Did you say Nuclear Power?
Humans have depended on fossil fuel energy for a long time, however, with climate change and national security becoming a major focal point we need to pursuit other energy sources besides fossils fuel. Therefore, many nations are looking for greener and safe alternatives energy. Furthermore, with the threat of terrorism, countries are now motivated to looking for energy sources, which do not come from oil rich countries that sponsors terrorism. This is the reason the nuclear power alternatives has made a significant come back in the energy discussion. When one speaks of nuclear most people only can think of the negative aspect of nuclear energy, such as safety issue. I will discuss are the pros and cons of reviving nuclear energy and the environmental impact of its renaissance into the energy discussion.
Pro Nuclear Power perspective
The belief is that nuclear energy can help in energy security, to diminish, or eradicate the need for natural gas or other fossil fuels. Senator Lindsey Graham said in an article, "Our nation stands at a crossroads as many significant issues have been ignored for decades. Among them is energy independence and passing along a cleaner environment to future generations."(Graham, 2009) Senator Graham made a valid comment about energy independence and the environment. Ones can only look at the disastrous oil spill gushing out of the gulf coast, and know that we need to change how we obtain our energy sources. This is especially true with terrorism being a focal point of many developed countries such as United States, France, and the United Kingdom, making energy security even more important than ever.
The United States and other countries looking for alternatives forms of energy that is ideal for the environment and the security of their country. One cannot honestly state that security and environmental issues are not sensible reasons for the country to investigate the nuclear energy.
However, when looking at nuclear energy one need to consider the "two factors that impede the consideration of adoption of nuclear power - fear and expense." (Easton, 2010, p. 221) If these factors could be overcome, we could gain the benefits of the this resource Reviving nuclear energy technology will help to reduce the need to burn oil, coal, or any other fuel that emit air pollution because nuclear reactor does not emit air pollution. Overall, it does not contribute to harming the environment. Furthermore, the use of nuclear energy as stated earlier will help eliminate the need for foreign oil and giving the country the much-needed national security and a green energy policy that will curve global warming.
Furthermore, nuclear technology is essention for developing countries attempting to become a viable country. "For example, India, and Brazil has decided to expand, develop, and research new generations of nuclear reactors." (Eisenhower, 2007) "In the United States' efforts to revive nuclear energy, the government included incentives in it energy policy act of 2005, to entice the private businesses to invest in building new reactors." (Mufson, 2007, D1) With the building of just one these reactors, it is estimated to reduce the cost of electricity production by thirty percent. If one takes in account that eighty percent of our country energy come from fossil fuels, nuclear reactor could dramatically decrease the need for fossil fuel.
"Nuclear power costs only 1.68 cents per kilowatt-hour, while for coal it costs 1.80 cents per kilowatt-hour, oil was 4.39 cents and gas was 6.08 cents" (odeca, 2003). Therefore, it is clear that nuclear power costs substantive less than the others energy sources, at the same time providing an environmental friendly technology and can provide more electrical energy in a single plant. Nuclear reactor has the ability produces more nuclear fuel per unit than energy sources like coal and oil. This is significant because economic growth is connected to our electrical resources. Referring to the US economy, its economic growth has been fueled largely by electric power. Furthermore, growing reliable supplies of electric power to meet the needs of the population is necessary to keep the economy strong. the economical incentive, there are also environmental incentives of nuclear power as well.
The fact that fossil fuel poise potential danger to global warming by the emitting CO2, we need to think of the next step to mitigate the affect of CO2 on our climate. We need to understand that we have an energy problem and that if do not do something, the energy problem will not just be a problem, it will be a disasters. The world population is estimated to increase to ten billion in next few decades. This could mean a dramatic increase in energy use. If we do not revive nuclear energy where will we get the needed energy for this increase. If the predictions of global warming are correct, we need to make decision to prevent the increase need for fossil fuel and progress toward cleaner more reliable energy such as nuclear energy. Nuclear reactors are used in dozens of countries to generate electricity. "Presently nuclear power meets 15% of the world's energy needs and there are over 400 nuclear reactors in the world" (Prabhakar, P. 2007). Nuclear power is the world largest source of emission-free energy. Nuclear energy plants produce electricity by the fission of uranium, not the burning of fuels. This process do not pollute the air with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Therefore the contribution of nuclear power to global warming is relatively little. "Data from 1973 thru 2002, nuclear power eliminated the pollution of 74.5 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 37.7 million tons of nitrogen oxides" (Odeca, 2003).
Therefore, well-operated nuclear power plants do not release contaminants into the environment. Not only that nuclear power are practically greenhouse gas emission free, "the waste that nuclear power produce is about 3.5 million times smaller than the leading energy source for United States: coal" (Odeca, 2003). It is clear that nuclear energy do not produce any greenhouse emissions. If nuclear reactor was used more to provide electricity power this would be a positive start to improving climate change.
Con of Nuclear Power
On the other side of the nuclear power revival are the critics who argue, that there are disadvantages of nuclear power. These include the radioactive wastes, nuclear radiation which may lead to some nuclear accidents. As energy is produced from nuclear fission, the products of fission reactions are often radioactive isotopes.
