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The Ethics Of Nuclear Engineering Environmental Sciences Essay

Nuclear energy is one of the energy options for the future because in its day-to- day operations it does not produce CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere, which causes global warming. In the ECCAP project there is comparative analysis of the ethics of other energy options, such as increased efficiency, greater use of renewable energy, new forms of energy production, and carbon sequestration, to mention a few.

Nuclear energy technology can be applied for many different purposes. These include electricity production, weapons manufacture, production of medical isotopes, transportation (ranging from military submarine propulsion and space-based vehicle propulsion), industry (e.g., food irradiation and production of electronic components), and basic and applied research. While issues arising from all of these applications have significant consequences for society, this report focuses on ethical issues relating to climate change, and was developed under the Ethics of Energy Technologies in the Asia and the Pacific (EETAP) project focusing on energy technologies.

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The analysis in this report focuses on energy technologies for general consumption. As nuclear energy is generally applied when converted to electricity, the focus of this Working Group report is on the ethics of nuclear energy technologies for general electricity production. This the vast majority of nuclear technology use today. However, this does not eliminate discussion of other applications of nuclear technologies, such as for transportation.

This report on the ethics of nuclear energy technologies does not conclude with a clear recommendation on whether nuclear energy should be used or not, and to what extent. This ethical analysis is not intended to answer specific and contextually-sensitive decisions that each government needs to make, rather it aims to provide a framework for ethical analysis that can be used to examine nuclear energy technologies that can be applied for particular situations. Such analysis can be extended for particular situations and contexts. The scientific focus of the report attempts to depoliticize emotional debates over nuclear energy issues by examining aspects of nuclear technology from a neutral and scientific perspective.

By examining these issues from a more fundamental level, it is hoped that greater consensus can be reached on actions going forward regarding nuclear energy and reduce internal and international political tensions which are often hamper clear discussion. Each ethical perspective, however, is only one perspective and carries with it sets of assumptions, which need to be supplemented with other perspectives as a policy direction is formed.

Ethics of nuclear energy technology

Not only the importance of nuclear energy technology for use on a large scale or complex issues of political and economic situation in many cases. While all these issues are important, this report focuses on the ethical analysis of nuclear energy technology.

Ethical analysis applied in this report is pluralism, which is not absolute and relative. "It accepts the moral condemnation and different backgrounds at the same time indicates that could be a consensus on basic principles and rules in a particular social context, and should be reached" (Crane and Matten, 2007).

Environmental ethics also applies to different ethical theories to environmental issues, but the most important issue is who or what is known as a moral to ethical considerations. Was summed up by an expert in the field of four schools of thought: enlightened (or poor) of anthropocentrism, animal liberation theory of human, biocentrism, and selfishness (Yang, 2006). ECCAP and Working Groups 2 and 3, which focuses on the study and the different views of the world and nature, and visions of the future, respectively, which will affect the balance in the schedule and volume of anticipated risks and benefits of nuclear energy technology.

1.2 Increased global significance of nuclear energy technology

Nuclear power accounts for about 6 per cent of primary energy supply and 15 percent of electricity generation (IEA, 2008). Coal and hydropower resources dominate the market with about 40 percent and 20 respectively of the production of electricity in the world (International Energy Agency, 2008). Nuclear power accounts for about 15 percent and production of gas and oil for about 25 percent (International Energy Agency, 2008). Renewable energy such as solar and wind energy, and accounts for less than 2 percent (IEA, 2008). States that use nuclear energy to provide a large part of its electricity (15% or more), including Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan and the Republic of Korea, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom Nations, the United States (World Association of Nuclear Weapons, 2009). Thus, while nuclear energy does not produce the level of the electricity sector from traditional fossil fuels, which is currently being used in a large alternative source of energy.

Nuclear energy technology has become increasingly important in recent years, for a number of reasons, mainly:

First, it is agreed widely that the rapid changes in energy prices can cause instability in the local and global economies. In fact, this idea is offered routinely in the sessions of microeconomics. The evidence shows that many of the States to re-evaluate their policies and thinking about energy security, including the increased use of nuclear energy in the future they may be more economically stable fossil fuels in the economic field, 2005).

