Nuclear power refers to the sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity (Ojovan 34). About 6% of the world’s energy is sourced from nuclear power. There has been a much heated debate going on for decades in regard to the use of nuclear energy.
Proponents stress that nuclear energy is more sustainable and environmentally friendly (Sovacool 376). Opponents believe that nuclear power possesses a significant threat to the environment and human beings. This paper seeks to reaffirm that nuclear power provides cheap and clean energy. Its advantages outweigh its disadvantages.
Several studies have been carried out to determine the effect of nuclear power on the environment, especially in comparison with other energy sources. Many of them have established that nuclear power generation causes minimal effects on the environment as it emits very low amount of carbon dioxide and other green house gases (Sovacool 376). Energy sources such as fossil fuels cause more deadly pollution when compared to nuclear energy.
Much of the opposition with nuclear power generation is associated with the potential catastrophic risks that can result from overheated fuels (Pandit, pp. 3). About 10,000 metric tons of high level radioactive wastes are produced from reactors around the world.
There are controversies in regard to how these wastes should be deposited. Deep burial in stable geological locations was suggested, but no country has implemented that to date. New technologies have been developed to reprocess the waste and reduce its volume. However, this waste is too minute when compared to that from fossil fuels.
Studies conducted to identify fatalities per unit power produced by the several leading energy sources have shown that nuclear power is the safest one while fossil fuels, especially coal, are the most polluting (Sovacool 376).
This can be explained by the number of deaths that is caused by air pollution from fossil fuels. The director of Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School explains that the whole life cycle of energy production from fossil fuels leads to a trail of injuries, illness and death (Sovacool 376). It is estimated that fine particles that are emitted from coal electricity generating plants kill up to 13,000 every year in the United States. More deaths are also registered in the extraction and transportation of coal and other fossil fuels.
In contrast, there have been no deaths associated with Nuclear power generation, apart from some notable accidents. The “International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN estimate that the death toll due to cancer following the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl is yet to reach 9000” (Sovacool 376, pp.3).
More research indicates that catastrophes associated with nuclear power plants are not major contributors of nuclear death or pollution. More than half of the deaths associated with nuclear power activities stem from Uranium mining. Even when this is included, overall number of deaths remains significantly low in comparison to all other energy sources.
The “greatest environmental advantage of nuclear power is that it does not release greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and chlorofluorocarbon) during nuclear reaction” (Ojovan 37, pp. 4).
Hydropower does not produce emissions such as fossil fuels, but it causes a significant effect on the environment through damming, change of water flow, lowering of water levels, building of power lines (Pandit, pp. 6). The environmental effects caused per unit power generation are enormous when compared to nuclear power generation.
The production of nuclear power is relatively cheap when compared to coal and petroleum. The initial cost of setting up a nuclear power plant is usually very high. However, the subsequent fuel cost to run the plants is very low compared to other energy sources.
The cost of power production from other sources may vary from place to place depending on deposits and other environmental factors. For instance, the use of coal for power production is economically attractive in countries such as the United States, China and Australia because they have abundant and accessible domestic sources (Sovacool 376). Gas is competitive for base load power in many locations around the world. However, the rising costs and environmental challenges have done away with most of these advantages.
The cost of nuclear fuel for nuclear power generation is much lower compared to coal, oil and gas fired plants (Sovacool 376). However, the processing, enrichment and fabrication of the Uranium account for about 50% of the total cost.
Additional costs are often associated with the management, radioactive used fuel and the ultimate disposal of the used fuel (Ojovan 12). However, even when these costs are factored in, the total price of energy production from nuclear power is much cheaper compared to the one got from gas and coal fired plants.
A study carried out by the US Nuclear Energy Institute shows that a coal fired plant uses 78% of its financial resources on fuel, a gas fired plant needs up to 89% of its financial resources on fuel while a nuclear power plant requires only 14% of its financial resources on Uranium.
Uranium has the advantage of being concentrated and thus can be transported cheaply when compared to gas and coal. It is also used in very small quantities to create similar amount of energy. In fact, one kilogram of Uranium can be yielded up to 20,000 times producing more energy than similar amount of coal does (Ojovan 15).
Apart from the low cost of acquiring and transportation of Uranium, another economic advantage lies in the ability of a single nuclear power plant to generate high amount of energy.
Nuclear power is much more efficient compared to other energy sources. Hydro power production may be hampered by adverse whether conditions and thus cause unprecedented increase in the cost of energy with serious economic consequences. Fossil fuel production and distribution are often affected by political situations in oil producing countries, and this regularly impacts on the gas prices.
The greatest political advantage of using nuclear power is the fact that it leads to a significant reduction of dependence on oil. Oil is produced in very few countries around the world and thus has created a lot of interest and competition. This is indeed true for the political crisis that seems never to end in the Middle East.
Nuclear fuel is cheaper and can be sourced from more stable regions of the world. Therefore, nuclear power can indeed free many countries from oil dependence (Sovacool 376).
This paper sought to reaffirm that nuclear power provides cheap and clean energy. Its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. Indeed, it has been identified that nuclear power is much cheaper, causes the least effect on environment and reduces dependence on other countries producing oil. Though it has some serious risks, the efforts that are currently in place have reduced them considerably.
Ojovan, Lee. An Introduction to Nuclear Waste Immobilsation. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers, 2005. Print.
Pandit, Madhura. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy.” Buzzle.com. Buzzle, 7 May 2011. Web. 2 January 2012.
Sovacool, Benjamin. “A Critiatical Evaluation of Nuclear Power and Renewable Electricity.” Journal of Contemporary Asia (2010): 40(3): 376. Print.