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Nuclear Power as a Primary Energy Source Essay

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Updated: Jul 2nd, 2020

The energy crisis the world faces currently is one of the most urgent and disturbing questions countries have to deal with. The reasons why the crisis exists vary widely. One of the most evident of those is the limited supply of natural resources that become more and more scarce because of overconsumption, overpopulation, and too high demand. With this in mind, the humankind has no other choice than to rely on alternative sources of energy, giving priority to nuclear power.

Even though the word nuclear is considered scary, its scariness is exaggerated. Nuclear plants now provide at least 16% of all world’s electricity and have much less adverse impacts on the environment than people believe they do (The United Nations par. 2); nuclear power is also cheaper and even safer than other energy sources and is regulated by international associations, which guarantees high safety standards.

International concerns about nuclear power exist as long as nuclear power itself. Those can be divided into two broad categories: the use of nuclear materials for evil purposes (that is, creation weapons) and the safety of existing reactors. Let us start with the second one.

The belief that nuclear reactors are unsafe is based on three large nuclear accidents that happened during the previous fifty hears in different parts of the world. Those are Chernobyl in Ukraine, the Three Mile Island in the US, and Fukushima in Japan (Brook et al. 11). Incidents attracted worldwide attention, and people, inspired by the media, began to think that nuclear power was the most unsafe. However, that belief is imposed by the media and society since a lot of books and articles reasonably claim the opposite. In terms of human lives lost, nuclear energy is one of the safest (Brook et al. 11; McKinney, Schoch and Yonavjak 222).

Out of the three incidents mentioned above, only the accident that happened in Chernobyl became the reason for the number of deaths (Brook et al. 11). Nevertheless, there have been less than a hundred of those, which is considerably less than an average number of fatalities that happen in the coal, oil, or gas industries every year (Brook et al. 11). Surprisingly, they do not attract much public attention (McKinney, Schoch, and Yonavjak, 222).

The accident in Fukushima was the latest one and happened when many countries were already actively using nuclear power. It influenced the world a lot. Germany, for instance, claimed that its reactors would be shut down, and Japan followed Germany’s example, even though with less conviction (Moniz par. 2). However, the incident had also another effect – countries that did not want to shut down their nuclear plans began to review the industry’s regulatory requirements and safety standards, and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission was a prime example (Moniz par. 5).

Therefore, the use of nuclear power is safer now. Plants, where the three fore mentioned accidents occurred, were old; the present-day nuclear reactors are much safer and less likely to meltdown (“Arguments for and against nuclear power” par. 1). Admittedly, they still remain vulnerable to natural disasters and terroristic attacks. However, each modern reactor is well-equipped and has a containment structure. Moreover, radioactive waste and spent fuel storage are usually located below the ground level (The World Nuclear Association par. 15).

The safety of nuclear reactors is also being questioned because of environmental issues and impacts on human health. Again, that is nothing more than a belief – the literature proves the opposite. The World Nuclear Association denies the fact that uranium mines cause the pollution of the environment (par. 8). And even though some people state that nuclear reactors are fraught with radioactive waste that would be “a nightmare for our grandchildren,” all those countries that use nuclear energy take all responsibility for managing radioactive waste that it produces (The World Nuclear Association par. 13).

Thus, the waste is never released – it is stored, contained, and managed. Additionally, the use of nuclear power helps to reduce air pollution and resist greenhouse effects since reactors do not emit CO2 (Brook et al. 11; McKinney, Schoch, and Yonavjak 222). Every year, 435 plants all over the world (439, in accordance with the information provided by the UN) prevent the emission of at least two billion tons of CO2 (Brook et al. 11; The United Nations par. 2). Coal-fired stations, in turn, emit almost thirty billion tons of CO2 annually (Brook et al. 11).

The second great international concern about nuclear energy is the fact that it can be used for evil purposes, specifically to create weapons. Such countries as Iraq and North Korea have already used the need for nuclear power as a cover to create their nuclear weapon programs, and now the world is worried about Iran for the same reason (“Arguments for and against nuclear power” par. 3). However, a lot of efforts have been made to ensure that nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes.

In 1953, the International Atomic Energy Agency was established (The United Nations par. 3). In 1968, many countries signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and agreed not to create nuclear weapons (Brook et al. 13; The United Nations par. 3). For many years, verifying the adherence of countries to the NTP has been the major responsibility of the IAEA, and the organization copes with its task very well.

Finally, there are many other reasons why the world needs nuclear energy and why it is better than others are. Its advantages over traditional sources of energy are obvious in view of the safety and environmental concerns mentioned above. Still, nuclear power is better than alternative sources of energy as well. So-called renewables (like the wind, water, and solar) are unreliable, and their sustainability depends on many factors.

What is most important, they are intermittent, which makes them useful only under certain weather conditions, seasons of the year, locations, etc. (Brook et al. 8). Besides, they are not economically viable since a lot of money is needed for their generation, including redundant, underutilized investments (Brook et al. 8). Admittedly, nuclear plants require spending as well. However, they have more economic benefits. First of all, they are used more since nuclear power is not intermittent inherently. Secondly, they bring impressive economic outputs, provide workplaces with decent salaries, etc.

Considering all of this, not many doubts are left regarding our need for nuclear power. Surely, it does not mean that countries should abandon water or solar energy. All of them should be used in a mix. But the priority should be given to nuclear power.

Works Cited

2015. Web.

Brook, Barry W., Agustin Alonso, Daniel A. Meneley, Jozef Misak, Tom Blees and Jan B. van Erp. “Why nuclear energy is sustainable and has to be part of the energy mix.” Sustainable Materials and Technologies 1.2 (2014): 8-16. Print.

McKinney, Michael L., Robert Schoch and Logan Yonavjak. Environmental Science: Systems and Solutions. 5th ed. 2012. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Publishers. Print.

Moniz, Ernest. 2011. Web.

The United Nations. Global Issues: Atomic Energy n.d. Web.

The World Nuclear Association. 2015. Web.

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