The Danger of Nuclear Plant
The Danger of Nuclear Plant
For how long should humankind continue exploiting energy sources that have posed many dangers for thousands of years? “The principal risks associated with nuclear power arise from health effects of radiation. This radiation consists of subatomic particles traveling at or near the velocity of light—186,000 miles per second,” (Cohen, 2011). At such a speed, the subatomic particle can penetrate deep inside the body and cause biological damage of cells thereby causing cancer and genetic diseases if they strike gonad cells. Nuclear power plants produce radioactive wastes that need to be stored for thousands of years before they can be radioactive free. Additionally, nuclear reactor accidents pose appreciable dangers for extraordinarily long periods. For instance, the Chernobyl nuclear explosion caused a massive damage to the surrounding area as thousands of acres of fertile land were declared useless, five million people were affected, and hundreds of thousands were evacuated (World Nuclear Association, 2012). Twenty fives years later after the accident, the radioactive effects are still noticeable, and the surrounding area is not considered safe yet. Thus, nuclear power plants pose a substantial danger to many people residing nearby due to the possibility of meltdowns that release significant levels of radioactivity into the atmosphere as well as from waste materials.
Problem and implications
Radioactive materials cause increased exposure to cancer and genetic diseases when absorbed in the body. The Chernobyl accident in 1986 remains one of the biggest nuclear plants disasters ever recorded in the history of nuclear power plants. After this disaster, 30 operators and firefighters died within a month from radiation related complications while acute radiation syndrome was confirmed in 137 people. Among them, 28 died within a few weeks while 19 others died between the year of the accident and 2004 (World Nuclear Association, 2012).
Although safety regulations exist to ensure their safety, such accidents are likely to happen in nuclear power plants. Some of the causes may not only occur from human errors causing meltdowns, but also from natural calamities such as the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. This accident resulted from the earthquake that was then followed by a tsunami, illustrating that nuclear plants are not safe despite the measures put in place in order to ensure the likelihood of accidents is at a minimum. When such accidents occur, they leave long-term devastating effects to the surrounding environment that affects all living organisms.
The danger does not only start at the plants. Rather, nuclear plants pose a danger from the initial stages of mining uranium that is used in the plants, through to the final stages of waste disposal. Waste disposal remains a critical problem considering the waste will remain radioactive for many years, approximately 240,000 years. It will require more space and technology for more nuclear waste for an extraordinarily long time even after the current generations are no longer living. Thus, without a way of eliminating the dangers of waste materials, a chance that such waste might be released to the atmosphere increases. Some natural calamities such as earthquakes pose the risk of exposing such waste into the atmosphere. Therefore, there is a need for a solution that can ensure such risks are eliminated in order to ensure the safety of living things and sustainability of life.
Solution and explanation
As evidenced above, nuclear plants pose a lot of danger life for all living organisms. Its effects are long-term while some may be permanent. The biggest problem without a solution is waste disposal. A few methods of disposing the waste exist. However, none of them is a 100% guarantee that such waste will not pose the risks anymore. The best solution to the problem would be halting any plans of expanding or building new plants. Considering nuclear energy produces a significant amount of energy, approximately 20% if electricity in America, halting operations at once would not be logic. Instead of expanding nuclear energy sources, governments should aim at proliferating greener means such as wind energy and solar energy as well, which are faster and cheaper to put up (Kreith, 2010). Although many cite nuclear energy as a safer means of power, the truth is quite different considering the effects and dangers posed by its operations in the long-term.
Greener energies such as solar and wind energy pose no dangers to the environment and life. Additionally, they do not cost as much as nuclear energy costs. Putting up nuclear plants requires around $4.5billion, while putting up other stations such as coal and gas may cost not more than $1 billion (BBC News, 2008). However, once built, they require low operating costs from the fuel, which makes them base stations. Additionally, in order to come up with a solution to the nuclear waste issues, as well as putting up measures to ensure low probability of accidents, huge costs on research and design are inevitable. On the other hand, greener energies such as solar can be produced at lower scale levels such as individuals using solar panels at home. Once installed one may not need any skilled operations. Additionally, it only requires remarkably little time to put up the solar panels while it may take years to put up a nuclear plant. Wind energy as well is cheaper than nuclear energy and more so poses no harm to the environment.
