Is nuclear power the answer to the energy crisis? Submission Date: 29/8/2012 Required Length: 1250-1500 Actual Length: 1291 Introduction It is frequently said that nuclear energy is cheaper, safer and more efficient than fossil fuels, and without the effects on air pollution, so it is often seen as a solution to the energy crisis. In 2000, approximately a sixth of the global electricity power was provided by nuclear power. Boyle, G et al 2003) However, over the last year, there has been the serious accident with a nuclear power plant in Japan, which has draw attention on the nuclear issue once again, as it recalled the devastating disaster of Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986. It needs to be asked whether it is safe enough to be the answer to the energy crisis. From my perspective, exploitation of the nuclear energy have done more harm than good so far. Therefore, how to approach the role of nuclear power in this energy crisis in future is the highest priority.
Environment According to the Sustainable Development commission (2006), there is no energy technology can reach zero carbon emissions currently. Even renewable technologies will lead to carbon emissions during construction. Nuclear power plants are no different. With large demand of product of cement and metal during construction, mining the uranium ore, massive energy inputs on wastes disposal and the uranium enrichment facility, nuclear energy is definitely not green energy like people say so.
Moreover, as the by-product during the uranium enrichment processes, HCFC (hydro chlorofluorocarbon), the major contributor of depletion of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, which more or less discharged to the atmosphere though after treatment. Due to the limitation of efficiency, approximately 33% heat utilization ratio (From IAEA 2012), the light water reactor have, a large amount of waste heat are discharged by nuclear plant .
For typical nuclear systems, in order to ensure that the effects of temperature rise in the environment is small, a large amounts of water (around a billion gallons per day) must be passed through the steam condenser to cool down them ,which also is the main reason why the nuclear plants built near the sea or water area . Heater water can have adverse effects on the plant and animal life which might cause a great variation among species. ( Murray, R 1980) All nuclear plants generate dangerous nuclear wastes.
Nuclear wastes contain radioactive material which is hazardous to most forms of life and the environment. Some nuclear wastes remain dangerous for thousands of years. When biological tissue expose on radiation or touch radioactive material, energy is deposited and a series physical changes take place that cause huge damage on the cells to variation or death. Current major approaches to managing nuclear wastes are segregation, storage and deep burial for a long time according the different risk level of wastes.
There are some cases about leak of wastes, and few communities are willing to accept waste site near them. (Gore, A, 2009) Cost and economy If only considering the unit cost of producing electricity by the nuclear power comparing other forms of energy, it is seems to be cheaper much from the data (World Nuclear Association, 2010). However, building a new nuclear plant is a tremendously complicated project that costs huge investment and takes many years to complete. It is no likely to calculate the accurate cost of a new nuclear power plant claimed by the Sustainable Develop Commission.
Helen Caldicott (2010) believes that the real economy value of nuclear industry is never carefully analyzed, including the cost of uranium enrichment, financial claims after the nuclear disaster, construction and decommission. It is a fact that a smaller proportion (approximately 26%) of fuel cost accounts for a nuclear power plant’s whole operating cost than other types of power plants. However, the high cost of waste disposal remains a big headache since advent of nuclear technology .
According to the mail online news, the cost of cleaning up Britain’s nuclear waste has increased to almost ? 48 billion, it was revealed today as the Government unveiled “radical” changes to managing the country’s nuclear legacy. The cost of the programme was estimated at ? 43 billion last year but it has soared to ? 47. 9 billion. (2012). A further problem is that nuclear power plants must maintain higher standards of operational condition in case of the likelihood of potential safety loopholes of equipment in poor condition.
In addition Employees, administration, and supplies cost a nuclear power plant $0. 0137 per kWh on average in 2008. (Morgan J, 2010) Going back to the nuclear disaster cause by earthquake-tsunami in Fukushima, the government of Japan estimates the cost at $300 billion, which would make it the most expensive natural disaster on record, according to Birmingham L (2011). JP Morgan has estimated the Tokyo electricity company may face claims of up to 2 trillion yen, nearly 15 billion pounds by the end of this year.
As to the subsequent expenditure of Chernobyl disaster, in Ukraine, 5-7 percent of government spending each year is still devoted to Chernobyl-related benefits and programmes. In Belarus, total spending by Belarus on Chernobyl between 1991 and 2003 was more than US $ 13 billion. Safety and Accidents The most important part of public concern is the safety of nuclear plant. Regardless of how many wisdom man have, human being never can bear the disastrous results once nuclear accident take place.
Huge loss in economy, irreversible damage in environment and unexpected effects on future, all of these prove the nuclear power have not meet the contemporary safe needs. With the last one nuclear power station closed in March 2012 in Japan, which means the all of the Japan’s 50 reactors have been taken off line, marking the country’s first no nuclear power day since May 1970. And after Fukushima disaster, under the pressure of anti- nuclear protests, Germany’s coalition government has announced a reversal of policy that all the country’s nuclear power plants will be phased out by 2022.
Twenty five years on, the disaster at Chernobyl casts a long shadow over the people. As the most serious nuclear disaster on history , Chernobyl disaster, which lead directly to thirty one deaths in that accident . About 200,000 people had to be permanently migrated after the disaster. According to IAEA report, up to 4,000 people may die from long-term diseases related to the accident. Those numbers are a subject of debate. The World Health Organization reported the actual number of deaths related to Chernobyl was about 9,000. However, when atastrophe happened in Fukushima, in Japan, this tragedy makes people realise the terrible hazard of nuclear power once again and the fear is far more than the loss. There have been over 25 indirectly deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, over 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. In this day and age, for terrorists, nuclear power plants are obvious targets. (Caldicott, h, 2007) Assault by hijacked plane, truck bombs, or covert attack into the reactor’s control room, which are very likely happened in the future. Once breakout of war, nuclear plants also are first military targets.
The subsequence of meltdown or destroy of reactors could trigger the countless death of people in heavily populated areas, and they would suffer slowly and painfully from acute radiation sickness year after year, cancer, leukaemia, congenital deformities, or genetic disease. Conclusion In conclusion, it is clear from the preceding arguments that the weakness overweighed the advantages in nuclear power use, considering the impacts of the unclear power to the environment, huge cost of upfront investment and reconstruction after disaster and the unknown safety hidden risk.
Owing to this, people should take the nuclear power seriously because of the nuclear disaster would not be unbearable by human race. Hence, the each governments should not promoted the nuclear power as the answer to the energy crisis. Bibliography Birmingham, L. 2011, Japan Recovery Slowed by Aftershocks, Tokyo Monday Boyle, G, et al. 2003, Energy Systems and sustainability- power for a sustainable future, Oxford university press: Oxford, Pp, 395-396. Caldicott, H. 2007, Nuclear power is not the answer new press Pp,55-58.
Gore, A. 2009, Our Choice: a plan to solve the climate crisis, Bloomsbury publishing: Great Britain Pp, 150-154. IAEA, 2012. Summary of Nuclear Power Reactors [online] available: http://world-nuclear. org/reference/default. aspx? id=984&LangType=2057&terms=33%25 [accessed at 26/08/2012] IAEA, 2001. 15 Years After Chernobyl, nuclear power plant safety improved , but strains on health, economy and environment remain[online]available: http://www. iaea. org/newscenter/features/chernobyl-15/cherno15_main. shtml[acce