Nuclear Power: Pros and Cons - Essay Example

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Introduction The use of nuclear energy continues generating intense debate that mainly focuses on safety and international security. The recent nuclear crisis in Japan and the Iran nuclear standoff are just indicators that the debate is not ending soon. Some countries including Germany are planning to phase out nuclear energy in favor of renewable sources in future…
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Nuclear Power: Pros and Cons
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"Nuclear Power: Pros and Cons"

Nuclear energy is generated through the process of nuclear fission, in a chain reaction that involves splitting of atomic nuclei using neutrons (Smith, 2006). Uranium is the major nuclear fuel used to generate the energy and the reaction takes places in a nuclear reactor. Currently, destruction by nuclear weapons and effects of climate change are the greatest threats facing humanity (Smith, 2006). Use of nuclear energy increases the possibility of developing weapons of mass destruction on one hand and it reduces the impacts of climate change on the other. Therefore, nuclear power has unique benefits and risks compared to other sources of energy. Nuclear energy is clean, reliable and relatively safe compared to fossil fuels. According to Comby (2008), nuclear energy production process emits negligible amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Greenhouse gases are the major causes of global warming which contribute to climate change (Smith, 2006). Fossil fuels supply over 85% of the total energy demand in the world (Comby, 2008). The major fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas, which release energy through a controlled combustion process. During the process, over 23 billion tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere annually. ...
The energy produced by burning one tonne of coal or oil is equivalent to energy generated by one gram of uranium. In addition, the quantity of nuclear wastes is significantly small compared to that of fossil fuels (Comby, 2008). The waste generated from nuclear reactors could be recycled to produce more energy and their small quantity implies that limited space for disposal is used. Fossil fuels are non-renewable and global reserves are expected to run out in future. However, uranium deposits are plenty and hence nuclear energy supply is more secure and reliable compared to fossil fuels. In comparison with renewable sources of energy such as solar and hydropower, nuclear energy is more reliable. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power depends on the intensity of the respective sources of power. Nuclear reactors are more compact and do not take large areas on land compared with solar and wind installations. Therefore, nuclear energy is more appropriate in the modern world where high population growth has exerted intense pressure on the available land (Comby, 2008). Although nuclear energy generating process and wastes emit potentially lethal radiations, the technology is relatively safe. In over 50 years that nuclear energy production technology has been in existence only three serious accidents have occurred. These accidents were in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the most recent was in Japan. Chernobyl claimed fewer than 50 human lives as a result direct exposure to radiations (WHO, 2005). The other two accidents did not cause any fatality. However, accidents in coalmines claim thousands of miners annually, while toxic gaseous emissions such as carbon monoxide produced while using fossil fuels cause significant deaths in the world every year. Moreover, using Read More
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