The Cost Of Nuclear Energy Engineering Essay

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Nuclear Power plants are very expensive to build. The cost for a single nuclear power plant is about $2.858 billion. In comparison to that the buildup of a gas-fueled power station is one third of the price of a nuclear power plant. That s why the cost of nuclear energy is very argumentative. Some people say to get the real price for on a kilowatt hour (kwh) you have to take to cost of building, running and decommissioning into account.

A report from the British government says that the power from Sizewell B, the last nuclear station build in the UK, costs around $8.6 cents/kwh.

By 2020 the expense for a kwh would decrease to $4.3 cents. However some anti-Nuclear Organizations say that that s totally underestimated and the price/kwh could be twice as high.

In contrast, British Energy estimates that the cost for 1 kwh within 6 months could be about $3.7 cents.

Another big problem with all that is the insurance for potential accidents and other complicated factors like nuclear trash.

In comparison to other types of power plants, like wind and hydro plants, nuclear power plants have a very high cost for decommissioning, which makes the expense for nuclear energy larger. The decommissioning is about $6.858 billion.

In addition to the existing expenses the British taxpayers are dedicated to a bill of around $80 billion for decommissioning and cleaning up existing nuclear power stations.

Nuclear Energy is not a solution to climate change and global warming:

The nuclear waste, what is the used nuclear fuel, stays dangerous for thousands of years. Nobody found a solution for that big problem. What to do with it? What would happen if terrorists, like Al Qaida, would capture some of the uranium? Where do all of the people of the world want to put other storage sites? Currently all the big 8 countries put the wastes into old salt mines or other storage sites. A big earthquake could maybe destroy them and what would happen after that? Perhaps a repeat of Chernobyl?

In Great Britain one nuclear power plant puts the old contaminated water directly in the Atlantic Ocean. The result is that no fish, no sea grass, or anything else is growing or living around (1-2 km) the power station.

If nobody has an answer to these problems how on earth can we create more nuclear trash while creating new power plants in process and potentially destroy nature and our own Mother Earth.

Terrorists already attacked nuclear power plants, what would happen if they hijack a plane and fly into a nuclear reactor. Such accidents could happen even if many people say that that s impossible. These catastrophes would pollute a larger area than Chernobyl.

Some people might say that nuclear produces no CO2, which is totally right. However in Britain all the power stations produce less than 30% of the greenhouse emissions. That means that the power plants don t even have a discussable impact on the greenhouse emissions.

Nuclear Energy is not renewable

While operating nuclear power plants produces fewer greenhouse emissions, constructing nuclear plants and mining uranium to power them produces significant emissions. According to Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation: "Nuclear also has a dirty little secret: startlingly there's only a few decades left of the proven high-grade uranium ore it needs for fuel. It's also far less climate-friendly than claimed. Once low-grade ore is used, costs go up and all the energy used from mining to decommissioning means it can lead to more carbon emissions than fossil fuel-powered gas generators."

Nuclear: A dirty energy!

Sellafield in the UK and Cap La Hague in France are the two major reprocessing plants. These two plants are responsible for the biggest radioactive pollution in Europe. An advertisement against Sellafield says: "Sellafield poses an unacceptable and unnecessary risk to our environment. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the September 11 assault... we also believe that Sellafield poses a grave security risk to both our countries (Ireland and Great Britain) .

The danger that comes with nuclear plants

Since 1952 there have been more than 10 serious accidents at nuclear stations. At least eight accidents involved damage on the reactor core.

"According to a Soviet estimate half of Chernobyl's fallout fell within 35 km of the reactor. One hundred and thirty five thousand people were evacuated from a 30 km diameter zone centered on the reactor. The other half of the fallout fell on more than twenty countries worldwide stretching as far as North America - resulting in limitations on food. The US DOE - a pro nuclear body that would be expected to give estimates at the lower end of the range - calculated that worldwide there would be around 40,000 deaths from Chernobyl induced cancers."

According to the Oxford Research Group: "A smoke plume from an explosion at Sellafield that released either around 17% of the high level waste in tanks or less than 1% of the plutonium stored at Sellafield would be approximately ten times as devastating as Chernobyl and require evacuation of an area which could include Newcastle or Manchester, depending on the wind direction."


There is no dangerous radiation!

