Pros And Cons Of Nuclear Energy

Is The Electricity Worth The Risk?

By: - Industrial - May 7, 2011
pros and cons of nuclear energy

As thoughts of Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi reactors are still in our minds, now is the most opportune time to discuss the pros and cons of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is not dependent on fossil fuels, and it won’t be affected by the fluctuations in gas and oil prices. Natural gas and coal emit carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate change. Nuclear power plants produce very low CO2 emissions.

The power that is produced by nuclear plants would, if generated by traditional means, produce about two billion CO2 metric tons every year. This is one of the most obvious advantages of nuclear energy. If a nuclear plant is running at peak efficiency, it releases less radioactivity than a power plant fired by coal.

Nuclear fission also produces about a million times more usable energy per each unit than the alternative of fossil fuels. The fuel requirement is much lighter, which is another of the advantages of nuclear energy.

You can talk about the pros and cons of nuclear energy by discussing the mining and purification of uranium. This is not a clean process. When you transport nuclear fuel, there is always a risk of contamination. Additionally, once the fuel has been spent, it can’t be thrown away at a dump. It is potentially deadly and filled with radiation.

Nuclear power plants generate about twenty metric tons a year of used nuclear fuel. This waste is highly radioactive, emits heat and radiation, and can corrode any container it is held in. In addition, even as you look at the advantages of nuclear energy, which include more plentiful energy without the use of fossil fuels, you also need to look at the deadly way it can affect life forms nearby. The equipment and parts of a nuclear reactor have low level radioactive waste levels.

Even though we always see images and hear stories of the nuclear accidents like those at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and now Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi reactors, we should remember that there are many reactors that are run more efficiently, and with more stringent safety standards. So, the pros and cons of nuclear energy must take into account that more reactors operate safely than unsafely.

Over a period of time, nuclear waste will decay to less radioactive levels, but that process actually will take thousands of years. The lowest level of radioactive waste takes hundreds of years to reach safe levels. This waste must be monitored, maintained and guarded, in order to prevent the radioactive materials from being stolen.

Most modern plants are better designed than plants like Chernobyl, which was not properly designed or operated. The newer plants still require supervision, but they are more well designed, and safer to operate.