Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy
Pros and cons of nuclear energy
Nuclear power provides low-carbon electricity. Currently, more than thirty countries use nuclear power plants to generate electricity. Despite the disregard it had in the 1970s, Nuclear power is once again considered a prominent alternative. This is because it's now being touted as an environmentally friendly source of clean energy, since it emits fewer greenhouse gases during electricity production than coal. However, there is no perfect energy source. Each and every one has its own pros and cons
Pros: Use of nuclear power in generating electricity reduces dependency on fossil fuels, lessen climate change, this is because nuclear energy is almost carbon iv oxide free on the whole life-cycle hence global warming and other environmental concerns are reduced. Also, the production cost of energy is relatively low or at least competitive with other energy sources on condition that some boundary conditions are provided for example, construction time schedule kept.
The main interest in nuclear as a source of energy is basically based on the so called "mega factor". Hence when comparing the energy released by a chemical reaction of a nucleus of Uranium (235U isotope) by a neutron (n) and that of coal atom or a methane molecule in the combustion phase, the amount of energy differs from six orders of magnitude:
C+O2 = CO2 + Q(Q = 3.6 eV),
CH4 + 2O2 = CO2 + 2H2O+Q(Q = 9.22 eV),
235U+n = F1 +F2 + ?n+Q(Q = 211.5MeV).
This means, on a larger scale, 640kg of wood, or 360 m3 of methane, or 400kg of coal, or 350 kg of oil are energetically equivalent to 5 grams of nuclear fuel.
Cons: nuclear power has the potential of causing catastrophic accidents for example Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters and as a result there can be a wide range of environmental damage. In case of an accident, the plant can release radioactive substances to the environment as plume, which can take thousands of years to deactivate the nuclear wastes emitted, the nuclear wastes are dangerous to living organisms, they can cause disease such as genetic mutation and cancer. For instance, on 11 March 2011, a major tsunami and earthquake devastated Sendai of Japan in spite of the fact that it has the world's densest seismometer network, most extensive earthquake early warning system and the biggest tsunami barriers. The 2011 Sendai tsunami led to destruction of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant hence resulting to the release of radioactive materials such as Iodine-131 and caesium-137 into the environment. Abnormal levels of radiation in fish, spinach, milk from areas near Fukushima and in tap and seawater were reported. The main pathways of water and food contamination was due to wind-borne dust that was deposited on vegetables or fruits or which fell on the soil, where it was absorbed by leafy plants and grass hence, through the food chain radioactive particles were transmitted which led to possible pathways of nuclear radiation exposure to livestock, human, food and water contamination. Additionally, marine organisms such as sea food organisms were affected by the direct release of effluents from the Fukushima plant into the sea. As a result, Japan had to ban fishing within 20 Km of the Fukushima plant since it feared that marine organisms and seaweeds could have been contaminated by radioactive materials. Between 1952 to 2011, there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants, of which Chernobyl (1986), Fukushima (2011) and Three Mile Power Plant accident (1979) caused major effects on human beings and the environment.
Conclusion, countries and organizations should only use nuclear power for peaceful purposes such as low-cost electricity generation and low carbon emission. There are both advantages and disadvantages of Nuclear power. Nuclear power generates low carbon electricity and can help in mitigating climate change. Nuclear energy can be categorized as eco-friendly source of clean energy; however, it can cause catastrophic accidents and extensive environmental damage. There is need to determine and monitor the environmental effect of Nuclear power plants on human health and river fauna. During a disaster, the wind-borne dust from a nuclear power plant can cause water and food contamination by harmful radioactive substances such Caesium-137 and Iodine-13. Water scarcity, drought, heat waves, warmer temperature and storms can be a threat to nuclear power plants.
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