As the curtains were raised ushering in industrialization, the need for power also increased with the development. Starting from 1973, the world experienced an increase in the primary energy demand while at the same time the costs escalated thus transferring the cost to the final consumer of industrial products. Worse still, sources of fossil fuels also experienced rapid depreciation with the increased demand. Automatically, the world turned its focus from the traditional fossil fuels to nuclear energy (Raloff 73).
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Like most inventions, the new technology brought with it several negative implications. Despite that, there was need for the energy thus calling upon the stakeholders to find solutions that would minimize the negative implications while improving on the positive aspects of nuclear. This article intends to point out that the world remains at risk though increased effort would reduce the risks and allow the world to tap into this great resource.
The main risks associated with nuclear energy include risks involving accidents in storage and handling of the radio-active elements. A good example of the catastrophic time bomb is the light water reactors in the United States. Should there occur an accident, be it by design or faults during operation, thousands of lives will be lost. Although maximum care is usually ensured during handling and storage of these elements leading to a probability of one in a billion chance of an accident occurring in a year of the operation of the reactors (Zimmerman 23), the estimate does not include intentional acts from hostile people. With the age of terrorism, the probability of a catastrophe occurring as a result of intentional acts of terrorists thus becomes extremely high.
Furthermore, there are dangers associated with natural hazards such as storms and hurricanes which have become part of the lives of people of the United States. There are great chances of such happenings occurring in areas with nuclear plants. This would lead to cases such as those witnessed in Japan in recent times and the repercussions are still affecting the occupants of the regions that were affected. The number of people that would be affected if such a catastrophe occurred in the United States is unmentionable. Unfortunately, such calamities cannot easily be prevented or controlled (Raloff 27). Its occurrence would destroy plants leading only to reactive approaches and not preventive measures. Before the situation is contained, the number of people affected would be so great.
Nuclear waste remains one of the world’s greatest problems (Energy Advisory Group of the World Council of Churches 51). Despite the large step towards improvement of handling nuclear energy, there has not been remarkable improvement in the quantity of waste produced from nuclear reactors. Breeder reactors produce an equal amount of waste as compared to present day reactors. This means that there is very little chances of improved reactors that would reduce nuclear waste in the coming years. The only exception are the plutonium reactors where the breeder reactors produce one and a half less plutonium as compared to contemporary breeders. This is attributed to the breeders’ ability to recycle the waste and make use of the available plutonium.
The likelihood of diverting nuclear energy from the originally intended use to development of nuclear weapons also posses another great risk. This is mostly risky considering the fact that major industrial nations are given the mandate to carry on with the development of nuclear weapons. As a result, smaller countries with the ability to develop nuclear weapons would do the same. This can be cited from the Iran case that has been a weight on the back of the United Nations (Energy Advisory Group of the World Council of Churches 52).
Given the importance of nuclear power and its necessity, the world cannot outright stop the use of nuclear power. This would lead to complete depletion of fossil fuel resources which would bring the whole world to a standstill. There is therefore, need for solutions that would allow the continual use of nuclear energy while reducing the negative impacts of the same. This calls upon every stakeholder in the industry to ensure that they ethically adhere to the currently specified regulations in the “peaceful uses of atomic energy” as specified during the International Atomic Energy Conference. This has, however been in place ever since (Raloff 68).
Considering the risks mentioned above, this article seeks to point out that there can be a solution. First, it is important to point out that the risk of handling and storage problems has been greatly reduced with the current probability of an accident standing at one in a billion. This leaves the risk of nuclear waste as the largest problem of nuclear energy usage. Ability to recycle waste from nuclear reactors is the only solution that would mitigate the mentioned challenge.
Stakeholders should thus push for the increased usage of plutonium. Breeder reactors for plutonium have the chance to recycle the plutonium within the waste thus reducing greatly the risks involved. As a solution, more and more plutonium breeder reactors should be developed while facing out the present day reactors. About the diversion of nuclear energy to development of weapons, it is notable that the findings of the W.C.C in 1975 are the only solution (Energy Advisory Group of the World Council of Churches 53). It would be an injustice to deny some countries the privilege of using nuclear energy just in the name of fear that they would divert the same to weapons
Energy Advisory Group of the World Council of Churches. “Public Acceptance of Nuclear Power- Some Ethical Issues.” IAEA Bulletin 19.6. Web.
Raloff, Janet. “Drugged Waters”, Science News 153 (1998): 187 – 189.
Zimmerman, Michael. Science, Nonscience and Nonsense. Approaching Environmental Literacy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004. Print.