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The world's natural resources are being consumed at
an alarming rate. As these resources diminish , people will
be seeking alternative sources by which to generate
electricity for heat and light . The only practical short
term solution for the energy-crisis is nuclear power.
Nuclear power, however is not as safe as burning coal, gas
or oil in a factory it is in fact, much more dangerous,
There are dangers associated with a nuclear power plant
which far out weigh the benefits to society as a whole and
in part to the community living and working around the
power plant . About 20 percent of our nation's total
electrical consumption per year is supplied by nuclear power
from the 100 or so nuclear power plants throughout the
country . Even though atomic power has been in use for over
50 years it was primarily a tool of war and destruction when
the war ended need for atomic bombs diminished . The
scientists who created the weapons were out of jobs . They
then turned this destructive power into huge plants
generating "clean and cheap " electricity for the country .
It was called progress. Progress also brought with it
sickness , mutations , cancer and eventually death to those
exposed to high levels of radiation . Government declared
that nuclear power is safe and efficient . Also have big
Oil corporations who have a lot of money invested in nuclear
power and want to see as many plants as possible put into
and kept in operation . The truth is that accidents do
happen at nuclear power plants and at other facilities all
the time . An accident at a nuclear power plant has the
potential to be much more devastating than an accident at a
coal or gas plant because of the radiation that could be
released . An example of this is Three Mile Island in
Pennsylvania where there was a partial core meltdown in
march of 1979 and an "acceptable" amount of radiation
escaped into the atmosphere . However no amount of
radiation is acceptable if released as a result of an
accident at a nuclear power plant .
Is Nuclear Power necessary ?
Today many Americans adopt lifestyles that are based on
energy in-efficient devices . These include large
automobiles and electric appliances that require
electricity from energy-intense industrial processes . The
public is doing all it can to force nuclear power plants
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Nuclear Power Nuclear Power Plant Nuclear Power Plants Our Nation Destructive Power Alternative Sources Mile Island
into production by wasting electricity and the resources
which are used to produce it ( coal , oil , gas) and by
failing to recycle . Nuclear power has been promoted
world-wide as economically advantageous and necessary to
replace fossil fuels as the means of energy production in
the 21st century . However this is untrue . There are many
other economically viable and environmentally safe methods
of producing energy .These include solar power ,
hydroelectric power and wind power . Today one fifth of the
world's total energy production either comes from either
wind ,water or solar power . It is estimated that by the
year 2000 forty percent of the world's energy production
will be from sources other than fossil fuels or nuclear
power .It is estimated that to meet , via nuclear power a
quarter of the projected U.S. primary power demand in the
year 2000 that the US would have to order a new nuclear
power plant to be built every five days to compensate for
the irradication of the coal , oil and gas powered plants .
On the other hand if all U. S. nuclear power plants were
shut down now , it would not make any difference at all .
The existing electrical backup systems have reserves of
power that can more than make up for the loss of the nuclear
power plants . The nuclear power plants that are in use
today are no more than large plants serving no purpose at
all and endangering many peoples lives .
Is Nuclear Power worth the risks ?
With any large energy producing facility there are
risks . The risks posed by a nuclear power plant however ,
are far greater than those posed by any other . Meltdowns,
cancer , radiation , mutations and eventually death are all
possible end results of the building of a nuclear power
plant . Meltdown or the explosion of the main reactor
itself can release tons of radioactive particles into the
atmosphere . The meltdown of a nuclear power plant would
release a thousand times more radioactivity into the
atmosphere than the bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and
Nagasaki . Another possibility is "China Syndrome " , where
the core of the reactor melts into the earth and reaches the
water table of the area and contaminates it . Although
Nuclear power plants do not give off any form of combustion
, they do release minute traces of radioactive particles
which contaminate the soil , water and air . They also
release super heated water into lakes and rivers from the
cooling of the reactor . This heats the water , killing fish
and other types of marine life . The average or annual
release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere shorten
our life span by 37 minutes . This also raises the
background level of radiation by 3% thus adding an extra
7000 cancer deaths per year . The cases of cancer deaths go
up in areas around nuclear power plants . Children with
asthma living in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant are
50 times more likely to die of cancer than a healthy child
living in the same area . Studies done by the EPA and NRC
reveal that workers at nuclear power plants are more likely
to die from cancer due to the proximity of radioactive
elements . Naturally occurring radiation in the environment
is greater than the trace amounts given off by nuclear power
plants . However people would rather not take the risk of
being exposed to unnecessary amounts of radiation by living
near a nuclear power plant . A recent EPA study on the worst
case scenario of a nuclear accident concluded that if a
nuclear reactor 1/5 the size of the Chernobyl plant in the
former Soviet Union had a meltdown in a state the size of
Pennsylvania it would kill 45,000 people , contaminate 70%
of the state , and cause seventeen million dollars worth
of damage and if you multiply that by five it would kill
225,000 and cause eighty five million dollars worth of
damage and contaminate five times the amount of land .
