Disadvantages of nuclear energy

Disadvantages of nuclear energy

At this point in time, nuclear energy supplies approximately 6% of the energy generated and utilized by the entire world. The heat and electric energy is obtained by splitting the nucleus of an atom via nuclear fission in highly sophisticated and complex nuclear plants built around the world. However, there are several disadvantages of the otherwise potential process and we will discuss them at length in the following paragraphs.

Nuclear Waste

The biggest problem with nuclear power plants is the waste created during the generation of energy as an unwanted and dangerous byproduct. All waste products from a nuclear power plant are radioactive and thus they are detrimental to almost all kinds of living beings. What is even more hazardous is the fact that they remain radioactive and dangerous for thousands of years, which makes them virtually a permanent hazard. This is the most important reason as to why nuclear power plants cannot be built in close proximity to localities, which of course, limits the opportunity to expand the plants. Scientists and experts all around the world are working on ways to properly neutralize or get rid of the radioactivity from the waste, but they are yet to come up with a solution that is good enough.

At this time, radioactive nuclear wastes are usually put inside concrete structures and buried under the ground because concrete and earth are found to be efficient at containing radioactivity. However, these dump sites must be looked after for thousands of years to make sure that the toxic wastes are not set free accidentally as that could contaminate the entire planet. This in fact, would be an unending process unless we are able to find better ways to get rid of the waste because by the time the radioactivity from today’s nuclear wastes comes down; there would be new radioactive waste to dump from tomorrow’s nuclear plants. Eventually, it is very much possible that the reactors may run out of uninhabited places to dispose their waste products.

While the toxic nuclear waste mainly refers to the used up reactor rods and nuclear fuel residues, even the purifying resins, various tools, clothes, towels and other similar objects that become contaminated with radiation after coming in contact with it at the nuclear plants can also be dangerous. Although they are nowhere near as dangerous as the main waste products, even these less radioactive objects can cause health hazards. The danger lies in the fact that these regular objects may get out by mistake because it is impossible to detect the radioactivity on these day to day items without a Geiger counter.

Possibility of Misuse

Breeder reactors produce plutonium, which is known for its ability to be utilized as the means for creating an atomic weapon as well. Even when weapons grade plutonium is not available, terrorists and extremists may use regular high power explosives to spread the radioactive element as far as they can over their targeted areas. This of course would not have an impact anywhere close to that of an atomic warhead, but it will cause serious health hazards for all those who are exposed to the radioactivity. This weaponization of industry grade plutonium is known as creating a “dirty bomb”.

disadvantages of nuclear energy

Non-Renewable Source of Energy

Not unlike the energy and electricity generated from fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum, nuclear energy is also generated from nuclear fuels such as uranium. What this means is that nuclear energy too, is a non-renewable source of energy which is probably even rarer than the fossil fuels. The origin of Uranium is a supernova during which an entire star was destroyed and thus one may imagine how rare the element is and how impossible it is to recreate it. What this means is though nuclear fuels were discovered as a source of power much later than the fossil fuels, both share the same problem of not being infinite or renewable. This makes nuclear energy neither safe nor reliable for the future. In fact, the possibility of ruining the health and chances of survival of the future of human civilization diminish as we keep on using up the limited nuclear fuels.

Effects of Radioactivity Even Under Normal Conditions

Unfortunately, even when a nuclear plant is built well and is ‘safe’ as per the safety guidelines, it is not totally safe. What this means is that though it might be possible to avert disasters through the practice of the safety measures, the workers at a nuclear plant are exposed to small levels of radiation every day, in spite of their special suits. While it may not matter much in the short term, it might be the cause behind cancers if one is exposed to even such small amounts of radiation over a long period of time. This disadvantage however, is not beyond controversy as certain studies have shown that workers at a nuclear plant might actually have lesser chances of developing cancers than normal people.

Time and Economic Issues

Building a nuclear plant is not an easy task. It takes a lot of resources, finance as well as time to construct the working structure itself, but what requires even more resources are the safety measures which are absolutely mandatory for a nuclear plant to be safe for its workers and also for the entire surrounding ecosystem. Construction of a safe nuclear plant thus involves money, time and an appropriate plan; however, there always remains a possibility that someone might skip a few of the safety measures in order to provide for the planet’s ever-increasing demand for power, a bit quicker. It would of course save some money in addition to saving time, but it will also increase the chances of a calamitous mishap by many a times. After seeing accidents at some of the best nuclear power plants in the past, one can easily figure out how dangerous a poorly planned and hastily built nuclear power plant can be. An example of a failed nuclear power project was cited when the Island of Olkiluoto Nuclear Project in Finland failed and all the involved parties suffered huge economic losses.

Possibility of Accidents with Catastrophic Effects

Previously, it was believed that the safety measures are good enough to avoid accidents, but after consecutive incidents at the Three Mile Island in 1979, at Chernobyl in 1986 and finally at the Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011; that belief is proven to be a myth only. The Chernobyl Disaster is by far the most devastating and dangerous accident that has happened yet and it has not only affected thousands of people with cancers and other deformities that are results of the radioactivity which was released into the environment from the accident, but it has also rendered portions of places like Belarus, Prypiat, Ukraine and Russia uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. The possibility of a nuclear reactor accident is therefore the most fearsome disadvantage of nuclear energy and both theory and history clearly shows us that such accidents can happen. As no nuclear plant can be made in a way so that it is safe from everything, the risk of accidents will increase with each new nuclear reactor.

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