling the nuclear waste question may provide substantive grounds for looking early into the problems of nuclear waste before the problems escalate to levels that make them produce more adverse effects (Vennessa Para.3).

Muller deploys rhetoric strategies to enable him drive his point home. Through his facts, evidence, and arguments that connect with his viewpoints on the topic, the reader gains mixed reactions on the topic.

On one hand, the reader may argue that the challenge of nuclear waste needs to be resolved with the best option involving a scientific approach. On the other hand, engagement of the political aspect in the problems prompts the incorporation of political strategies such as enactment of policies to regulate the handling and disposal of nuclear wastes.

The issue that concerns Muller is whether the existence of a way of disposing nuclear wastes is better in relation to having none at all.

He argues that one of the alternatives to dispose nuclear waste products is through placing it at a secure facility that is far away from human civilizations. According to Muller, Yucca Mountain is one of such places. Indeed, he confirms that the government of the United States has established a prototype nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain.

Through this confirmation, he creates rhetoric to the reader who endeavors to know the impacts of such toxins on people given that Yucca Mountain is not much populated. Responding the rhetoric, Muller reasons out that people living in the area face the risk of being poisoned through drinking water in case nuclear containers leak.

He further evidences that uranium takes 10,000 years for its radioactivity levels to decay to levels similar to just before its mining. To ensure that he does not take a stand on the issues of nuclear waste, Muller argues that, as time moves on, Uranium, which comprises the major bulk of nuclear wastes, decays progressively. Therefore, it is not necessary that nuclear wastes are maintained secure for the whole period of 10,000 years.

Based on his calculation results, Muller argues that, in case nuclear toxins are maintained safe for 300 years while maintaining a 1% chance for the escape of the wastes during the time, the risk of contamination of drinking water by the wastes is incredibly reduced. However, the argument has to be in relation to when the waste is just placed at Yucca Mountains in its natural state. This argument creates a rhetoric dilemma to the reader.

Should people leave the risks of lives of others at mere chances? Many readers of Muller’s work would contend that it is not appropriate to leave the lives of thousands of people to dangers that pose potential health risk to them based on the arguments of chance. In case people know that radioactivity that takes place in rocks would pose threats to their lives, they would adopt any possible option that is within their power to eliminate the risks or even curtail them.

The arguments raised by Muller also open his work to criticisms. One of the criticisms is whether the fact that the water flowing in the Colorado River poses the risks of contamination from radioactive material found in the rocks is enough to justify disposing nuclear wastes at the Yucca Mountains.

Unless the waste that is disposed off at Yucca Mountains is from the radioactive material that was extracted in the mountain, and which could have found its way into the Colorado River, any attempt to dispose nuclear wastes from materials obtained elsewhere would go into adding more nuclear wastes into the Colorado River. Therefore, the existence of a risky situation does not justify any attempt to magnify the magnitude of the risk.

Rhetoric analysis of Muller’s arguments on the problems of nuclear waste is a challenge of the question on the best scenarios for storage and disposal of nuclear wastes. Nuclear plants, which generate nuclear wastes, are not found in an area that has many people. This fact raises the question of whether the place of disposal of nuclear wastes needs to bother politicians and scientists in the extent that Muller would want people to embrace, or more focus should be on the safety of the nuclear plants themselves.

The leakage of the nuclear power plants in Japan (Foster Para.2) evidences that the problem of nuclear material-related risks is bigger than the challenge of disposal of the nuclear wastes and the place of storage of the wastes once they have already been produced. The challenge is whether the creation of nuclear energy justifies the risks that are associated with the process of creation and the wastes produced.

This argument is based on the incapacity of people to get rid of the levels of nuclear wastes that have already been produced. Why then should people produce more of the refuse? Muller insists that many people are inclined to the line of thought that nuclear energy is an ardent solution to the reduction of reliance on the fossil fuel energy. However, is it an acceptable answer bearing in mind the risks involved?


In his book Nuclear Waste They Say / I Say: the Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, Muller gives readers who are not well acquainted with science an opportunity to synthesize the problems related to nuclear waste generation, storage, and disposal.

Although it is acceptable that problems exist, it is debatable whether a good scenario exists, which can be provided to explain efforts to reduce nuclear waste risks to levels that are slightly lower. Can people afford to trade their right for living in a safe environment with energy sources that are superior? If it is possible, what are the costs? Muller addresses these perplexing issues.

Works Cited

Muller, Richard. “Nuclear Waste” They Say / I Say: the Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York, NY: W.W. Norton &, 2010. Print.

Foster, Malcolm. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: Highly Radioactive Water Leaks from Crippled Japanese Facility, 2011. Web.

Wald, Matthew. “Critics challenge safety of new reactor design.” New York Times (April 22, 2010): 12-13. Print.

Gwyneth, Cravens. Power to Save the World: the Truth about Nuclear Energy. New York, NY: Knopf, 2007. Print.

Vennessa, Seminar. Nuclear Waste, 2010. Web. <>.

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