Pros And Cons Of Nuclear Power Environmental Sciences Essay

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As far as we are concerned, nuclear energy has been produced by the fission of radioactive materials such as uranium or plutonium or by the fusion of hydrogen into helium with the use of nuclear reactors through controlled nuclear reaction. Nuclear reactor is a device that used to initiate and control nuclear reaction. It's used as a source for nuclear power generation. Nuclear reaction such as fission reaction, fusion reaction and radioactive decay is a process in which the structure of an atomic nucleus is altered through release of energy or mass or by being broken apart. Nuclear fission is a process where the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts, releasing a large amount of energy in the process. Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction where two light nuclei combine to form more massive nuclei with the simultaneous release of energy. There are many benefits in acquiring nuclear energy. Some countries use nuclear energy as a main source of energy. However, applications of it in wrong method may be harmful to mankind and environment.

What are the advantages of nuclear energy?

One of the main benefits of nuclear energy is that nuclear energy is one of the clean ways to produce energy. In the process of producing nuclear energy there is no poisonous gases released to the environment such as ozone, carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbon and methane during nuclear reaction. All the above gas also known as the greenhouse gases may cause global warming and climate change. As today's world when we hardly put an effort to reduce the rates of these two phenomena, producing nuclear energy as a source of energy is definitely preferable as it just give very small effects to the environment compared to burning of fossil fuels as it will results in the emission of carbon dioxide during the production which is poisonous and dangerous to the environment and human life.

Unlike coal and oil burning plants, nuclear energy production is environment friendly as burning of coal and oil may pollute the air. In short, nuclear energy does not give too much negative impact to the environment and hence decreases the rates of environment pollution.

Usually, during the process of acquiring the energy, there will be a waste from the source materials caused by the production as well as for the production of nuclear energy. However, when compared to fossil fuel, the waste of nuclear energy only small in quantity and the disposal of it are much easier as it just need to dump into a geological site where it decays over a period of time. Besides, its waste also remains confined so as not to affect people and environment. Attach with is the comparison of power plant waste between nuclear energy and other energy sources (Appendix 5.1).

Nuclear energy provides electricity needs. During the process of controlling nuclear chain reaction, a million times of energy is released compared to hydro and wind energy. Due to the reaction process, a large amount of electricity is generated. This makes many experts choose nuclear energy as a main source to generate electricity. Research showed that in the present times, almost 20% of the world's electricity is generated through nuclear energy.

As a main source of materials in acquiring nuclear energy, uranium is used by the nuclear reactor as a fuel. It is also used to generate energy because a large amount of energy can be generated by using only a small quantity of uranium through fission reaction. Uranium is available in the crust of the earth with major deposits being uncovered in Canada and Australia. Hence, nuclear energy is virtually inexhaustible since its source is readily available and is expected to last for another 100 years.

Even though there have been two serious accidents happened in Chernobyl and Pennsylvania due to the failure of nuclear reactor to work properly, it is still safe and good for environment and human life compared to the other power sources like coal mine and fossil fuel industries which have a history of eruption and are more dangerous to the ecosystem.

The cost of nuclear fuel production is inexpensive and its compact fuel waste is easier to transport.

Other than that, a single nuclear power plant can generate a large amount of energy. The energy produced also more concentrated when compared to the others.

All the above are the lists of the advantages of the nuclear energy as it is good, eco-friendly and scientifically which have been supported by many environmentalists and ecological organizations. There may be a lot more advantages in the application of this kind of energy sources. However, it is also may be harmful to the environment and mankind and needs serious attentions to avoid any undesired problems.

What are the disadvantages of nuclear energy?

The main disadvantages of nuclear power plant are the expulsion of the atomic radiation. After the fission reaction process, there will be a waste produced due to the process. Unfortunately, that waste contains unstable elements and is highly radioactive which is hazardous and very dangerous to the environment and human as it may damage the body cell, can cause cancer in humans, affect the embryo like growth retardation and etc. The impacts due to this dangerous radioactive may remain for ten or may be for thousands of years. It's also can cause death. People who live near the radioactive zone have high possibility to get ill and die.

To keep the safety for human and environment, nuclear energy should be produced far away from the living environments and its waste have to be carefully stored. However, long-term storage for the radioactive elements is very difficult.

Nuclear waste can remain active until hundreds or thousands of years. We cannot simply dispose that waste like other industrial waste due to the radioactivity of the waste. So, very large place is needed to store the nuclear waste and new sites would need to be found to store the future nuclear waste.

Accidents in nuclear energy are more devastating than accidents caused by other power plants. The accident that occurred at the Chernobyl, Ukraine in April 1986 was the world's worst incident ever happened caused by the meltdown of nuclear energy in history. That accident occurred when reactor four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, releasing a large amount of radiation to the environment. The radiation was estimated two hundred times more powerful than the radiation of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities of Japan during their nuclear bombardment. As a result, two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation poisoning. Thousands more is expected will die from the long-term effects of radiation. 

Nuclear energy can be used in the nuclear weapons production and proliferation. In order to produce nuclear weapons such as nuclear bomb, a very good handling of plutonium is needed as it is highly toxic and very dangerous. Nuclear weapons make use of fusion, fission or the combination of both for the purpose of destructive. Most of the terrorists using nuclear weapons like dirty bombs as their weapons for violence. They also make the locations of nuclear power plant as a target area to disrupt the power supply as it can cause a large-scale devastation. There are no satisfactory plans to protect nuclear power plants from terrorism.

A single nuclear power plant can generate a large amount of energy and because of that, a large capital cost is needed in order to acquiring nuclear energy. This includes containment, emergency, storage system and radioactive waste. The developing of nuclear power plant also not really feasible as around 15 to 20 years is needed to develop only single power plant.

Other than that, producing nuclear energy really depends on the availability of the uranium ore since uranium is the major source in the production of nuclear energy. This means that the nuclear reactions will work only as long as the uranium ore is available. Uranium is non-renewable. Hence, scientists need to find another way to acquiring nuclear energy when uranium ore no longer exists in the earth.

Very large space is needed to build a nuclear power station in order to produce nuclear energy. Nuclear power station is a place where the nuclear energy is being generated and it is a compact building which requires a large space as large as football stadium to build.