Nuclear Energy Pros and Cons
As of today, nuclear energy is considered as one of the most environmentally friendly source of energy as it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions during the production of electricity as compared to traditional sources like coal power plants. Nuclear fission is the process that is used in nuclear reactors to produce high amount of energy using element called uranium. It is the energy that is stored in the nucleus of an atom.
While being environmentally friendly is the big plus of nuclear energy, disposal of radioactive waste and protecting people and environment from its radiations is a big cons of nuclear energy. Therefore, expensive solutions are needed to protect mother earth from the devastating effects of nuclear energy.
When we think about this resource, many of us think about nuclear bombs or the meltdowns that have happened at a number of nuclear plants around the world. That being said, nuclear energy is definitely a type of renewable energy that we need to look at. In this article, we’re going to explore the pros and cons of nuclear energy.
Pros of Nuclear Energy
1. Low Pollution: Nuclear power also has a lot fewer greenhouse emissions. It has been determined that the amount of greenhouse gases have decreased by almost half because of the prevalence in the utilization of nuclear power. Nuclear energy has the least effect on nature since it doesn’t discharge any gasses like methane and carbon dioxide, which are the primary “greenhouse gasses.” There is no unfavorable impact on water, land or any territories because of the utilization of nuclear power, except in times where transportation is utilized.
2. Low Operating Costs: Nuclear power produces very inexpensive electricity. The cost of the uranium, which is utilized as a fuel in this process, is low. Also, even though the expense of setting up nuclear power plants is moderately high, the expense of running them is quite low low. The normal life of nuclear reactor is anywhere from 40-60 years, depending on how often it is used and how it is being used. These variables, when consolidated, make the expense of delivering power low. Even if the cost of uranium goes up, the impact on the cost of power will be that much lower.
3. Reliability: It is estimated that with the current rate of consumption of uranium, we have enough uranium for another 70-80 years. A nuclear power plant when in the mode of producing energy can run uninterrupted for even a year. As solar and wind energy are dependent upon weather conditions, nuclear power plant has no such constraints and can run without disruption in any climatic condition.
There are sure monetary focal points in setting up nuclear power plants and utilizing nuclear energy in lieu of traditional energy. It is one of the significant sources of power all through the country. The best part is that this energy has a persistent supply. It is broadly accessible, there is a lot in storage, and it is believed that the supply is going to last much, much longer than that of fossil fuels that are used in the same capacity.
4. More Proficient Than Fossil Fuels: The other primary point of interest of utilizing nuclear energy is that it is more compelling and more proficient than other energy sources. A number of nuclear energy innovations have made it a much more feasible choice than others. They have high energy density as compared to fossil fuels. The amount of fuel required by nuclear power plant is comparatively less than what is required by other power plants as energy released by nuclear fission is approximately ten million times greater than the amount of energy released by fossil fuel atom.
This is one the reason that numerous nations are putting a lot of time and money into nuclear power.What’s nuclear power’s greatest benefit, above any other benefit that we may explore? It doesn’t rely on fossil fuels and isn’t influenced by fluctuating oil and gas costs. Coal and natural gas power plants discharge carbon dioxide into the air, which causes a number of environmental issues. With nuclear power plants, carbon emissions are insignificant.
5. Renewable?: Nuclear energy is not renewable resource. Uranium, the nuclear fuel that is used to produced nuclear energy is limited and cannot be produced again and again on demand. On the other hand, by using breeder and fusion reactors, we can produce other fissionable element. One such element is called plutonium that is produced by the by-products of chain-reaction. Also, if we know how to control atomic fusion, the same reactions that fuel the sun, we can have almost unlimited energy.
Cons of Nuclear Energy
1. Environmental Impact: One of the biggest issues is environmental impact in relation to uranium. The process of mining and refining uranium hasn’t been a clean process. Actually transporting nuclear fuel to and from plants represents a pollution hazard. Also, once the fuel is used, you can’t simply take it to the landfill – it’s radioactive and dangerous.
2. Radioactive Waste Disposal: As a rule, a nuclear power plant creates 20 metric tons of nuclear fuel per year, and with that comes a lot of nuclear waste. When you consider each nuclear plant on Earth, you will find that that number jumps to approximately 2,000 metric tons a year. The greater part of this waste transmits radiation and high temperature, implying that it will inevitably consume any compartment that holds it. It can also cause damage to living things in and around the plants.
Nuclear power plants create a lot of low-level radioactive waste as transmitted parts and supplies. Over time, used nuclear fuel decays to safe radioactive levels, however this takes a countless number of years. Even low level radioactive waste takes hundreds of years to achieve adequate levels of safety.
