Is Nuclear (Fission) Power Sustainable?

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Nuclear power is generated through three main nuclear processes that include nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and nuclear decay (Ferguson, 2011). Nuclear fission of chemical elements produces the highest amount of energy compared to nuclear decay and nuclear fusion of the same elements. In 2012, nuclear energy accounted for 13% of the total amount of energy generated in the world. In addition, it accounted for 5.7% of energy generated in the world. These percentages demonstrate the key role played by nuclear energy in contemporary society. Nuclear fission power is sustainable because it implements measures that promote health and safety, utilizes modern technology that conserves the environment, and has minimal carbon emissions that cause pollution.

Technological arguments

Nuclear fission power plants are designed to incorporate modern technologies that perform multiple functions. For instance, many power plants are used to generate nuclear energy and at the same time develop nuclear weapons. Advanced technologies are used because they promote the safety of humans and reduce the amount of pollutant gases and chemicals released. In addition, technology facilitates conservation of energy. For example, Light Water Reactors have a 90% efficiency level and emit little amounts of toxic gases (Ferguson, 2011). Waste is a critical issue in generation of nuclear power. For that reason, advanced technologies are used in order to lower the environmental and economic impacts of wastes.

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Economic arguments

Nuclear energy is sustainable because nuclear power plants have low fuel costs and therefore, cheap to operate. High costs are experienced only during the construction of power plants. Nuclear energy offers economic value because the rate of depletion of fossil fuels is very high (Ferguson, 2011). This has raised the cost of fuel. The high demand for energy has rendered nuclear energy one of the most important energy sources. Its economic advantage is based on two factors. It contributes towards satisfying the high demand for energy around the world and offers sustainable energy that is affordable and environmental friendly (Kessler, 2012). Alternative sources of energy like solar and wind energy require huge amounts of money for the construction of facilities and their maintenance. In addition, they require large pieces of land. On the contrary, nuclear energy requires a smaller piece of land. Finally, the main raw material (uranium) used to generate nuclear power is readily available (Kessler, 2012).

Environmental arguments

Advanced technologies facilitate the release of waste that has low environmental implications. Nuclear power plants produce low amounts of radioactive water, few toxic gases and chemicals, and low-radiation radioactive materials (Lillington, 2004). Nuclear power plants are designed in a manner that promotes recycling of fuel and other materials in order to reduce emissions. According to nuclear energy experts, a 1-GWel power plant that has been operation for six years produces waste that can fit into a 4 M³ container (Lillington, 2004).

Health and safety arguments

In order to promote health and safety, nuclear power plants implement safety measures like recycling of waste and production of low-radiation materials (McLeish, 2007). The number of deaths caused by nuclear power plants is lower than the number of deaths caused by other energy sources. Only 99 accidents have occurred at nuclear power plants around the world. This is a very small number considering the high risk that radioactive materials pose. This reveals the maintenance of high safety standards at nuclear power plants (McLeish, 2007). Radiation poses great health risks. However, measures are put in place to minimize human contact.

Political arguments

The sustainability of nuclear energy is largely due to the political stability of producing countries. Countries that generate nuclear fission power such as China, France, the U.S., Sweden, Russia, Germany, Canada, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom are politically stable (Suppes, & Strovick, 2006). Therefore, their stability guarantees enhanced sustainability of nuclear power. The use of nuclear power plants to manufacture nuclear weapons has been curtailed in order to promote international cohesion. On the other hand, international measures that illegalize the use of nuclear weapons to gain political advantage have been implemented (Suppes, & Strovick, 2006).

Ethical and social arguments

Nuclear energy promotes social cohesion because it encourages interactions between various countries that generate nuclear power. These countries exchange technologies and develop strategies to prevent the use of nuclear plants to develop nuclear weapons. Nuclear fission power is ethical because it reduces environmental pollution, promotes human safety, and grows the economies of generating countries (Lillington, 2004). Measures to minimize health problems and physical injuries are implemented at nuclear power plants. In addition, technologies that promote environmental conservation by facilitating the recycling of pollutants and other waste products are used. Nuclear power plants have low mortality rates due to the implementation of effective safety and health measures (Suppes, & Strovick, 2006). Promotion of human welfare and preservation of good health is a priority to nations that produce nuclear energy.

Conclusion

The depletion of fossil fuels has created the need for alternative energy sources like nuclear power. Nuclear fission power is one of the most reliable energy sources. Its sustainability is based on low operation costs, use of advanced technologies, political stability of producing countries, and emission of waste that has low economic and environmental implications. In addition, nuclear power plants have high health and safety standards. Few deaths have been caused by nuclear energy generation. Finally, further research is ongoing to develop ways to make generation of nuclear fission power safer. For that reason, nuclear power is sustainable.

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References

Ferguson, C. (2011). Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kessler, G. (2012). Sustainable and Safe Nuclear Fission Energy: Technology and Safety of Fast and Thermal Nuclear Reactors. New York: Springer.

Lillington, J. (2004). The Future of Nuclear Power. New York: Elsevier.

McLeish, E. (2007). The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.

Suppes, G., & Strovick, T. (2006). Sustainable Nuclear Energy. New York: Academic Press.

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