The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy: Is it Worth the Risk?

Nuclear Energy has been a controversial topic for decades with many people debating its pros & cons as an energy source. In this article we'll explore its advantages & disadvantages & discuss whether it's worth taking on.

The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy: Is it Worth the Risk?

Nuclear energy has been a controversial topic for decades, with many people debating the pros and cons of using it as an energy source. On one hand, nuclear energy is a clean and efficient source of energy that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a reliable source of electricity. On the other hand, nuclear energy is expensive to produce, has the potential to cause catastrophic accidents, and can lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In this article, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy and discuss whether it is worth the risk.A major environmental concern related to nuclear energy is the creation of radioactive waste such as tailings from uranium mills, spent (used) reactor fuel and other radioactive wastes.

These materials can remain radioactive and hazardous to human health for thousands of years. The 444 nuclear power plants that currently exist provide about 11% of the world's energy (1). Studies show that, to meet current and future energy needs, the nuclear sector would need to expand to around 14,500 plants. Uranium, the fuel in nuclear reactors, consumes a lot of energy and is likely to be more difficult to reach deposits discovered in the future.As a result, much of the net energy created would be offset by the energy input needed to build and dismantle plants and to extract and process uranium ore.

The same goes for any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the shift from coal to nuclear (1). It is not possible to expand to 14,500 nuclear plants simply because of the limitation of feasible sites. Nuclear plants must be located near a water source for cooling, and there are not enough locations in the world that are safe from droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or other potential disasters that could trigger a nuclear accident. The increase in extreme weather events predicted by climate models only exacerbates this risk.Unlike renewables, which are now the cheapest energy sources, nuclear costs are rising and many plants are shutting down or are in danger of being shut down for economic reasons.

Initial capital, fuel and maintenance costs are much higher for nuclear plants than wind and solar, and nuclear projects tend to suffer from cost overruns and construction delays. The price of renewable energy has fallen significantly in the last decade, and is projected to continue to fall (1). Going down the nuclear route would mean that poor countries, which do not have the financial resources to invest and develop nuclear energy, would depend on rich and technologically advanced nations. Alternatively, poor nations with no experience in building and maintaining nuclear power plants may decide to build them anyway.Countries with a history of using nuclear energy have learned the importance of regulation, supervision and investment in safety when it comes to nuclear energy.

Peter Bradford of Vermont Law, a former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC), writes: "A world more dependent on nuclear energy would involve many plants in countries that have little experience in nuclear energy, with no regulatory background in the field and some questionable quality control records, security and corruption". They should lead by example and encourage poor countries to invest in safe energy technologies (201). When it comes to pollution, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to nuclear power - but don't worry - we'll address nuclear waste in a moment. However, the overall pollution production of a nuclear power plant is quite low compared to energy production from fossil fuels.

Current consumption of nuclear energy already reduces more than 555 million metric tons of emissions each year.This reduction in greenhouse gases is a great indicator of how the shift to nuclear energy can help reduce our long-term effect on global climate change. Nuclear power plants have a greater impact on the environment than just the waste they produce. Uranium extraction and enrichment are not environmentally friendly processes. Open pit uranium mining is safe for miners but leaves behind radioactive particles, causes erosion and even contaminates nearby water sources.

Underground mining isn't much better - it exposes miners to large amounts of radiation while producing radioactive waste rock during extraction and processing.At high doses, ionizing radiation can cause immediate harm to a person's body including - at very high doses - radiation sickness and death. At lower doses ionizing radiation can cause health effects such as cardiovascular disease and cataracts as well as cancer. It causes cancer mainly because it damages DNA which can cause genetic mutations that cause cancer.Changes in air and water temperatures wind speeds and patterns extreme rainfall and sea level rise all the consequences of climate change can lower the efficiency of nuclear reactors require operators to reduce or shut down reactors increase the cost of nuclear energy and increase safety and environmental risks.While it may not seem like a long time it is longer than many fossil fuels are estimated to last - and other sources of nuclear power are being explored to power nuclear power plants. Low-level waste (LLW) includes items that have been contaminated with radioactive material or that have been rendered radioactive by exposure to neutron radiation at the nuclear power plant such as containers used for shipping workers' clothing and shoes paper rags - and anything else that may have been used to handle or clean nuclear waste.Nuclear fission (the process used to generate nuclear energy) releases much greater amounts of energy than simply burning fossil fuels such as gas oil or coal.To prevent the proliferation of weapons it is important that countries with high levels of corruption and instability be discouraged from creating nuclear programs -and-the United States must be a leader in non-proliferation by not pushing for more nuclear energy in its country (2).

Jacopo Buongiorno professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT led a group of scientists who recently completed a two-year study examining the future of nuclear energy in the U. S.Turning nuclear energy into sustainable energy requires the use of reproductive reactors -and-nuclear fusion -to-sustain us for the foreseeable future. Nuclear energy advocates say nuclear power is still needed because renewables are intermittent -and-need natural gas as backup.One of the main concerns about peaceful nuclear energy programs is the risk of nuclear proliferation, -the-spread-of-nuclear weapons -and-usable weapons material technology -and-expertise. Increasingly severe hurricanes -and-floods can also damage nuclear power plants -and-disrupt access to cooling water similar -to-the events-of...

Nanette Thrun
Nanette Thrun

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