Kleiner, with evidence from research, stated that “nuclear energy is the world’s largest source of emission-free energy” (131-132). It can be tracked from 1985 when Wilhelm Rontgen accidently learnt about the existence of X-rays. After Rontgen discovered about the X-rays, scientists from Europe started experimenting in this arena. Becquerel, who is the most distinguished scientist in this age, discovered Uranium between 1896 and 1897. Uranium is a great source of radiation. It is independent from any other source such as light, heat or electrical current. Radiation is released at a constant rate and does not decay. The energy let off by Uranium has similar properties as the X-rays but is somewhat different.
Pierre and Marie Curie initially used the term ‘radiation’ to refer to the effects of uranium. At the moment, however, people are still using it to try to cure cancer. Since then, nuclear energy has become a very lucrative source of energy. It was first used in Europe after some scientific research. In the USA and UK, greater technological power enabled its extensive use. Although its use was halted for some years, it had a fresh development in East Asia. This explains why it is now one of the greatest powers in the world.
Nuclear energy, also known as the atomic energy, is energy that is released through nuclear reaction and mainly through fusion or fission. It produces a massive amount of energy. Research indicates that the amount of energy released through nuclear fission of a particular mass is approximately 2.5 million times greater that released when an equal quantity of carbon is combusted. “The amount of energy released by the nuclear fusion of a particular mass of deuterium is approximately 400 times greater than that released by the nuclear fission of an equal mass of uranium” (Reisman 341). Nuclear energy is an established energy technology that has existed and served for more than 50 years (Walker 381). Besides the advantages such as an enhanced performance and safety, there are also disadvantages associated by the use of nuclear energy. They include the issue of radioactive waste and nuclear accidents.
Advantages of Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Power Plants Reduce Emissions
It has been suggested that one of the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions is the use of nuclear energy in place of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy involves the emission of negligible amounts of carbon dioxide. Despite this fact, it has the ability to deliver reliable and sustainable amounts of energy enough to power this industrial society. In addition to this, energy retrieved from nuclear fission may be considered as inexhaustible. Nuclear energy has been used to decrease the carbon dioxide emissions over many years. Most of the carbon dioxide emissions have been said to be due to the use of fuels for heating, transportation and many other uses. This calls for the need for special-purpose reactors that would expand the use of nuclear energy in these areas.
Nuclear plants have assisted many regions to meet the allowed air pollution standards. The US has allowed both fossil and nuclear power to operate in certain regions and states. This is due to the fact that they meet the emission limits that were set by the federal with accordance to the Clean Air Act of 1970. Nuclear energy also assists in reducing the costs of air pollution. An example of this is nitrogen oxides, which is a predecessor of ground-level ozone. The Environmental Protection Agency included a cap on this organized pollutant for 21 eastern states in the US. This ‘Nitrogen Dioxide Call Rule’ regulates the total cap as a limit for emission for each state. “The cap for all of these states is 565,000 tons, while actual nitrogen dioxide output in 1997 was 1,346,350 tons. If electricity generation sources that emit harmful gases were to replace nuclear energy, these states would produce an additional 131,867 tons, even if their emission rate meets the level required by the SIP Call Rule” (Totty 17). It is understandable that this energy is environmental friendly and most critics of this usually mention the fact that it can release radioactive emissions during a meltdown. In addition to this, research in this field has created mechanisms to prevent meltdown.
Nuclear Energy is Very Cost Effective on Economic
Nuclear energy produced in plants offers predictable power, low-cost and is a reliability electric power system. Therefore, it also assists in maintaining reliable electricity supply and energy security (Totty 17). Nuclear energy differs to other sources of energy since it does not alter with changes in costs. It is not affected by climatic or weather conditions. It is also does not depend on foreign suppliers. This especially applies to developed countries. They can operate for longer periods of time and increase the capacity of electricity production. Between 1988 and 1999, for example, approximately 50 billion more kilowatt-hours of electricity was realized. Research has also reported a declining operation, maintenance and production costs of nuclear energy in the last years (Matthes 49).
The Polo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona is one of the biggest power stations. It generates more electricity annually than any other US power plant of any kind. Its sources include coal, oil, natural gas and hydro. The three-unit, 3,921-megawatt nuclear plant generated 32.095 million megawatt-hours of electricity in the US. About 20% of the nation’s electricity is exported each year. In 2000, U.S. nuclear plants generated 753.9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. In 1999, they produced 728 billion kWh (38-40).
Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy
Nuclear power plants produce huge amounts of energy from relatively small amounts of fuel. This means that the amount of waste produced is also quite small. However, the radioactive waste is highly hazardous since they may cause harm to the human body. Therefore, there is need to carefully manage the waste products. It is also important to ensure safety in order to avoid radiation leak (Cooper 68). They can emit radiations for hundreds of years. Storage or radioactive wastes have been a major problem, opposing the expansion of nuclear programs. The radioisotopes possess long haft-lives. For this reason, they can remain in the atmosphere in various forms. At the same time, these reactive isotopes can contaminate the water or sand and this mixture contains harmful chemical reactions that can cause complications to the human health.