Secondly, it led to an increased focus on the effects of greenhouse gases) emissions and climate change to further consider the use of nuclear energy for nuclear reactors do not emit greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which was created legally binding greenhouse gas reductions average between 6 to 8 percent below 1990 levels between 2008-2012 for many countries (UNFCCC, 2009). As countries look for alternatives, clean existing energy sources, nuclear energy could help achieve their objectives in the context of the protocol (or other international obligations and national) and / or subsequent environmental agreements.

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Thirdly, there are a growing number of countries without previous experiences in nuclear power are interested in developing nuclear capabilities of energy for different reasons. Have shown Twenty-five countries a stake in building and at least one major nuclear reactor by the year 2030 (Sokolski, 2009). This will cause the different forms of international relations with regard to nuclear technology, including the supply of nuclear fuel in the future.

Figure (1): Nuclear Power Plants, energy availability factor 1991 - 2007 (IAEA 2008)

Figure (2): Nuclear power plants under construction, January 2009 (IAEA 2009, modified)

2. The ethics of nuclear energy technology

2.1 Nuclear science

Nuclear energy is to harness from one of two types of nuclear reactions, fusion and fission. The nuclear fusion, which is fused atoms or collectively in the form of different atoms. This reaction powers stars like the sun. Today is a non-economic source of electricity, even though he has not been harnessed in thermonuclear weapons. Current projects, such as research cooperation ITER nuclear fusion, 2009), and is working to develop nuclear fusion as a source of electricity. While estimates vary, this technology for several decades away from commercial use (see, for example, Sharpe, 2007). Moreover, so if and when he arrives to produce commercial power and it may be expensive (Nuttall 2008). However, fusion has the potential to generate greater amounts of electricity at lower prices and with minimal impact on the environment. In addition, the source of fuel, tritium, abundant and very inexpensive, and will produce very little radioactive waste, it will not use uranium or plutonium could be diverted for weapons, unlike nuclear fission (Nuttall, 2008).

The second type of reaction is nuclear fission. In nuclear fission, atoms are split and energy generated. This type of energy have used in the production of electricity on both arms.

However, when the application of science as a nuclear energy technology, that is create several ethical concerns. Most of these stem from the potential serious consequences of radiation, reactor technology used to harness nuclear energy, might be diverted for military use, the cost of this technology, and international control of nuclear technology.

2.2 Nuclear radiation

The radiation hazards of nuclear technology are difficult to assess. While there is general agreement on the dangerous effects of radiation on high doses of radiation effects at low doses (less than 100 ml) is still uncertain. One hypothesis, linear no threshold (Lnt) hypothesis, it is assumed that the harmful effects of radiation in writing commensurate with the dose of radiation (IAEA, 2007). Competition hypothesis assumes that radiation is harmless below certain thresholds but harmful over them. Another hypothesis, called radiation hormesis, it is assumed that taking low doses of radiation, is in fact useful below a certain threshold and harmful it (Kaiser, 2003). Thus, it is difficult for policy makers and the general public to understand the options for radiation safety, when even the experts cannot agree on the effects of radiation dose is low.

2.3 Nuclear Energy Plants

Nuclear power plant that is generates electricity from nuclear power. More specifically, the nuclear reactor, the transfer of thermal energy from nuclear fission to generate electricity housed inside the plant, it consists of the nuclear fuel pellets stacked inside the fuel rods (WNA, 2009). Can nuclear reactors containing tens of thousands of fuel rods of this type. Heat is captured by the supervisors, which also cools the fuel rods to keep them from melting (WNA, 2009). Is a factor of pressure on Musharraf, the water the most common, and that because he has a high capacity to absorb heat, Water-ROM, which travels in the primary, is transmitted through a heat exchanger, the transfer of thermal energy in the secondary water loop. It is then run in high water in the steam that drives turbines in the heat of the engine. Turbines that are generate electricity, which is converted into electricity. Steam and often evaporates from the cooling towers and a wide range of nuclear power plants.

2.4 Nuclear Fuel

Uranium and nuclear fuel is the most common, the presence of one of the many isotopes, or atomic species, in nature. Nuclear fuel, extracted from nature is the U-235, which is present in small proportions in uranium ore. Were found more abundant than uranium in ores and U-238, which is not fission with the current technology.