Therefore, safety issues must be seriously addressed. Radioactive products of fission must be handled carefully so they do not escape in the environment releasing nuclear radiation. Nuclear radiation can cause damage to living tissues in human bodies, which can lead to serious cancer, disease, or genetic mutations. These illnesses can appear or strike people years after they were exposed to nuclear radiation and yet. Furthermore, during the operation of nuclear power plants, high radioactive wastes are produced and the wastes are extremely dangerous and it has to be carefully looked after for several thousand of years. Currently, many nuclear wastes are stored in special cooling pools at the nuclear reactors. Despite a generally high security standard, accidents can still happen. It is technically impossible to build a plant with 100% security. A small probability of failure will always last. The consequences of an accident would be devastating both for human being as for the nature.
The more nuclear power plants and nuclear waste storage shelters are built, the higher is the probability of a disastrous failure somewhere in the world. Some past nuclear accidents that happened was firstly, the Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania when the cooling system of a nuclear reactor failed. Radiation did escape which forced thousands of people to run away. Luckily, it was solved and there were no deaths. However, in 1986, a much worse disaster hit Russia's Chernobyl nuclear power plant. "In this incident, Reactor 4 only let out 3% of its core into the atmosphere and a total of 210,000 people had to evacuate their homes. Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to the radiation, and the worse case, several dozen died within a few days and some thousands may die of cancers induced by the radiation in the upcoming years." (Nuclear - Advancing or Destructive). These two were the most significant reactor disaster known as meltdown.
Perhaps, what humans have heard the most today, and feared the most are nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are explosive device that release its destructive force from nuclear reactions. Nuclear weapons had made nuclear power terrifying. It created a time where humans lived in constant fear of their lives, as they and their families and all they knew could be destroyed with a few warheads.
The technology used for generating nuclear power can also be used to produce nuclear weapons because of the radioactive wastes. Types of nuclear weapons may include atomic bombs, which produce its explosive energy through fission reactions, and hydrogen bombs, and thermonuclear bombs produces large amount of its energy through nuclear fusion reactions. Nuclear power plants as well as nuclear waste could be targets for terrorist attacks as well. This type of terrorist act would have catastrophic effects for the whole world. These nuclear weapons can destroy the Earth as now; the nations of the world have more than enough nuclear bombs to kill every person on Earth.
In the future, no one will know what is going to happen. What if there is going to be a nuclear war? Ask yourself, what if terrorists got their hands on nuclear weapons? In addition, What if nuclear weapons were launched by accident? These questions remain as a mystery.
In addition to being risky, nuclear power is unable to meet our current or future energy needs. Because of safety requirements and the length of time it takes to construct a nuclear-power facility, the government says that by the year 2050 atomic energy could supply, at best, 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs; yet by 2020, wind and solar panels could supply at least 32 percent of U.S. electricity, at about half the cost of nuclear power. Nevertheless, in the last two years, the current U.S. administration has given the bulk of taxpayer energy subsidies-a total of $20 billion-to atomic power. Why? Some officials say nuclear energy is clean, inexpensive, needed to address global climate change, unlikely to increase the risk of nuclear proliferation and safe.
On all five counts they are wrong. Renewable energy sources are cleaner, cheaper, better able to address climate change and proliferation risks, and safer. The government's own data show that wind energy now costs less than half of nuclear power; that wind can supply far more energy, more quickly, than nuclear power; and that by 2015, solar panels will be economically competitive with all other conventional energy technologies. The administration's case for nuclear power rests on at least five myths. Debunking these myths is necessary if the United States is to abandon its current dangerous energy course.
Overall, there are still quite a few more examples of nuclear technology that could be an advantage or a disadvantage to our world such as industrial, commercial applications and food and agriculture processing. However, after analyzing the advantages and the disadvantages of nuclear power. I believe that nuclear technology has brought more advantages to the society than disadvantages. Because of nuclear power, we have electricity that is used to light the homes of millions of families, we can help reduce or stop global warming, and the economy growth of nations has increased. Although nuclear power may emit nuclear radiation and radioactive wastes as mentioned, however, I believe that these all can be prevented through further advance technology because in our world today, radioactive wastes has mostly been stored safely in special areas already. And yes, nuclear weapons is the major threat to our society, however, nuclear weapons have also been used for testing purposes, but in order to stop the spread of nuclear weapons through the globe, resolutions has to be passed through the UN, laws has to be created and with these, less to even none lives will be lost with nuclear weapons attack. In addition, this is possible to do. After all, can you imagine a life without electricity? Our world being destroyed because of global warming? The amount of people losing their hope in living without radiation therapy? Just imagine, without nuclear technology, we will not have the life we are having right now.
- Mufson, S. (2007, September) U.S. Nuclear Power Revival Grow. Washington Post. D-1
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- Graham, L. (2009,November7). Energy independence and a clean environment TO THE CONTRARY. Herald,Retrieved May 23, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID:1895548931
- Saier, M. H., & Trevors, J. T. (2010). Is Nuclear Energy the Solution? Water, Air & Soil Pollution. 208(1-4), 1-3.
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- United States. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Fact Sheet on the Three Mile Island Incident 17 Oct. 2008 < http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html>.