Nuclear energy pros and cons can be separated into the non-greenhouse gas emitter, consistent supply of energy, and low operating cost for nuclear energy pros compared to potentially highly environmentally damaging, high startup cost, and radioactive waste disposal for nuclear energy cons.
Few energy sources are as controversial as nuclear power. In fact, many people are against it even if they do not know exactly why they should be against it. It is important to know what the disadvantages of nuclear energy are but there is also essential to recognize that there also advantages to this energy. So, what are the pros and cons of nuclear energy?
Before you can mind up about this or any other kind of energy is to understand what it is and how it works.
What Is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy is the result of what we call nuclear reactions. There are two kinds of nuclear reactions (or conversions):
- Spontaneous nuclei conversions.
- Induced nuclei conversions.
These conversions are changes in mass and energy. Nuclear fusion, nuclear decay, and nuclear fission.
All mass is made up of tiny atoms. Most atoms are located in the nucleus (or center) of mass. The rest of the mass is distributed in a cloud of electrons that floats around the nucleus. The atoms in the nucleus are subdivided into neutrons and protons. Following Albert Einstein’s formula of relativity: E = mc 2 there are circumstances under which large atoms can see their nucleus split in two. According to Einstein’s equation, M is the symbol that represents a small quantity of mass and C is the symbol for the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second).
If many people associate nuclear power with war is because the potential of this energy as a weapon was discovered back in the 1930s and the 1940s. Nuclear energy has been used as a weapon when the United States dropped atomic bombs in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, as World War II was coming in an end. The devastating effects of both bombings were between 70,000 and 126,000 civilians killed in Hiroshima, and between 39,000 and 80,000 civilians killed in Nagasaki.
The devastation caused by these bombings has been imprinted in many people’s minds not only in Japan but also around the world. During the Cold War, many people in the United States and Western Europe live in fear of what they thought might be a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union as a result of an escalation in the conflict between the USA and the USSR. But, in the decades following Einstein’s theories, nuclear energy has been used for creating electricity.
The lesson of the Cold War is that against nuclear weapons, only nuclear weapons can hold the peace. – Chung Mong-joon
What Are The Pros of Nuclear Energy?
Despite people’s fears, there are many advantages of nuclear power.
Nuclear Energy Pros:
- Does not emit large amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
- A consistent and reliable energy source
- Allows countries to become energy independent
- Low operating costs once setup
In a time where many people rightly worry about global warming, it must be said that nuclear power contributes very little to it. Why? Because its generation only produces relatively little carbon dioxide (CO2). So, if you are concerned about the environment and, specifically, global warming, then you should consider that nuclear power is less of a polluter than other sources of energy, such as, for example, fossil fuels.
“I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.” — Stephen Hawking
Another important advantage of nuclear power is that we are now technological experts. What this means is that we have already developed all the necessary technology for nuclear power generation. So there is no need to do any further research or invest for it as all the necessary technology to generate this kind of energy is already widely available. The final important advantage of nuclear power is that just one single nuclear plant can generate high quantities of electrical energy. So, at least, in terms of space, there are advantages of generating nuclear power.
What Are The Cons of Nuclear Energy?
There are, of course, several important disadvantages to nuclear energy.
Nuclear Energy Cons:
- Environmental impact of radioactive waste
- Requires mining and refining uranium and transporting it to plant
- Radioactive waste disposal
- Potential for deadly and costly nuclear disasters
- The high initial cost to develop a nuclear plant
- Limited by the availability of uranium
- Can be a precursor to nuclear weapons
The main con is what to do with radioactive waste. The problem is that the generation of nuclear energy creates highly dangerous radioactive waste. Radioactive waste needs to be kept in a safe place for many thousands of years after it has been produced.
The issue of nuclear waste cannot be underestimated. Radioactive waste can lethal for human beings and any other life forms. They cannot be disposed of safely but they need to watched over and kept somewhere safe enough so it does not affect the environment.
A related issue is that increasing radioactive waste could be used to create new lethal nuclear weapons. This is the flip side of this widely available technology. Why? Because the same technology that is used to generate energy in a nuclear plant can also be used to create nuclear weapons.
“All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.” — Ronald Reagan
But this is not the only security consideration that needs to be made. Nuclear energy is potentially dangerous. This is why nuclear plants are built with the highest possible security standards. But everyone can remember nuclear accidents, most notably the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The reason why nuclear plant disasters have continued to happen is that it is impossible to build a nuclear plant that is completely safe. So there is always a risk, albeit, small of disaster. As the number of nuclear plants grows, the possibility of future nuclear disasters also logically increases.
Another hugely important disadvantage of nuclear energy is the scarcity of its source. If current demand continues, it is estimated that Uranium resources will not last for more than 30 years approximately. The only solution to this would be setting up more nuclear plants but this is not practical in the next 30 years as there is no time to do so in just a few decades.
The disadvantages of generating nuclear power do outnumber the advantages. However, there are some powerful reasons why many people think nuclear power is the answer. The problem is not only that the cons outnumber the pros, but that all of the disadvantages are extremely serious.