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Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

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  • Beyza GÖLGE



In todays, demand for electric energy has increased with growing world’s population. Modern society has depended on fossil fuels for energy. However, because of the fact that fossil resources are limited and cannot last a long time, human beings have been in quest for finding new alternative energy sources. Since 1939, they have performed lots of experiments and researches in this area. First of all, the atomic fission, which is today known as the most crucial scientific finding in the physics, was discovered. In the following years, chain reaction was controlled and eventually, electric power production came true. Finally, in 1958, first electric energy was produced and utilized thanks to nuclear energy in the USA and then it expanded to other countries such as France, Germany, England and Russia. Nowadays, 11% of electric in world is ensured from nuclear energy (Steven B. Krivit, 2011). Today, running nuclear energy has become most controversial issue among people because of its safety and nuclear waste. Even if there are advantages of nuclear energy that which is fallen back upon to overcome the lack of energy, there are more serious disadvantages that should not be ignored.

First advantage of nuclear energy is that nuclear energy has lower greenhouse gas emissions. During the processes of building, processing and switching off, it releases less amount of greenhouse gases. All different types of electric production techniques give rise to be released greenhouse gas which may be various quantities. Comparison with other electric generation methods such as lignite, coal, oil and natural gas, nuclear energy emits less greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide ( see Figure 1) (Greenhouse gas emissions avoided through use of nuclear energy, 2014). Therefore, it is clearly understood that nuclear energy is less harmful for environment in terms of gas emissions.

Other advantage of nuclear energy is job opportunities. It provides lots of job opportunities so many people. While nuclear power plant is being constructed and operated, a lot of employees and engineers take in charge. In addition, container houses are built to live staffs in this process. By this means, itmay be dealt with unemployment by giving a chance to people out of work.


Figure 1

On the contrary, there are also serious disadvantages of nuclear energy. First disadvantage is nuclear waste. Some metal materials transform to radioactive state during some operations such as cooling reactor, cleaning of storage pool and also, running of nuclear power plants. These radioactive stuffs are called nuclear waste. Two types nuclear waste occurred: low level and high level radioactive wastes. Low level nuclear waste has same amount of radioactivity which emerging from schools, laboratories and hospitals so it is not remarkable issue. When chain reaction cannot be pursued effectively, power plant reactors induce to be occurred high level nuclear wastes which are fuel bundles. When the reactor fuel forms, in the sequel, it takes a 45 billion year to become harmless (Radioactive Waste, 2014). As a result of that, people and other living things will expose to these radioactive waste products in a long time. The situation also will cause irreparable damage to the environment. Because of this, people should be protected from radioactive waste products and radioactive wastes must be buried in private storages under the surface and remote from ground waters.

Reactor accident is other disadvantage of nuclear energy. When something in the system fails, nuclear accident may happen. Failures in plant organization and management, operator errors and lack of quality and also education of employees may give rise to nuclear accidents. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima can be given as examples for nuclear accident in the world. Fuel melt down in accidents makes nuclear accident harmful. Bernard (2005) states that amount of fuel melt down determines number of those who are affected from accident and died because of the cancer. If there are in 2 out of 3 melt downs, nobody dies. However, if average of melt downs, it brings at least 400 deaths. For instance, 50.000 people died due to 1 out of 100.000 melt downs. Therefore, it is not contestable that there is always a risk to become nuclear energy accident. Also, effects of nuclear energy accident are indestructible and continue for a long time. As a result of this, it is a considerable threat on people health.

Last disadvantage of production electric by utilizing nuclear energy is nuclear weapons. Nuclear energy can be used with the purpose of war and terrorism. In todays, lots of countries such as USA, Russia and Israel are disposed to produce nuclear weapons. If these nuclear weapons are used against other countries, it brings calamity of nuclear war. Up to now, human beings have borne witness to two atom bombs. These atom bombs were dropped by the US against Japan on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities during World War II. Consequently, so many people lost their live. According to researches, it is estimated that number of people who died from nuclear bombs reached 250.000 in Hiroshima and 150.000 in Nagasaki in 5 years (Effects of nuclear weapons, n.d.). These events show that nuclear weapons create indestructible issues. Moreover, radioactivity occurs as a result of the nuclear bombs. Effects of radioactivity on humans and environment last too many years. To illustrate, numbers of people who have cancer have increased after the tragedy of using nuclear bombs in the World War II. This tragedy has created genetic abnormalities in the individuals and it will also affect the future generations. Therefore, to prevent possible disasters, the nuclear energy should not be utilized.

To sum up, it is difficult to fulfill the electric needs with increasing population day by day. People have tried the different forms of energy to find a solution. One of these energy forms is nuclear energy. Through nuclear power plants, not only a large proportion of electricity needs in the world can be supplied by not releasing greenhouse gases but also it provides employment for many people. Yet, it should not be ignored that nuclear energy may lead to disasters by reason of nuclear wastes, reactor accidents and nuclear weapons. That is true maybe nuclear energy can meet energy need but dangerous, fatal and persistent effects of nuclear energy should always be considered in the first plan. If it is not done, it will bring huge and irrevocable disasters rather than its benefits.


Effects of nuclear weapons. (n.d.). Retrieved from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament: http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/global-abolition/effects-of-nuclear-weapons

Cohen, B. L. (2005). Risk of Nuclear Power. Retrieved from University of Michigan: http://www.umich.edu/~radinfo/introduction/np-risk.htm

Greenhouse gas emissions avoided through use of nuclear energy. (2014). Retrieved from World Nuclear Association: http://www.world-nuclear.org/Nuclear-Basics/Greenhouse-gas-emissions-avoided/

Radioactive Waste. (2014, October 24). Retrieved from Governmental Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/radwaste.pdf

Steven B. Krivit, J. H. ( 2011). Early History of Nuclear Energy. In Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia: Science, Technology, and Applications (pp. 15-23). Canada: John Wiley & Sons.

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