Need, solution connected, and practicality of solution
Considering the need raised by nuclear plants is that of finding a solution to waste disposal and reducing radiation, greener energy eliminates such effects. Therefore, the need to solve radioactive waste disposal issues requires a solution that can ensure its complete elimination considering the effects. Currently, the only solution provided is storing the waste underground, which does not ensure 100% safety. Although the solution does not require current operating nuclear plants to stop their operations, proliferation of greener energy ensures to reduce these risks until nuclear plants are replaced entirely.
The first objective of replacing nuclear energy with greener sources of energy is reducing the radioactive materials released into the atmosphere. Greener energies do not release any harmful wastes into the atmosphere. However, proponents of nuclear energy cite that radioactivity is natural, and low levels have no determined effects (Kreith, 2010). The other objective met is ensuring low reliance on unstable and non-sustainable energy solutions such as nuclear considering storage of the waste is not sustainable. Greener energies are sustainable and emit no harmful materials into the air (Kreith, 2010). Although they do not emit any harmful materials into the air, many argue that they have their disadvantages such lack of production during the night for solar energy while wind energy is only available when there is wind. Additionally, another objective met is the reduction of mining since uranium will not need to be mined. The renewable energy sources do not require any fuel. A counter argument exists that such energy may not be sufficient since some of it is lost. For instance, in solar energy it has to be converted to AC power from DC, which causes a loss of energy (Kreith, 2010).
Hypothetical positive results
Replacement of nuclear energy with renewable sources could mean the elimination of highly radioactive waste and elimination of radioactive materials from the nuclear plants into the atmosphere. This will have a positive effect on the whole environment globally and especially in the countries that use nuclear energy. More so, the risks associated with nuclear power plants that include the mining of uranium, operational hazards and waste materials will no longer pose a problem in the future. Additionally, mining of uranium might come to an end, which could make it easier for countries to control nuclear power proliferation for weapons since banning of uranium would be easier than to stop countries from using it for such purposes.
Negative hypothetical result if solution not implemented
However, if such plans are not implemented, the negative implications such as risks of radioactivity might increase in the future with increased nuclear power production. Health risks associated with exposure to radioactive will continue while the risk of other accidents remains.
It is clear that nuclear plants pose a lot of dangers to the entire living environment, from emission of radioactive materials that have long-term effects as well as dangers of accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi. This is despite measures put in place in order to ensure the least likelihood of accidents. Currently, there is no way of dealing with the waste from nuclear plants except burying them deep underground, whose safety cannot be guaranteed for the next several thousand years. Thus, replacing nuclear energy with renewable alternatives such as solar and wind would offer the long-term sustainable solution.
Call for response
I would call for all people to come up in an effort to stop expansion of nuclear energy and support renewable energies that ensure the safety of all people.
Personally, my intention is to see people start turning away from the acceptance of nuclear energy, and adopting renewable sources of energy as the next global project.
The impact of nuclear energy plants to people, as well as other living organism, is quite immense, and it is unnoticeable to people considering it cannot be seen physically. The solution will reduce emission of radioactive materials and in the future eliminate it.
BBC News. (2008, January 10). The costs of nuclear energy. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7180539.stm
Cohen, B.L. (2011). Risks of Nuclear Power. Health Physics Society, University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.umich.edu/~radinfo/introduction/np-risk.htm
Kreith, F. (2010). Principles of Sustainable Energy: An Engineering Approach. New York, N.Y: CRC Press.
Whitfield, S.C., Rosa, E.A., Dan, A. & Dietz, T. (2009). The Future of Nuclear Power: Value Orientations and Risk Perception. Risk Analysis, 29 (3): 425–437.
World Nuclear Association. (2012). Chernobyl Accident 1986. Retrieved from http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html