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It is useful to talk about the nuclear fuel cycle, which traces the steps of nuclear fuel from its inception to its destruction at the end. Nuclear experts say the gap in many cases, the nuclear fuel cycle into two, and the end of "interface" and the end of "return." Before it can be used in a nuclear reactor, the extraction and uranium 235, milled, conversion, and uranium, and association in the fuel. Collectively, these steps are the front-end nuclear fuel cycle (WNA, 2009).. Fuel assembly fission in a nuclear reactor and the production of electricity, and becomes "spent fuel". Enter the spent fuel back-end nuclear fuel cycle (WNA, 2009). The back end comprising is the steps of temporary storage and reprocessing, and recycling, and disposal of waste (WNA, 2009).

One study documented a wide range of radiological effects of uranium mining on human health. During the 1950s, many of the Navajo uranium miners in the United States and placed in the later cancer due to exposure to radon gas (Miller, 2007; Bruges, 2002). While it has been offset in part by former miners, there were reports that hundreds of abandoned mines have not been cleaned up and present environmental and health risks in many communities (Los Angeles Times, 2006). There were other cases where the radioactive contamination of the miners had been the impact of uranium. For example, the Areva, the French state-owned nuclear energy company, and not informed the workers affected by mines in Niger about the health risks of uranium mining in spite of adverse health effects (Public Eye, 2008).

2.5 Nuclear Waste

Freshly spent nuclear fuel assembly is very radioactive and is stored in ponds commonly found in nuclear power plants. Rods remain in the ponds for several years. Ponds as a barrier against radiation and absorbs heat from the fuel (water has a high capacity to absorb heat). At the end of the day, and spent fuel becomes less radioactive. Is stored, it is easier to handle, due to the decay of radioactivity (Richter, 2008). However, there are enough remnants of the radiation to serve as a deterrent against theft or diversion of nuclear material (Richter, 2008). There are two alternatives for spent fuel. The first is to re-address, and the second is long-term storage.

During reprocessing, the uranium and plutonium are separated from the wastes. The uranium is returned to the nuclear fuel cycle at the point of conversion (WNA, 2009b). This fuel contains about 50% Pu-239 (WNA, 2009b). The 3% wastes are eventually turned into solid wastes (WNA, 2009b). This waste can be a source of concern as it needs to be stored.

2.6 Nuclear agreements

Currently, there are many laws and nuclear agreements and guidance documents and regulations, which occupy the area of nuclear regulation. There are many ethical issues that should be addressed in such agreements, as illustrated by the following.

First, it can nuclear agreements often create new ethical challenges. They may do this by creating a post-certification issue. For example, Article IV of the NPT States that research and produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is "inalienable" right to the signatories. Ethical implications of the Treaty, by creating a gap between the nuclear "haves" and "have-nots", and discussed widely. Another example is the proposed treaty to stop production of fissile material to stop production), which depends on the ability to physically verify the inventory accuracy (Sanders, 2004; Squassoni, 2005; Zhang, 2004). Challenges exist in the physical verification of where to draw the line between allowing access for inspection and the storming of the country's nuclear program.

Secondly, can the various nuclear agreements to benefit from integration into the system more coherent and unified. For example, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test ban on nuclear test explosions, leading to a scientific basis "stock pile management" programs, which are expected to maintain a stockpile of nuclear weapons on the basis of computer simulation. Moral hazard of the methods that is simulates the performance of nuclear weapons from "first principles" to undermine the purpose of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (Piane, and McKinzie, 1998).


The use of nuclear energy is associated with a complex set of issues requiring many ethical considerations. As nuclear energy technology becomes a more prominent issue, governments are urged to consider these issues and their attendant ethical considerations. To that end, the following conclusions are made.

Should be addressed first, current ethical issues in international relations with the larger ethical considerations into account. It can be beneficial to the international community to consider the views of developing countries, which are not technologically advanced. Overwhelmed and often in need of such countries to security concerns (for example, in the global partnership), but further measures to ensure equality may lead to a more stable international relations.

States may consider "safer" options when you use the nuclear energy technology. With respect to design a nuclear reactor, States may wish to consider in tailoring the collapse of the resistance. With regard to enrichment, States may wish to consider buying enriched uranium or uranium in it anywhere else. This option is difficult for the States; they might want to increase energy security by developing capacity to enrich their own. However, they are the options available. With regard to treatment, States may wish to consider the non-processing of nuclear fuel or take additional security precautions when doing this. Instead, they may consider increasing funding for more proliferation-resistant treatment technologies and / or advisory groups such as the Global Partnership. With respect to depleted uranium, States may wish to consider restricting their use for civilian purposes, and not to allow military use. States may wish to also consider support a ban on depleted uranium weapons.

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