Some people say that it is very dangerous to live or just to go for a walk next to nuclear power plant. What these people say is completely wrong! An average nuclear power plant in the 1980s released 0.3 millirem per year. In comparison to that a common brick wall puts out 11 times more radiation. That means that you can stand next to a nuclear power plant and you wouldn t receive any radiation. By the way if this were the case, how could people work and park their car in front of nuclear power stations.

Cities like Denver, Colorado, receive twice as much natural radiation as those cities located on lower altitudes. People living in Denver don t display the double incidence of cancer.

When you get a chest X-Ray you receive about 50 millirems (166 2/3 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant releases) and an international coast-to-coast flight gives you a dose of 5 millirems. Anti nuclear organizations don t complain about those hazards!

Economics of Nuclear Power Plants

Billions of dollars have been saved through creating electricity in nuclear power plants. In addition to that nuclear power has reduced that dependence on imported oil and gas.

Safe: The design of the plant is the solution!

Through the industry's deliberate, conservative, advance planning for safety, the potential hazards of nuclear reactors have been reduced to an extremely low level of actual risk.

Nuclear power plants in the U.S. and the West are built with the defense-in-depth concept. That means that each plant is protected by multiple barrier systems and redundancies. This secures it against equipment failure, human error, and severe natural events. There is no other venture where safety has been so painstaking with such attention and broad conservatism.

Thanks to our engineering knowledge, of course Anti-Nuclear doesn t know of them, nuclear reactors can be designed with safeguards and materials that almost make it impossible for any accidental release of radioactive elements.

Nuclear power plants are designed to withstand damage from jet airliner crashes, tornados and earthquakes. In fact, earthquake standards are several times more stringent for nuclear power plants than for hospitals, apartment buildings, fossil fuel plants and other structures.

The accident at Three Mile Island Unit 2 in 1979 is a perfect example of the safety limits. It shows how well the defense-in-depth system works; although there was widespread damage to the reactor core, there were no deaths or injuries to the public or to plant workers. Even with mechanical failures and human errors, the damage at TMI was controlled.

Nuclear power programs are subject to a high standard of quality assurance at every step.

To grant these high quality standards the safe design of plants is ensured by the licensing process.

All the errors in a nuclear power plant can be solved and there are no leaks in knowledge to solve that.

Plants are maintained and operated very well

Since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, all aspects of nuclear power plant operations and operator training have been greatly improved, making Western nuclear plants safer today than ever before.

Extensive training programs for nuclear plant operators now include simulator training similar to that used in airline pilot training. All nuclear power plant operators must pass a series of psychological, physical and intelligence tests. Utilities test regularly and rigorously and operators go through regular periods of retraining.

No other industry requires more extensive retraining and retesting of its operators than the nuclear industry.

Another point is that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission enforces strict license requirements designed to protect public health and safety, and national defense and security.

A utility seeking to build a nuclear power plant must secure dozens of permits to fulfill with various state, regional, and federal regulations.

Nuclear waste is not a problem

The disposal of high-level nuclear wastes does not pose a substantially different danger from those we already live with. Many risky materials are already stored in the earth; such as poisonous gases and are subject to diverse natural disasters. Many man-made structures such as large dams, also pose a significant safety threat if they should fail.

Structures like big dams, e.g. Hover Dam, also show a considerable hazard if they should fail.

Critics of nuclear power have greatly exaggerated the potential risks of nuclear waste disposal. Finding a method of permanent disposal of such a relatively small quantity of material presents no major technological problems.

The entire spent fuel produced until now by commercial nuclear power in the US could fit within a single football field and be only about three feet deep. The small volume of high-level waste makes it highly controllable, compared to the wastes of other kinds of industrial activity.

By the way nuclear fuel elements are transported in specially designed casks. Until now not a single accident has occured.

Final Statement and Summary

When we look at the pro and con arguments we will recognize that nuclear power is a very big power supplier (about 16% in the US) but there are some problems with this form of energy. The accident in Chernobyl was a catastrophe for the whole world. Thousands of people were affected by that accident. It was the only fatal accident though. We need to find a good way to produce energy in a great amount. There are technologies like fusion but currently we are not able to create this process. I think it doesn t make any sense to close all the Nuclear Power Stations down, what most anti nuclear organizations try to do. That would make us just dependent on other countries (China, Russia) that don t care for environmental issues. We are already dependent on oil and gas so why should we make it even worse?

The only solution to me is spending money in the development of new forms of energy.

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