Radioactive wastes can be divided into two categories. They include the low-level and the high-level waste. The high-level waste comes from the two atoms produced during the initial stage of fission reaction when uranium atom initiates splitting. These high-level wastes can be radioactive for extended periods and require about 10 feet of water to engross the energy. Examples of these harmful wastes include strontium and cesium.
Radioactive waste management involves the putting in place of measures to ensure that human beings and the environment as a whole are protected from the hazardous waste (Javidkia, Hashemi-Tilehnoee, and Zabihi 814). In order to keep away the low-level nuclear wastes from harm’s way, they should be disposed in the proper manner. For example, they can be disposed in a landfill-type setting (Macfarlane 1). Some nuclear wastes with long-lived radionuclides require being stored in special facilities for several hundred years. They are stored for such extended periods since they may remain hazardous for a long time. The time allocated for such materials to become inactive depends on the type of radioactive isotopes in them. The radioactivity in such isotopes need time to decay into stable and non-reactive ones.
Although many new technologies and designs have been implemented to prevent disasters, the Chernobyl or the Latest Fukushima and the risks related to nuclear accidents are high. The Chernobyl disaster showed the extensive effects that nuclear accidents could cause. When the nuclear reactor exploded, it caused a radioactive plume to travel several kilometers into the sky polluting several surrounding nations. The dangerous elements were blown off to countries including Sweden, Russia, Belarus, Europe and Ukraine (Petryna 30). Several people were diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome after being exposed to the radiation. The effects of this disaster was felt for several years since many died from radiation-related complications such as cancer. Thousands more were expected to die due to radiation exposure.
Even slight radiation leaks cause devastating effects. Examples of symptoms associated to this include vomiting, nausea, fatigue and diarrhea. People living near or working in nuclear reactor plants are at high risk of being effected by nuclear radiations in the event that accidents occur.
The term radiation may also be used to describe the way in which heat is transferred by waves. This means that meltdown is one of the possibilities when emissions of these harmful radiations occur. For the case of Chernobyl, the meltdown occurred and caused the reactor to melt. The molten uranium fuel rods melted and reacted with the groundwater causing huge explosions. During a nuclear reactor disaster, radiations are emitted. When these radiations are not controlled, they may come in contact with the people around the area. This is dangerous since they may cause complication or even death since radiations affect the human body cells.
Nuclear accidents are mainly caused by operator errors, which are at times difficult to avoid. Major nuclear accidents usually involve situations where the reactor core is damaged. This usually causes huge amounts of radioactive material to be released (such as in the case of Chernobyl). In order to avoid such accidents, it is important to follow the safety rules. For example, the correct number of control rods must always be kept in the reactor to avoid accidents. However, technical measures have been put in place in order to reduce the risk of accidents. These measures are also put in place to minimize the amount of radioactive elements that are released to the environment.
From this research, we can realize that the thesis is true. Nuclear energy is an energy technology that was established a long time ago. It has been developed and used for over 50 years. It has more advantages when compared to the other forms of energy. The advantages include the enhanced performance, the ability to produce a huge amount of energy and the fact that it can be done at a relatively low cost. Nuclear energy has also been described to be one of the best ways to combat carbon emissions. Therefore, it is important for countries to ensure the continued safe operation of the nuclear plants that are in place and to even extend their operation life.
One of the disadvantages of using nuclear energy is the emission of radioactive waste, which may be harmful to human health. Another disadvantage is the fact that nuclear accidents may occur and when they occur, they cause devastating effects. The effects of nuclear radiations due to accidents in the nuclear plants (reactors) include both short-term and long-term. The short term and immediate effects include death and injury of individuals involved in the accident. The long-term effects include the complications that arise from exposure to radioactive elements. They may contribute to increased cases of cancer and other related complications. In this case, even those individuals not directly involved in the accident (far from the site of the incident) suffer from the effects of the accident.
However, more research needs to be done in order to find ways of making it safer. The rewards are great but the effects from accidents associated with its use are also adverse. Therefore, there is need to find ways of controlling radiation in case of any leakage or meltdown. Unless these simple limitations of nuclear energy are resolved effectively, the acceptance of nuclear energy will still be faced with hurdles.
Cooper, Mark. “Nuclear safety and affordable reactors: Can we have both.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 68.4 (2012): 61-72. Print.
Javidkia, Farez, Marian Hashemi-Tilehnoee, and Vohtili Zabihi. “A comparison between fossil and Nuclear power plants pollutions and their environmental effects.” Journal of Energy and Power Engineering 5.1 (2011): 811-820. Print.
Kleiner, Kurt. “Nuclear energy: assessing the emissions.” Nature Reports Climate Change 1.1 (2008): 130-131. Print.
Macfarlane, Allison. “It’s 2050: Do you know where your nuclear waste is.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67.1 (2011): 30-36. Print.
Matthes, Felix. “Exit economics: The relatively low cost of Germany’s Nuclear Phase-out.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 68.6 (2012): 42-54. Print.
Petryna, Adriana. “Chernobyl’s survivors: Paralyzed by fatalism or overlooked by science.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67.2 (2011): 30-37. Print.
Totty, Michael. “The case for- and against- Nuclear Power.” Wall Street Journal 68.1 (2008): 102-133. Print.
Walker, Samuel. “Writing the History of Nuclear Energy: The State of the Art.” Diplomatic History 9.4 (1985): 377-383. Print.