3. Nuclear Accidents: The radioactive waste produced can pose serious health effects on the lives of people as well as the environment. The Chernobyl accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine was the worst nuclear accident in the history. Its harmful effects on humans and ecology can still be seen today. Then there was another accident that happened in Fukushima in Japan. Although the casualties were not that high, but it caused serious environmental concerns.
4. High Cost: At present, the nuclear business let waste cool for a considerable length of time before blending it with glass and putting away it in enormous cooled, solid structures. This waste must be kept up, observed and watched to keep the materials from falling into the wrong hands and causing problems. These administrations and included materials cost cash – on top of the high expenses needed to put together a plant, which may make it less desirable to invest in. It requires permission from several international authorities and it is normally opposed by the people who live in that region.
5. Uranium is Finite: Just like other sources of fuel, uranium is also finite and exists in few of the countries. It is pretty expensive to mine, refine and transport uranium. It produces considerable amount of waste during all these activities and can result in environmental contamination and serous health effects, if not handled properly.
6. Hot Target for Militants: Nuclear energy has immense power. Today, nuclear energy is used to make weapons. If these weapons go into the wrong hands, that could be the end of this world. Nuclear power plants are prime target for terrorism activities. Little lax in security can be brutal for humankind.
Mark Brooks , Global Panorama
Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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Nuclear power is once again considered a prominent alternative, despite the disregard it was met with in the 1970s. This is because it’s now being touted as a more environmentally beneficial solution since it emits far fewer greenhouse gases during electricity generation than coal or other traditional power plants.
It is widely accepted as a somewhat dangerous, potentially problematic, but manageable source of generating electricity. Radiation isn’t easily dealt with, especially in nuclear waste and maintenance materials, and expensive solutions are needed to contain, control, and shield both people and the environment from its harm.
The dialogue about using nuclear power – and expanding it – centers on weighing these risks against the rewards, as well as the risks inherent in other forms of power generation. These are just some of the issues involved.
An excerpt from Design is the Problem, by Nathan Shedroff, published by Rosenfeld Media
- Lower carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) released into the atmosphere in power generation.
- Low operating costs (relatively).
- Known, developed technology “ready” for market.
- Large power-generating capacity able to meet industrial and city needs (as opposed to low-power technologies like solar that might meet only local, residential, or office needs but cannot generate power for heavy manufacturing).
- Existing and future nuclear waste can be reduced through waste recycling and reprocessing, similar to Japan and the EU (at added cost).
- High construction costs due to complex radiation containment systems and procedures.
- High subsidies needed for construction and operation, as well as loan guarantees.
- Subsidies and investment could be spent on other solutions (such as renewable energy systems).
- High-known risks in an accident.
- Unknown risks.
- Long construction time.
- Target for terrorism (as are all centralized power generation sources).
- Waivers are required to limit liability of companies in the event of an accident. (This means that either no one will be responsible for physical, environmental, or health damages in the case of an accident or leakage over time from waste storage, or that the government will ultimately have to cover the cost of any damages.)
- Nuclear is a centralized power source requiring large infrastructure, investment, and coordination where decentralized sources (including solar and wind) can be more efficient, less costly, and more resilient.
- Uranium sources are just as finite as other fuel sources, such as coal, natural gas, etc., and are expensive to mine, refine, and transport, and produce considerable environmental waste (including greenhouse gasses) during all of these processes.
- The majority of known uranium around the world lies under land controlled by tribes or indigenous peoples who don’t support it being mined from the earth.
- The legacy of environmental contamination and health costs for miners and mines has been catastrophic.
- Waste lasts 200 – 500 thousand years.
- There are no operating long-term waste storage sites in the U.S. One is in development, but its capacity is already oversubscribed. Yucca Mountain is in danger of contaminating ground water to a large water basin, affecting millions of people. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for the U.S. to impose its will on the state of Nevada (or other places) if they don’t want to host long-term storage of waste.
- There are no operating “next generation” reactors, such as high-temperature breeder reactors and particle-beam activated reactors, that are reported to produce less waste and have reduced safety concerns. Even if these technologies were ready, they wouldn’t be deployable commercially for another two decades.
- Shipping nuclear waste internationally poses an increased potential threat to interception to terrorism (though this has not happened yet with any of the waste shipped by other countries). Increasing the amount of waste shipped, particularly in less secure countries, is seen as a significant increase in risk to nuclear terrorism.
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Nathan Shedroff graduated from Presidio in 2006 and currently runs the first Design MBA program at California College of the Arts
Image credit: Flickr user Tobo