When people are asked whether nuclear energy is a solution to energy crisis in the new century, they would definitely say no. However, a number of individuals do not understand what nuclear energy entails. Many people are of the view that nuclear energy is always associated with accidents. To end this debate, it is necessary to understand what nuclear energy entails. This would mean that a brief history is provided.
Nuclear power entails the utilization of continued exothermic methods to produce high temperatures and electrical energy. It may also refer to the use of exothermic nuclear fission, nuclear putrefaction, and nuclear synthesis processes. Currently, the nuclear fission of components in the actinide chain of the periodic chart generates the cosmic nuclear power, with nuclear decomposition procedures in the form of geothermal power and Radioisotope Thermoelectric producers. Nuclear power is associated with a number of effects. Some of these effects are productive while others are destructive.
For instance, it has boosted the economic development of Korea since it has supported the demand for electricity for over twenty-five years (Seung-Hoon and Yoo 87). Nuclear technology affects the economy, the environment, and human beings in different measures. Currently, nuclear power is the leading source of emission-free energy in the world. Nuclear energy has been in existence for over two decades. The first recorded instance of nuclear energy was in 1895, when Wilhelm Rontgen accidently learnt about the existence of X-rays. After Rontgen discovered the X-rays, scientists from Europe conducted a series of experiments in this area. Becquerel was among the scientists who were studying nuclear energy
Effects on the Environment
As Seung-Hoon and Tae-Ho put it, nuclear energy is friendly to the environment. The above scholars conducted a study that established that the issue if climate change in relation to greenhouse effect affects nuclear energy consumption in Korea. The country experiences the highest levels of carbon-dioxide emission in the world, with an average of four percent in the period ranging from 1990 to 2004.
With the new international debate on climate change, the country will have to address the challenge and adoption of nuclear energy offers a solution. As the above scholars note, “Nuclear energy as certain clear advantages in that it produces heat and electricity without emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the power plant level, and fuel supplies are not in danger of being exhausted” (87). Schurr is of the view that other sources of power are extremely costly, even to the environment, as they demand transportation of raw materials from one source to the other. In his view, the transportation of aluminum is a tiresome process.
This has an effect on the environment since the amount of carbon produced interferes with nature. He notes that in the current state of affairs, it would be perhaps expensive to transport power to unrefined resources because approximately 10 Ibs of petroleum would be needed to generate adequate power for the reduction of 1 lb. of aluminum, whereas only 3.4 lbs. of bauxite is to be distributed to the power source (118). In this regard, the use of coal affects the environment in a number of ways.
The scholar observes that the solution to this problem would be the adoption of nuclear energy. Furthermore, Ari and Rabl conclude that health issues that come about because of emissions from the regular process of nuclear power plants are less when compare to those of other energy sources (576). In this case, the effects of nuclear energy on the life of various species in the environment are minimal. In terms of environmental conservation, nuclear energy is preferred because it does not emit too much greenhouse gases, which are dangerous to the environment.
Not all nuclear wastes and other emissions are environmentally friendly since they destroy natural life and contribute to global warming. A number of studies on nuclear energy suggest that over twenty tons of dangerous wastes are manufactured each year. Moreover, over ten thousand metric tons of materials are used in producing nuclear power, which is also a threat to the environment. Nuclear energy experts suggest that waste products from nuclear reactors should be buried deeply in the stable geological structures. However, a number of countries producing nuclear energies are hesitant to adopt these new methods, but instead waste products from nuclear reactors are stored temporarily in mountains.
Nuclear power plants are also known for emitting dangerous gases to the environment, apart from those released as by products. The gases are emitted through a chemical volume control system. The organization in charge of monitoring such emissions is not doing enough to ensure that the lives of citizens are protected. One of the studies suggested that people living near nuclear energy plants receive an approximated 0.1 μSv of harmful gases per year. For those individuals living above the sea level, the rate at which they are affected is 260 μSv. Most of the emissions are from cosmic radiations (Kawashima and Fumiko 2033). Nuclear emissions and waste products contribute to global warming meaning that the weather is affected.
Impacts on the Economy
Mitenkov conducted a study, which revealed that standardization of nuclear power production could be beneficial to any country economically since it lowers the costs of putting up nuclear power plants. In this case, countries are urged to employ technology and increase productivity of labor if they are to realize the benefits of nuclear power plants. In France, the commercial serialization of producing nuclear power plants were twenty to forty percent less as compared to putting up of non-standardized plants. In the United States, analysts observe that serial standardization of putting up nuclear plants would lower the capital costs in two major ways.
It would lower the costs by at least thirty-five percent when compared with experimental sample. The costs would be lower by three to ten percent, even though the energy produced would be doubled. Mitenkov observed further, “the effect would terminate on asymptotic straight line whereby up to 15% with the construction of multiunit nuclear power plants as compared with single power-generating units irrespective of the training effect”.
Schurr on his side suggested that nuclear energy in each region in California produced cheap energy as compared to any other source. The cost of electricity supplied is cheaper as compared to the cost used in putting up the nuclear reactor. He observes that nuclear power plants of a size assumed in the California might generate electrical energy reasonably than some of the power plants on presently operating in all states (118). Uwe Nestle supported the idea that nuclear energy has a constructive impact on trade, industry growth, and employment (153)
Apart from the dangerous of radioactive waste during the production of nuclear energy, there are also many accidents, particularly when energy plants are running. Two accidents have had a big impact on the nuclear power industry are the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and Fukushima disaster of 2011. Although there two disasters happened over a quarter century, they both caught people’s attention in a similar way.In the Chernobyl disaster; a nuclear reactor exploded released tons of radioactive elements to the atmosphere. The effects of this explosion were felt in an area that stretched across many countries.