Have there ever been any Nuclear accidents in the United
Accidents involving US nuclear power plants are very
rare . This does not mean that they do not occur. In the
early 1980's there was a fire at Yankee Atomic , a nuclear
power plant in Massachusetts , destroying over 3 million
dollars worth of electrical wiring in the reactor . it was
caused by some workmen who were using matches to find a leak
in the ventilation system of the reactor . The damage to
the reactor was not serious but it was shut down for two
weeks for repairs . If the situation was not brought under
control the fire could have spread and caused a meltdown or
serious leak . The most serious nuclear accident in the US
was at three Mile Island , Pennsylvania in 1979 when a
coolant pipe was accidentally blocked due to cleaning and
repairs the blockage allowed no water to reach the reactor
core to cool it down and the core ruptured and leaked
radioactive particles into the atmosphere . The core itself
came close to meltdown and if this had happened much of
Pennsylvania , New York and New Jersey would have been
contaminated by the radioactive fallout . Although today's
nuclear power plants are relatively safe the problem of
accidents increases with every new plant that is built .
With each new plant built new of problems occur since this
is a relatively young technology with people who are being
trained on the job .
Is Radioactivity dangerous?
Radioactivity cannot be seen , felt , tasted or smelt .
It is an " invisible poison " that is released and produced
by the plants . The average nuclear power plant contains
more than 200,000 to 300,000 times the radioactive materials
that are in standard nuclear warheads . Radioactivity
destroys life , especially human life . A person exposed to
a high level of radiation will die within 48 hours of
exposure either due to infectious diseases caused by the
destruction of the body's immune system from the radiation
or by massive tissue bleeding . Humans above all other
species are the most susceptible to radiation . Cockroaches
and other types of insects can withstand 200 times more
radiation exposure than humans before cancer or death occur
, Radiation alters the electrical charge of the body's cells
and allows cancer to form in the cells . Not all exposures
to radiation cause cancer . The radiation may cause an
incubation period of up to 40 years before full-blown cancer
is diagnosed in the patient . By this time it is impossible
to discover if it is cancer caused by radiation or not .
Different doses of radiation will cause different problems .
A dose of 2000 - 3000 REMs ( Roentgen Equivalent Man ) will
cause brain tissue to swell , hemorrhage and will cause
death . Fivehundred REMs will stop the cells from dividing ,
will cause hair to fall out , and will cause ulcers to form
on the skin . It also destroys the white blood cells and
platelets that help to fight off disease and stop bleeding
in the body . Besides cancer radiation causes genetic
defects and mutations in humans and other animals . These
defects may lie dormant in one generation and reappear in
the next . This create serious problems in the gene pool of
the society by creating mutations and deformities
.Recessive mutations may also occur these are lack of vigor
and energy , susceptibility to disease , and mental
deficiency in humans . It is estimated that for every one
visible genetic mutation or defect there are 10,000
non-visible recessive mutations that contaminate the gene
pool of society . This could lead to more mutations and
unnecessary deaths because the human body of a child whose
mother was exposed to radiation and passed on deformed genes
to her baby may not be able to fight off common sicknesses
and die due to the radiation exposure . " Radiation may be
one of the principal ecological agents responsible for
human suffering and disease " . This quote came from a
congressional hearing on the safety of nuclear power in the
early 70's where it was declared that radiation was and is
dangerous to human beings and other species of animals and
that nuclear power plants are highly dangerous and
inefficient for their purposes .
Why not Solar power or other alternatives ?
The amount of energy that reaches the earth from the
sun on any given day is far greater than that consumed by
Americans in any given year . To harness this and turn it
into something that is much needed and very useful would be
a great alternative to nuclear power plants . Having no
moving parts , producing no pollution , consuming no
fuel , and operating at environmental temperatures , solar
collectors are very clean and efficient . They produce a
practically free form of electricity and would provide
electricity at a very low price . Nuclear power plants
average a build time of 10 years and cost millions of
dollars . This means that vast implementation of nuclear
reactors in the near future is virtually impossible and
unrealistic . Solar power receptors , on the other
hand cost a fraction of the price and take less time to
manufacture than nuclear plants . Although nuclear power has
its drawbacks and limitations , still seems to be the
primary choice for energy production today due to the rise
in population and to general energy consumption around the
world as well as to the lack of technology in the other
fields of energy production . It is a wonder why solar power
has not been mass implemented already to power our country
and the world .The materials used to build solar collectors
( silicon , plastics) are readily available . Silicon makes
up the second most abundant element in the earth's crust .
