There was a time when nuclear energy was considered as one of the best alternative sources of energy. It was during the time when the burning of fossil fuel was proven to be costly and dirty. It pollutes the environment and burns a hole in the pocket of consumers. Nuclear was also considered efficient. When the United States, Russia, France, and Germany built nuclear reactors, the rest of the world followed. And then the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened and the world became wary of nuclear energy because it has the power to both build and destroy. This report is a study of the technology and safety issues behind nuclear reactors and would help determine the risks involve and how to mitigate risks in the event that the government decides to build one.
The first major issue that has to be dealt with is the cost-efficiency of building a reactor because of the known risks. The consumers and taxpayers would like to know if it makes sense to build a reactor anywhere in the country. If it is as costly as fossil fuel to maintain and operate then there is no reason to build one. If it is cost-efficient or proven to be cheaper than burning fossil fuels then it forces the argument that perhaps nuclear energy is a viable alternative considering the growing energy needs of this nation.
The second and most important issue is all about safety. The planners and builders must be able to prove to all stakeholders including the people living near the proposed building site if a nuclear reactor can be managed to a point that a nuclear meltdown is a remote possibility. If the risks cannot be mitigated depending on the factors that are unique to the proposed building site then there is no room for argument other than to reject any proposal to build a nuclear reactor.
A nuclear reactor is supposed to be a safe, reliable and cheap energy source. A handful of raw materials can generate so much energy that it can power cities and factories in a relatively more cost-efficient way than the operation of multiple fossil-fuel energy plants. But then the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl changed the perspective of many people and as of the present many are against the use of nuclear energy. The harmful radiation that is released during a nuclear reactor meltdown is enough to kill people and other living organisms located far away from the site (Smith & Beresford, 2005). It is like dropping a nuclear bomb in the area.
The Chernobyl accident in April of 1986 killed several workers and the exposure to heavy doses of radiation resulted in a total of 31 fatalities (Ingram, 2005). But it was discovered later on that impact were long-term and far reaching and in fact the Soviet Union admitted that two hundred fifty people died due to long term exposure (Ingram, 2005). The World Health Organization reported that the amount of nuclear radiation released in the Chernobyl accident was two hundred times greater than what was released during the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II (Medvedev, 1991).
It is important to fully understand what modern technology can do in order to prevent the same accident from ever happening again (Ebel, 1994). It is impossible to create a system that is fail-proof but in the case of a nuclear reactor scientists and engineers must adhere to a more rigid standard. The designers of nuclear reactors must not only think about the possible meltdown of the nuclear reactor due to an internal failure. The designers must also consider the external environment such as floods, terrorist attacks, tsunamis, earthquakes and other calamities.
Ebel, R. (1994). Chernobyl and Its Aftermath A Chronology of Events. Washington, D.C.: The Center for Strategic International Studies.
Ingram, S. (2005). The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. New York: Facts on File, Inc.
Medvedev, G. (1991). The Truth About Chernobyl. New York: I.B. Tauris. Smith, J. & N. Beresford. (2005). Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences. New York: Springer.