One nuclear power equals 10 thermal plants or solar panels. Marie Curie, a pioneer who established the theory of radioactivity but coincidentally disovered the fatal impact that radiation can have on human health. She died on July 4, 1934 due to prolonged exposure to radiation is it an energy future or a dead-end? What do the Chernobyl disaster, Fukushima tragedy and Three Mile Island accident have in common? What about the enormous amount of radiation emitted into the atmosphere and remained there for long periods of time? These are all devastating events and effects resulting from nuclear power, which overall had a negative impact to human life around the world. What other energy sources would have similar harmful effects on a big scale basis and economical? Solar, wind and hydroelectric energy, to name a few, are all sustainable green energy sources that have become increasingly popular as people are more conscious and demand for a cleaner environment. In addition, green energy is relatively cheaper as technology continues to improve. Nuclear power is a dead-end because it’s not environmentally friendly, it has hazardous consequences and it is highly costly. Nuclear power is not environmentally friendly as its fuel is unsustainable, the processing of uranium causes pollution, and it harms the overall environment. Uranium, which is the only raw material for generating nuclear energy, is a non-renewable mineral (Eubanks). It is estimated that uranium supply will last only for the next 30 to 60 years (“Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power.”). Once all of it is extracted, nuclear plants will be rendered useless. Therefore, the fuel that generates the needed energy will eventually be exhausted. In contrast, green energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydro to name a few, are sustainable and have unlimited supply of fuel forever. Furthermore, the processing of uranium, which involves milling, mining and fabrication, produces high levels of carbon dioxide which causes harmful air pollution (“Six Reasons Why Nuclear Power is Not Sustainable.”). Nuclear power is seven times more carbon-intensive than other green energy sources (“Six Reasons Why Nuclear Power is Not Sustainable.”). Needless to say, this negatively affects the quality of air we breathe, which may lead to serious health issues like respiratory problems and gradually death. Therefore, it’s little wonder that the world is moving rapidly away from this technology. Another important factor to consider why nuclear power is a dead-end is that the environment that we live in is seriously at risk. Nuclear power’s cooling systems discharge heavy metals and chlorine killing aquatic life as well as vegetation (“What’s Wrong With Power Plants?”). Humans depend on these resources for everyday life. Another significant impact on the environment is the increased amount of sulfur dioxide emitted in the air which causes acid rain to form, resulting in water contamination, less productive soil, and negative effects on the overall human health (Jaffer). Nuclear power has proven to produce harmful environmental outcomes that persist for long periods of time making it a less attractive and dead-end energy source. Nuclear power has hazardous consequences as it contains radioactive materials, dangerous waste products, and disastrous accidents. Radioactive materials are very harmful to human health by causing radiation sickness, skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, cancer, coma, and death (“Briefing: How Nuclear Accidents Damage Human Health.”). “It is estimated that due to atmospheric testing alone, 430,000 fatal human cancers had been produced by the year 2000, and that eventually the total will be 2.4 million.” (“What’s the Damage?”). Radiation can cause birth defects in humans; therefore, exposure could lead to generations of difficulty in the years to come (Cohen). The extremely detrimental effects of radiation harm millions of people worldwide, while green renewable energy sources do not emit radiation or pollute the air. Therefore, it’s understandable that there continues to be less support for nuclear power. Nuclear power furthermore produces dangerous waste products. Michael Stothard described nuclear waste as “the most destructive and indestructible waste in history because the waste remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands to millions of years.” (“7 Reasons Why Nuclear Waste Is Dangerous”) In France, a newly designed repository was created to store nuclear waste and it must remain sealed for at least 100,000 years once its filled (“7 Reasons Why Nuclear Waste Is Dangerous.”). On the other hand, green and better alternative sources of energy do not create harmful waste products and do not require storage for long periods of time, which could be very costly and need a lot of human effort. For these obvious reasons, nuclear power is a dead end. Nuclear power has caused and can continue to cause disastrous accidents. In 1986, the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine, where an explosion released radiation into the atmosphere and contaminated the environment, caused about 985,000 deaths due to radiation exposure (Schlager and Weisblatt 183)(“7 Reasons Why Nuclear Waste Is Dangerous.”). “More