These panels could be placed virtually anywhere on the
roofs of houses and buildings or into the sides of the
buildings themselves . Solar power could be a reality today
. However , oil companies such as Exxon who are the leading
researchers in nuclear and solar technology , would rather
have the nuclear because it would produce more money than
the solar . Solar power is a cheaper source of electricity
because you cannot turn off the sun . The same oil
monopolies buy out smaller companies which are developing
feasible solar power plants to keep them from being
implemented and to maintain the hold on the fossil fuel
market . Solar energy and thermonuclear fusion are great
alternatives to the nuclear reactor but these will not be
mass implemented until well into the next century . That
does not solve the problem for today . To keep the number
of nuclear power plants as low as possible people need to
conserve , energy change lifestyles and recycle more of
there wastes . We need to be less dependent on electricity
and electrical products . Conservation must be implemented
by government policies and guide lines . To have any affect
at all on the amount of electricity that is consumed . "
Anything that slows down the development of solar energy,
the one cheap limitless source of energy that cannot be shut
down by war or embargo, is undermining the national security
of the United States " .
Nuclear power has been a constant in all of our lives
due to the many problems it has and to the many accidents
that occur . Nuclear power is a dangerous and deadly tool
that should not be taken lightly . Sadly this is exactly
what has happened in regards to the accidents at Three Mile
Island and again at the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant in the
former Soviet Union . In both cases inexperience and
ignorance played major roles in the accidents . Hopefully
this may never happen again and nuclear power will be phased
out to the safer fusion reactor and the very appealing solar
“Growing concerns over climate change have highlighted the need to step up contribution of nuclear energy in the energy mix and to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels in the years to come. This essay discusses some of the major advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy.”
Nuclear energy represents only 15% of the electricity produced worldwide. Though in France, 80% of its electricity production is from nuclear energy and more than one-fourth of electricity in Europe comes from nuclear energy. Nuclear energy represents a very small percentage in many countries’ total electricity production, but this percentage is likely to go up in the coming years. Nuclear power is generated using Uranium, a mineral of which one of the isotopes, U- 234 is unstable. The nucleus breaks down resulting in the emission of heat and radiation followed by a chain reaction. This is called nuclear fission and this process liberates a large amount of energy, but the process also releases radiation which is very dangerous.
What are the Advantages of Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy has the ability to produce electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. It produces electricity without pollution. It is cleaner than many other forms of energy production. Essentially, nuclear power would be “carbon-zero” if the uranium were mined and transported in a more efficient way.
Nuclear reaction releases a million times more energy, as compared to hydro or wind energy. Large quantity of energy is generated from a single nuclear power plant.
Nuclear reactors make use of uranium as fuel and produces huge amounts of energy from small amounts of uranium. The Earth has the high reserves of uranium. Current estimates put the uranium supply as enough to last for 30 to 60 years. Moreover other fuel cycles like Thorium are available for power generation. Whereas, oil reserves and other fossil type fuels are likely to run out shortly.
Nuclear power plants operate reliably and have a continuous output of power.The plants do not generally face operations and maintenance problems. This is a contrast to other alternative energies which depend on the activity of the weather.
Low Operating cost
Although nuclear power reactors are expensive to build, they are relatively cheap to operate. Fuel is inexpensive and a plant can be operated by small number of people, approximately 10 people.
The nuclear energy is by far the most concentrated form of energy, so it can be produced in large quantities over short periods of time.
Produces small amounts of waste and waste is more compact.
Nuclear energy produces electricity at a competitive price and is generally comparable in output to coal plants.
A nuclear plant is not dependant on local sources like oil and coal and can be set up in any part of the globe. It also does not require a lot of space and so can be placed in already developed areas and the power does not have to be transferred over long distances.
What are the Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear Weapons Threat
It has potential nuclear proliferation issues. Some reactors produce plutonium which can be used to make nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a major threat to the world as they can cause a large-scale devastation.
High Capital Intensive
Nuclear Plants require a high level of technology and a major initial capital investment. Its abandonment cost is also very high.
Long Gestation Period
It takes a long time to build, about 15-20 years to develop a single plant.
There are issues with management of radioactive waste. The spent fuel is highly radioactive and has to be carefully stored for many years after use. A solution to the waste management problem needs to be explored and developed. This has R&D cost.
Disasters, Accidents & Risk
An accident may cause a major disaster resulting in thousands of casualties and releasing high amounts of radiation into the environment, example: explosion of a reactor at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine and melting of the core of a reactor at Three-Mile Island in the United States.
Nuclear energy is an alternative energy but not a renewable energy as Uranium is a non-renewable source and its supplies are limited.
Nuclear plants may be vunerable targets to anyone wanting to disrupt the power supply, and to have quite horrific results and to devastate an entire region.
Today, nuclear energy remains controversial. There are proponents and opponents of nuclear energy, but nuclear energy along with other green energies has a major role to play in years to come. The actions to mitigate the risk associated with nuclear energy need to given due importance to harness its full potential.
Filed Under: Climate Change, Environment, Nuclear Energy