While this explosion happened in Russia, several other nations, including Sweden, Ukraine, and Belarus suffered from the consequent pollution. In March 2011, the effects of nuclear power plants were felt in Japan when the earthquake occurred. The earthquake affected the operations of the nuclear power plant, which resulted to serious injuries and other effects (Kawashima and Fumiko 2030).
Both Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters caused huge losses in both human and financial capital. However, nuclear power disasters cause fewer losses in human capital as compared to other energy sources. However, Kawashima and Fumiko support the idea that productions of coal and natural gases cause more deaths than productions of nuclear power. For instance, base on all the energy related accidents, nuclear accidents account for more than forty percent of property damages.Moreover, other sources of energy are even more reliable as compared to nuclear energy.
A number of studies confirm that nuclear energy does not have major benefits on the economy. In this regard, Schurr observed that there are costs associated with putting up nuclear plants and the costs of operating. These costs are extremely high, which might drain the resources of the government meant for other economic development programs. The scholar noted that an atomic plant that operates with fuel could produce electrical energy at a cost of about eight mills per kilowatt-hour, if activated at 100 per cent of capacity (117). This cost of production is very high and it would be difficult for any organization to maintain it.
Based on this, many nuclear power plants are forced to operate with half the total cost. In Germany, Uwe Nestle notes that there have been calls to phase-out nuclear energy because of its costs on the economy. Nuclear energy does not affect the cost of electricity in the country. This is according to a study conducted after the by Fukushima accident in Japan. Nestle reports that the findings of a report compiled when nuclear power plants were not working reveal that the energy market does not rely on nuclear power plants. Nestle reports that, “Even though the majority of the German nuclear power capacity did – mostly unexpectedly – not work in the weeks after the nuclear accidents in Fukushima, there was no relevant increase of the electricity price at the stock exchange spot market. As usual, there was an up and down by some Euros, but there is no clear trend to increase prices visible (155).
Therefore, nuclear energy does not benefit the economy, but instead it harms it. Ari Rabl and Veronika Rabl conducted a different study regarding the effects of nuclear energy on the economy. They concluded that nuclear energy has five major negative effects on the economy. One of the effects is the cost of lost reactors. The nuclear power plants are extremely expensive and their loss would hurt the economy since investors would lose their capital. If an accident occurs, the power lost is a blow to the economy since an alternative might not be readily available. The accident might bring about cancer, which would consume resources meant for economic development. Other effects include the loss of agricultural production and displacement of the population.
Impacts on People
Uwe Nestle highlighted the fact that nuclear energy plays a serious role in improving the standards of the poor (156). It reduces the costs of electricity, which has a wonderful effect of the production and distribution of goods.Germany is one of the countries that rely on nuclear energy for cheap electricity. There is over eighty percent of the population, which uses electricity produced by nuclear reactors. Whenever interruptions are experienced because of repairsand accidents, people in German suffer a lot meaning that their lives depend on nuclear power. In 2007, the country experienced many challenges of nuclear energy.
Consequently, the cost of electricity went up hence affecting the economic activities. In Korea, economic development and improved living standards are attributed to nuclear energy since the country has a stable source of electricity (Schurr 121). The government restructured the energy sector o allow competition since it would outgrowth economy. Nuclear energy was viewed as cheapest source of energy.
Although the effects of nuclear energy are great as it is mentioned, it also has some negative effects on people. In the past, radiation leaks have occurred and results have been damaging. Whenever radioactive waste is exposed to the atmosphere, it has the capacity to emit radiation for over one hundred years. This means that radioactive waste has to be stored for a very long time before it can be safely dumped to atmosphere. In fact, this factor delays the expansion of nuclear programs in most countries. The radioactive elements contained in nuclear waste processes long haft-lives and this gives them the ability to remain in the atmosphere for long periods, also in dirty water, sand, or soil as well.
The harmful nature of radioactive waste makes production of nuclear energy a very complicated undertaking. The take of ensuring radioactive waste is dumped to the government. There are also many monitoring bodies around the world that act as “watchmen” against wrong clearance of radioactive waste. These “watchmen” ensure that human is kept safe from effects of radioactive exposure.
It can be concluded that nuclear energy is the solution to the energy crisis being witnessed in the 21st century. However, a number of individuals are of the contrary view owing to the challenges that nuclear energy poses on the environment, people and the economy. Economically, nuclear energy is of benefit since it offers cheap sources of electricity. The economy of many countries relies on the cheap sources of energy. If energy costs go up, the economy would defiantly face challenges. Some are of the view that nuclear energy does not have any advantage to the economy since it brings about losses in case of accidents. Consequently, its affects the health of people since the emissions is dangerous to body organs, such as the skin and the heart.
Kawashima, Shingo, and Fumiko, Takeda. “The effect of the Fukushima nuclear accident on stock prices of electric power utilities in Japan.” Energy Economics, 34.1 (2012): 2029-2038. Print.
Mitenkov, Averbakh. “Economic Effect of the Development and Operation of Serially Produced Propulsion Nuclear Power Systems.” Atomic Energy, 102.1 (2007): 45-78. Print.
Rabl, Ari, and Veronika, Rabl. “External costs of nuclear: Greater or less than the alternatives?” Energy Policy, 57.1 (2013): 575-584. Print.
Schurr, Sam. “Economic Aspects of Atomic as a Source of Power.” American Economic Association, 2.1 (2012): 117-125. Print.
Seung-Hoon, Yoo, and Yoo, Tae-Ho. “The role of the nuclear power generation in the Korean national economy: An input-output analysis.” Progress in Nuclear Energy, 51.1 (2009): 86-92. Print.
Uwe, Nestle. “Does the use of nuclear power lead to lower electricity prices? An analysis of the debate in Germany with an international perspective.” Energy Policy, 41.1 (2012): 152–160. Print.