Technology Paper on Is Nuclear Energy Safe?

Nuclear power is generated by splitting the atoms of certain naturally occurring radioactive elements such as uranium. The process is self-sustainable and only requires a nuclear plant with lots of water. The plant comprises of several reactors, where nuclear fusion occurs, and batteries. The huge amounts of water is needed to cool down the reactors to prevent a nuclear meltdown. The generation of nuclear power is an appropriate example of a situation in which great power comes with great responsibility. However, devastating historical occurrences involving nuclear power have criticized the need of this form of energy. An intricate analysis of its pros and cons could perhaps settle this debate.

Proponents of nuclear power argue for its use because of several reasons. Foremost, nuclear power, unlike fossil fuels, has a negligible adverse effect on the environment. There’s no burning of carbon involved and as such no greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere. This form of energy is thus more sustainable even in the future. Secondly, nuclear power production is less costly compared to other energy sources. The approximate cost of nuclear fuel is a meagre 20% of the energy generated (“Nuclear – Energy Explained,” 2017). Additionally, its only outstanding maintenance costs are those incurred in availing and pumping water to cool the reactors. Thirdly, nuclear energy reduces the price volatility of fossil fuels like petrol since it generates power for a lifetime unlike other energy sources that do so as a continuous process.

The antagonists of nuclear power, on the other hand, peg their criticism on the following disadvantages of nuclear power. First, is the dangerous nature of the energy especially when its purpose changes from electricity generation to military installations. The effects of the infamous Hiroshima and Nagasaki calamities still reverberate in people’s minds over 70 years after their deployment. The degree of damage caused to both people and biosystems was of an indescribable scale. That was just a sneak peek that if wrongly handled, nuclear power can end modern civilization. That fear is more realistic today than it was in the 1940s with countries increasing their nuclear arsenal and making them more dangerous. The increasing demand for nuclear weapons is a nightmare that promises a fearful and uncertain future.

Secondly, nuclear power plants are ticking time bombs that can cause grave damage if mishandled or damaged by natural calamities. A good example of this is the Fukushima meltdown in Japan that ensued following a 15 metre high tsunami that disabled the water supply into the nuclear reactors. This caused an unprecedented release of radioactive material into the surrounding environment. Although this particular case does not have any victims from the meltdown, such cases remain as high health hazards. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster, however, depicts how dangerous nuclear power can be. The calamity was caused by human error and resulted in a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia. Millions of tonnes of radioactive materials were emitted into the atmosphere raising concerns of cancer incidents by a whopping 93,000 persons (“Factbox: Key facts on Chernobyl nuclear accident,” 2011).

Thirdly, nuclear power waste is hard to manage and eliminate. This is because it is still radioactive and can cause adverse health effects. Countries have to come up with gazetted places for such wastes where human settlement is banned. Lastly, nuclear installations are a prime target for terrorists and if not well protected can end up in wrong hands. The effects of this could be more bizarre than the 2nd World War.

Based on the analysis above, nuclear energy is both safe and disastrous. The decision governing its safety or threatening nature lies in the hands operating the power plants. Although natural calamities such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes make them dangerous, the majority of the responsibility lies with the operators of the energy. Just like fire, nuclear power can be said to be a good servant but a bad master.

Works Cited.

Factbox: Key facts on Chernobyl nuclear accident. (2011, March 15). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nuclear-chernobyl-facts/factbox-key-facts-on-chernobyl-nuclear-accident-idUSTRE72E42U20110315

Nuclear – Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy – Energy Information Administration. (2017, August 31). Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=nuclear_home