Nuclear energy is better than conventional thermal energy generated from coal and fossil fuels. That was the primary reason why developed countries intended to switch to nuclear power. But there are some risks as well. Nuclear energy has always been hotly debated. It has been the subject of many agitations by environmentalists, there are countries that don’t endorse nuclear power plants and there are ordinary folks around the world who don’t really consider nuclear energy to be a safe alternative. Whether nuclear energy is an answer to our power requirements or not cannot be answered definitively. Nuclear power certainly has the potential to meet the world’s energy requirements but there are some risks that have to be dealt with.
Here are some nuclear energy pros and cons that everyone should be aware of.
1. Nuclear energy has very low emissions of carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases. In that sense, there are less environmental concerns in comparison with coal being used as the primary choice.
2. The operational costs of nuclear power plants are considerably less than what it costs to run thermal power plants. The initial investments are hefty in both cases but nuclear fission once triggered is also self sustaining which is not the case with thermal plants.
3. Nuclear energy is considerably more powerful than other known sources of power. Nuclear energy can easily attend to global energy needs and it can also surpass the needs exponentially. That is not possible with coal or any other known source. Solar energy is difficult to harness on a massive scale and wind power is still in its nascent stage when one looks at the energy harnessed from wind vis-à-vis the global demand. Besides, solar energy and wind energy are often confined to the local energy needs. Nuclear power is ready for the market since its technology is much more developed. Nuclear energy can easily be channelized across the world.
4. With the technology being developed further, the amount of nuclear waste can be reduced and can be managed even better than what’s happening right now. That would make nuclear energy cleaner in the near foreseeable future.
1. Nuclear power plants cost a lot of money. The nature of construction needed for the plants to contain radiation is complicated.
2. Nuclear power plants don’t have a certainty of success. It is possible that after the exorbitant investment, the power plant may not kick off. That would call for additional investments. Governments often subsidize the costs and offer incentives for such projects which add to the fiscal burden of any country.
3. Critics of nuclear energy argue that the same investment of money, time, technology and effort can make more sense if the focus was on renewable energy such as solar or wind instead of the toxic nuclear energy.
4. Nuclear power plants are always at risk. Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown the world what can happen when things go wrong.
5. The radiation problems and dozens of risks of nuclear fuel and nuclear energy are known. Beyond what is known, there are unknown risks as well. There can be dozens of other potential hazards of nuclear fuel, energy or waste which are yet to be discovered.
6. Nuclear power plants take a long time to start running. Most plants take close to a decade, from conception through planning to construction, procurement of nuclear fuel and then eventually commencing the nuclear fission reactions.
7. A huge problem with nuclear energy is that companies don’t take accountability of the eventualities if things go wrong. Their liability is waived if there are accidents or any mishap. It is almost always the government that bears the cost of damages and all salvaging operations. That money is actually taxpayers’.
8. Nuclear energy is centralized. There cannot be remote facilities and the industry can never be decentralized.
9. Nuclear power plants may not emit greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide but the mining, refining and transport of uranium do have environmental concerns. They do generate environmental waste and that waste includes more than just greenhouse gases.
10. Uranium is not renewable. It is finite, like natural gas and coal. Uranium reserves will dry out and that would make nuclear energy a thing of the past unless technologies are developed to harness other elements.
11. Nuclear energy or plants raise humanitarian questions as well. Most reserves of uranium in the world are in areas that have indigenous people and innumerable tribes. Those people don’t support mining of uranium and they don’t endorse nuclear power. Often, those tribes are compelled to give up their land and they are relocated. Whether this is right or wrong is anyone’s guess.
12. Nuclear waste is a huge concern. Today, chances of radiation leaks or anything to do with the radiation of nuclear power generation are contained or limited to a great extent. But nuclear waste is radioactive as well. Even after the fuel is spent, it would take centuries to lose its radioactive properties. This waste will remain deadly for countless generations.