As a result of the current global warming issues and the ever growing scarcity of our current energy resources we may be forced to resort to nuclear energy. The Department of Energy has already given its support to energy companies who have decided to construct nuclear power plants. It appears that nuclear power is the right course to take, but before this decision is finalised it is important to weigh the multiple advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power. There are many pros and cons, but they weigh up almost equally which makes it a hard decision to choose the right course of action, nuclear power or non-nuclear power.
The first step to deciding on the use of nuclear power entails looking at its pros. These advantages include its low carbon emissions, its containable waste products, its low cost technological research, and its abundant supply of energy. Abundant supply of electrical energy at lower costs. Uranium can be used instead of oil to produce electrical energy. A ton of uranium can release significant amounts of energy once it undergoes the process of nuclear fission. By nuclear fission, the mere splitting of atomic nuclei can go into a series of chain reactions that can produce great amounts of energy to be converted into electricity.
Coal heated power plants require millions times more fuel to create an equal amount of energy as one ton of uranium. A very low amount of carbon emissions are created from nuclear power. Since there is no fuel burning process involved in a nuclear reactor, the amount of carbon emission released from nuclear power plants is less than a hundredth of the carbon emissions released by the fuel burning power plants such as coal heated power plants. Nuclear wastes can be contained and controlled. This is unlike carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions which are released in the atmosphere beyond human control.
Carbon dioxide emissions have been the biggest factor that affect global warming conditions. Nuclear technology entails low cost. The nuclear technology of fission is a natural occurrence that does not require further development or research to produce energy that can be converted into electricity. The splitting of a large nucleus causes a chain reaction of splitting other nuclei and releasing shooting neutrons that can continuously split more atomic nuclei creating energy in the process. The next step includes comparing these pros with cons.
These include the possible accidents or disasters, the possible creation of nuclear weapons, the expensive price of creating the nuclear power plant, The disposal and safe storage solution of nuclear waste, and the possible terrorist threat to nuclear power plants and waste disposal sites. Nuclear accidents or disasters have happened and taken place on different occasions in different locations in the past. Two of the most widely known nuclear disasters that occurred are the Three Mile Island reactor in the US and the Chernobyl reactor in Russia. Even the countries of France and Japan have had leakages and accidents.
Japan experienced a partial meltdown of uranium core in Ottawa in 1952 and several other accidents afterwards including the well-known Tokaimura incident in 1999. France experienced its first major nuclear disaster in 1992 while the most recent was in July 2008. The latest involved a plant malfunction which caused 30,000 litres of uranium enriched solution to leak into two of France’s rivers. The possible creation of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty provides that every country has a right to undertake nuclear development for peaceful purposes.
Many nations have taken its context as including the development of nuclear weapons because they feel threatened by other world powers. India feels threatened by Pakistan, while North Korea feels the same way about South Korea. Even developing countries will consider nuclear weapons to protect itself from possible threats of invasion. The setting up of nuclear power plants is expensive. Based on historical records, the actual costs incurred in building nuclear power plants have always exceeded the initial estimates.
A report released by the US Congressional Budget Office in May 2008 disclosed that the actual costs incurred to build 75 existing nuclear power plants reached $144. 6 billion dollars. The estimated average cost of was $45. 2 billion. Nuclear waste disposal and storage solutions still have to be perfected. Nuclear waste is also known as Spent Nuclear Fuel or SNF. At the moment the only ideal system of treating SNF involves keeping them in temporary storage in deep disposal sites in the ground. However, SNF or nuclear waste disposal is still considered unresolved by many because there are no countries involved in deep ground SNF storage.
Instead the nuclear waste is stored in dry-cask storages in steel lined silos with no definite disposal destination. Also uranium and plutonium have very long half lives and will take many years in storage to decay. The nuclear waste products are still considered radioactive for at least one thousand years. This could threaten homes and there residents if they have the radiation emissions enter their homes. Nuclear power plants and SNF storage silos are possible targets of terrorist attacks. Similar attacks like those launched by the 9/11 terrorists are likely possibilities which cannot be dismissed.
This may seem unlikely but so did the attack on the twin towers. There are equal amounts of pros and cons for nuclear power usage and the decision to switch to it in the future is still uncertain. Although there are advantages such as the low carbon emissions and the large amount of energy produce from one ton of uranium the are still disadvantages including the possible nuclear disasters in the reactors and the possible terrorist threat. Either way it is necessary the choice is made soon otherwise our resources will be used up and we will be in a lot of strife.
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