As the world witnesses the increasing usage of coal and fossil fuels to meet the rising demand for energy, the debate still continues on whether nuclear energy can be considered as a green alternative to the depleting non-renewable resources. Although burning oil, coal and fossil fuels are helping the industry meet the requirements, they have their flipsides too, the most pressing of which are global warming and climate changes due to emission of greenhouse gases.
With the constant increase in the pollution of earth’s natural resources, environmentalists have started putting pressure on governmental and private bodies to take necessary measures to deal with this issue and carry out industrial operations without compromising on the planet’s environmental health. And although, various policies, laws and regulations have been created and amended from time to time, some industries conveniently bend these norms to fill their pockets.
This directs the concerned environmentalist’s focus to the usage of renewable or green energy sources for producing energy. Some of the green alternatives that are largely being harnessed for use by responsible companies are solar energy, hydro power, wind energy, geothermal energy and biofuel among others. This effort is supported by building of state-of-the-art infrastructure – be it laying down sturdy steel pipes, installation of steel pipe fittings, building wind mills, installation of turbines, fitting solar panels and harvesting rain water to name a few. Some global players have also started making use of nuclear energy in their operations. However, many environmental groups are staunchly opposed to the idea of considering nuclear energy as a renewable and clean form of energy as they argue that using nuclear energy produces harmful byproducts.
At the same time, the nuclear industry has found support in some pro nuclear countries for using nuclear energy on the grounds that it produces little or no greenhouse gases. As the big debate over the pros and cons of nuclear energy usage continues, it is still left to be seen as to who will have the final word.
In this post, we would be filling you in on some of the key benefits and ill effects of using nuclear energy instead of the conventional sources. Read on to know more.
Why Using Nuclear Energy is Beneficial
One of the most persistent issues in today’s times is the increasing environmental pollution. Burning oil and fossil fuels generates greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions which have resulted in global environmental turmoil, which has manifested itself through global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, extreme blizzards, etc. On the other hand, using nuclear energy has negligible impact on the environment in terms of carbon emissions. Hence, it can work as a great alternative to coal-fired power plants and help bring down pollution levels considerably.
Nuclear power is more cost effective as compared to other types of energy. This can be attributed to the fact that as Uranium is a raw fuel, it costs much lesser than oil, natural gas, or coal. Hence, using nuclear power would result in lower electricity bills for the consumer. These power plants do not require a large amount of space/land to be set up and most of them are built near sea coasts.
Nuclear power is a steady source of energy as nuclear power plants produce a large amount of power on a consistent basis. Unlike other nonrenewable sources of energy, which are expected to get depleted in the distant future, here is a fuel source that is inexhaustible. The amount of fuel that gets used to produce energy is quite less as compared to the energy that is generated. And its output can be easily controlled. Unlike wind and hydro energy, this source of energy is not dependent on the weather.
Disadvantages of Using Nuclear Energy
Storage and Disposing Off Nuclear Waste
The foremost drawback in using nuclear power is the problem of disposing and storing nuclear waste. The radiation that is leaked from used up rods that have lost the ability to produce any more heat could lead to hazardous consequences. It is crucial to contain radioactive waste in an appropriate manner to prevent contamination and keep the biosphere safe as it takes years for radiation to get extinguished. Disposal of radioactive waste is also a major area of concern as nuclear landfills damage the environment and it must be protected so that it does not fall into the wrong hands.
Nuclear decommissioning is a long process and a very expensive one at that. When the utility of a nuclear plant gets exhausted, it becomes important to decommission it in order to return the site to its pre-nuclear state and ensuring that there is no further scope for energy production and leakages. Because of this factor, the cost of using nuclear energy actually turns out to be higher than it appears as generally, it is the taxpayer’s money that is utilized for decommissioning.
This is one of the most dangerous outcomes in case a nuclear accident/reactor disaster takes place and has lasting consequences on biotic life. Reactor disasters, in particular, are known as meltdowns and are the most harmful. A meltdown occurs when the fission reaction of an atom goes out of control, which leads to a nuclear explosion releasing great amounts of radioactive particles into the environment. Such nuclear accidents spread radiation producing particles over a wide area of living population, which harms the cells of the body and can make humans and animals very sick and even result in death. The side effects can occur in people even years after they has been exposed to nuclear radiation and their later generations can be affected by genetic problems too.
Nuclear technology remains one of the most controversial technologies and it will require efforts on a global level to ensure safe and well managed energy transmission. Maintenance of such plants too will require cooperation on a macro level, keeping in mind the threats of global terrorism and war. It is only once these concerns are addressed that people will stop fearing this source of energy and trust it enough to make it a part of their everyday lives.