Today, one of the most significant problems plaguing the earth is global warming. The temperature of the earth’s atmosphere is increasing on a global scale, and along with it, sea levels are rising, ecosystems are being hampered, and a staggering number of people are under threat of being displaced from their habitations as natural disasters are unleashed by nature. Scientists have been able to pinpoint greenhouse gases as the culprit behind rising temperatures, such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are released by the usage of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. Naturally, nuclear energy is finding its place among fuels as the latest best option, primarily because of the fact that it does not release any greenhouse gases.
However, like everything else, all is not acceptable about nuclear energy. In this article, let us weigh the pros and cons.
First, let us look at the benefits of nuclear energy.
To begin with, it is environmentally friendly. As elucidated earlier in the article, fossil fuels lead to the emission of great amounts of greenhouse gases which pollute the air and lead to global warming. In fact, this is one of the leading causes of global warming. According to research, the use of nuclear energy will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and in turn cut down pollution by half, thus helping in the goal of managing the global environmental pollution and bringing down global temperatures. Nuclear energy also does not emit any pollutants that would affect the land and water, and has noticeably significant adverse effect on the ecosystem.
It is cost effective
Producing electricity by nuclear power is very inexpensive. The uranium is cheap, and the low operational costs make up for the relatively high set up costs of the nuclear plants. Maintenance costs are low; once is gets running, a nuclear plant can run uninterrupted for over a year. Compared to other forms of energy, such as wind and solar, nuclear plants are not dependant on weather conditions, and hence weather disruptions do not affect the functioning, saving both time and money.
Nuclear energy is far more proficient than any other form of energy that is currently being used. To begin with, its energy density is higher when compared to the fossil fuels. Besides, a nuclear power plant consumes a lot less fuel to produce a certain amount of energy than a solar or wind power plant would to produce the same amount of energy. This is because a nuclear fission releases energy at least ten million times more than the energy released by a fossil fuel atom fission.
And now, let us look at the downsides.
One of the most challenging aspects of using nuclear power is to properly dispose of the radioactive waste that is formed as a byproduct. A lot of radiation is transmitted from this waste, which is harmful to all kinds of life, as has been evidenced by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. On an average, a single nuclear plant creates 20 metric tonnes of radioactive waste each year. If we taken into account all the one thousand or so nuclear plants currently running in the entire world, the amount of radioactive waste generated yearly amounts to a staggering two thousand tonnes. This waste gets imbued into the air, water, and land, polluting these territories and making them gradually unfit for any life.
Possible unethical usage
This is probably the biggest problem plaguing nuclear power. As we all know, nuclear energy can be directed toward creating some of the deadliest weapon the world has ever seen. This explains that worldwide restrictions on using nuclear power that are imposed at conventions of world leaders. Nuclear power has the capacity to destroy the entire world if it falls in the wrong hands.
Most of the fuel that we use today to power our homes, industries, and vehicles are fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. They are all renewable resources; it takes a few million years for the deposited plant and animal matter to turn into coal and petroleum. With the heavy use this resource has been put to have not given it enough time to be replenished; as a result, coal and petroleum is becoming increasingly rarer and hence more expensive.
More importantly, it will soon be impossible to find any coal or petroleum to run our everyday devices. It is the same with nuclear energy. We do not have enough uranium reserve from which nuclear energy is made to last more than eighty years, given the current rate of consumption. However, we can create other fissionable material such as plutonium by employing breeder and fusion reactors. And if we learn how to harness atomic fusion, we will be able to get unlimited energy.