Nuclear Energy and the EnvironmentIn our society, nuclear energy has become one of the most criticized formsof energy by the environmentalists. Thus, a look at nuclear energy and theenvironment and its impact on economic growth. Lewis Munford, an analyst, once wrote, Too much energy is as fatal as toolittle, hence the regulation of energy input and output not its unlimitedexpansion, is in fact one of the main laws of life. This is true when dealingwith nuclear power. Because our societies structure and processes both dependupon energy, man is searching for the most efficient and cheapest form of energythat can be used on a long term basis. And because we equate power with growth,the more energy that a country uses, – the greater their expected economicgrowth.Order now
The problem is that energy is considered to have two facets or parts:it is a major source of man-made repercussions as well as being the basis oflife support systems. Therefore, we are between two sections in which one is thesection of resource availability and waste, and the other the continuity oflife support systems pertinent to survival. Thus, the environmentalists believe that nuclear energy should not be usedfor various reasons. First of all, the waste product, i.
e. plutonium, isextremely radioactive, which may cause the people who are working or living inor around the area of storage or use, to acquire leukemia and other cancers. They also show how billions of dollars are spent yearly on safety devices for asingle reactor, and this still doesn’t ensure the impossibility of a meltdown. Two examples were then given of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in 1979,when thousands of people were killed and incapacitated. Finally, theenvironmentalists claim that if society wastes less energy, and develops themeans to use the energy more efficiency, then there would be a definite decreasein the requirement for more energy producing plants.
On the other hand, some business men and economists say that the presentconditions should be kept intact, as the other forms of energy, e. g. oil,natural gas and coal, are only temporary, in dealing with surplus, and give offmore pollution with less economic growth. Concurrently, countries wanted a morereliable, smokeless form of energy not controlled by OPEC, and very littleuranium was required to produce such a high amount of resultant energy.
Lastly,they said that renewable energy is (a) unreliable in that the wind, for example,could not be depended upon to blow, nor the sun to shine, and (b) wereintermittent in that a 1,000 mega-watt solar farm may occupy about 5,000 acresof land, compared with less than 150 acres of land for a similar capacitynuclear power generation station. Because the energy technology that society employs directly influences thequantity and quality of life, the energy option that is chosen should have thegreatest cost- benefit effectiveness as well as maximizing flexibility andpurchases. However, those who believe in continuous energy consumption growth,seem to forget that there is only a limited supply of energy in every energysystem, and to overdo any resource may provide for an unacceptable impact uponglobal and regional ecology. Thus, if the business world pushes the environment as far as it can go,Ceribus Paribus, please refer to figure 1.
Thus, to use petroleum as asubstitute for uranium, which is needed to power the nuclear system, would notbe economically or environmentally sensible. I say this because, first of all,there is a major supply of uranium considering it was one of the last energysources to be found as well as only a small amount of it is required to producea lot of energy. Secondly, petroleum gives off carbon monoxide which is one ofthe reasons for ozone depletion; whereas, the uranium does not give offpollution except that it produces plutonium which needs to be buried for morethan fifty years to get rid of its radiation. Finally, because so much of thepetroleum will be required to power the vast area that nuclear energy can cover,the cost to us as the consumer would be massive! This would mean slowereconomic growth and/or expansion, especially when compared to nuclear energy. Therefore: Ceribus Paribus – (a) if the cost decreases, the demand increases,and – (b) if the cost increases, the demand decreases. Please refer to figures#2 and #3 respectively.
Nuclear plants are now replacing coal burning plants. It will cost thetaxpayers far more than they are currently paying for electricity. However,industrial officials claim that since the plants have useful lifetimes, theywill save the consumers money in the long run. The problem with this is thatthis depends on hard to predict factors, such as the future price of oil and thenational demand for electricity. It should also be noted that there is also asharp jump in consumer costs when the plants are turned on to pay for theconstruction costs, plant manufacturers or other loan sources, plus interest. Thus, the cost of electricity may go up three-fold.
New plants usuallysupply substantially more energy than the area requires; meaning that theconsumer will be paying for this waste of energy, which is cost per kilowatthour. It should also be noted that some plants are canceled during construction,which can raise the cost up to several billion dollars. This is absorbed by thegovernment through tax laws, shareholders, and rate payers; and is consideringthe fact there is a continual rise in construction prices and a decrease incosts of alternative fuels, many utilities cancel plants, when almost halfcompleted. (Late cancellation cost is an increase in the proportion to theamount that has been invested. )Albert Schweitzer, an ecologist wrote, nuclear power threatens the presentand forecloses the future. It is unethical, and inferior to non-fission futuresthat enhance survival for humans, alive and yet to be born, and nature, with allits living entities.
Therefore, in conclusion, it is clearly evident whynuclear energy should be abandoned, even though it may be considered aseconomically sound, and that we should concentrate more on conservation andquality rather than expansion as we have done in the pastPhysics Essays