than 7 million people in the former Soviet Republics, Russia and Ukraine are believed to have suffered medical problems and genetic damage as direct result of Chernobyl.” (Egendorf 51-52). The Three Mile Island accident in 1979 resulted in an infant mortality rate of 53.7% in the first month after the accident and rose 27% in the first year of the accident (Laforge). As a result of this accident, the US government stopped the production of nuclear power for 30 years and did not approve any new plants (Amadeo). The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, believed to be the world’s second worst after the Chernobyl tragedy, has seen long-term impact of radiation exposure years after the tragedy happened (“Fukushima Disaster Caused at Least 1,232 Fatalities in 2014 as Radiation Death Rate Accelerates.”). In 2015, four years later, Japan’s nuclear-related deaths rise by 18%, compared to the previous year (“Japan’s nuclear-related deaths rise by 18%.”). Clearly, that accident had a negative impact on the way people see the use of nuclear power. Such devastating effects and deadly impact to millions of people around the world is unheard of from safe, sustainable sources of green energy. In the survey conducted by Ipsos, only 38% of global citizens support nuclear power, whereas support for green energy sources is 91% for hydroelectric power, 93% wind power and 97% for solar power (“Strong Global Opposition towards Nuclear Power.”). Nuclear power is very costly during building, refurbishment, and closing of plants.The construction of nuclear power plants requires massive investment of funds and time. Between 2002 and 2008, the estimated cost of construction of nuclear plants went from $2 billion to $4 billion per unit and rose to $9 billion per unit (“The Cost of Nuclear Power.”). Nuclear power plants usually take 5 to 10 years to build, and the people living in the surrounding areas usually are against the project (“10 Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked.”), as taxpayers share in the high cost of nuclear energy. “In the 1990s, global nuclear capacity rose by only 1% a year, compared with 17% for solar and 24% for wind power.” (Kallen 48), while costs continued to increase. More examples to indicate the high cost of construction include Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in the UK at estimated cost of $18 billion euros and ITER Tokamak complex in France $13 billion euros. Closer to home is Ontario, where it heavily relied on nuclear power as one of the main electricity supply for close to 50 years. During that period, the cost of nuclear power has steadily increased. When compared to other green energy sources, construction costs for nuclear power was among the highest at 16.5 cents/kW vs. solar at 15.7 cents/kW, wind at 8.59 cents/kW and hydroelectric at 5 cents/kW (“A Picture Is Worth Billions.”) These high costs are typically passed on to the end consumer; thereby making nuclear power uneconomical to the average citizen. These funds can be put to better use in promoting green sustainable green energy. Therefore, nuclear power should not be pursued. The refurbishment of nuclear plants are also ridiculously high. The OPG’s (Ontario Power Generation) refurbishment proposal would have costed about $12 billion for the Darlington nuclear facility and instead it was cheaper to purchase hydroelectric power from Quebec (“Ontario Unveils $12.8-Billion Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment.”). Quebec’s nuclear reactor would have costed $4.3 billion for refurbishment, but instead they shut it down (“Quebec Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Will Cost $1.8 Billion.”). These excessive refurbishment costs made nuclear power an unattractive option. Finally, closing costs of nuclear plants are costly. Quebec’s only nuclear power plant shutdown in 2012 costed $1.8 billion and will take 50 years to dismantle (“Quebec Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Will Cost $1.8 Billion.”). When Connecticut’s Haddam Neck plant was dismantled in 1996, the company spent $1.2 billion and it also took two decades to clean up the site. The cost of building, refurbishing, and closing of power plants is prohibitively high that nuclear power is not a viable energy alternative.Due to the various risks of nuclear power and the enormous impact it has on human life globally, nuclear power is a dead-end. Nuclear power is not environmentally friendly as it’s not sustainable, the processing of its fuel causes pollution and it harms the overall environment. Furthermore, nuclear power has hazardous consequences since it contains radioactive materials, produces dangerous waste products and has potential for disastrous accidents. Lastly, nuclear power is very costly during the construction phase, in the refurbishment process and in the closing of its plants. Green energy sources, on the contrary, are better alternatives since they are renewable, do not have such hazards to the environment and human health and they are relatively cheaper and more efficient. What will the future hold for nuclear power? How will future generations handle this controversial issue? For obvious reasons mentioned above, nuclear power is undoubtedly not a future energy but a dead-end.
August 18, 2019 0 Comments