Nuclear Energy

8 August 2016

Ever since humanity has existed, there has been an increasing demand for energy as a means of survival, from its usage for cooking and warmth, all the way to electricity generation for production and agricultural activities. Today, over 80% of energy consumption comes from fossil fuels, which include coal, oil and natural gas (Irvine, 2011). However, those fuels are not renewable and won’t last for more than a few decades or even less.

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With the increase of population comes the increase in demand for energy. In the UAE, according to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), there is an annual increase in energy demand of about 9%; therefore, it is imperative to find a new form of energy that would meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs; this is the concept of sustainability, developed by scientists nowadays.

The two criteria for sustainability are efficiency and renewability, both of which are fulfilled by nuclear power. Nuclear energy is much more environmentally friendly and humanly safe than fossil fuels. It also provides us with the energy security we need; thus, it should be adopted as the future power supplier in all countries. Environmental safety is one of the major reasons why scientists are reverting to sources other than fossil fuels and developing nuclear technology that would reduce the amounts of all the gaseous, solid and liquid wastes produced by fossil fueled plants.

Those wastes are resulting in serious environmental crises. Unlike the fossil fuels, nuclear fuel is smoke free; thus, protecting the environment from the serious implications of the gaseous residuals like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides that are major contributors to global warming, acidic rain and smog, respectively. Global warming causes the melting of huge ice fields such as the ones covering Greenland and Antarctic, consequently inundating so many coastal areas with water (Morris, 2000).

With the acidic rain, ecological problems will arise, manifested in the destruction of trees and death of fish (Morris, 2000). Whereas smog, defined by scientists as “a mixture of smoke made up of nitrogen oxides and fog, kills plants and reduces the crop yields” (“Smog”, n. d. ). On the other hand, apart from the gaseous waste, there exists the solid and liquid waste of fossil fueled plants in the form of ashes from coal plants and crude oil waste from oil plants.

The first is known to be environmentally toxic, yet it is stored in open-air pits, where the ashes are at the risk of being spilled, causing a tremendous disaster like the Tennessee’s incident in December 22, 2008, where a huge dyke have failed, leading to more than one billion gallons of toxic ashes to flood a huge land (“Beyond Coal,” n. d. ). Just like the solid waste, liquid waste of oil plants could also be spilled into the ocean while being moved from one area to another for disposal, resulting in the termination of aquatic life (Morris, 2000).

Such incidents are unbearable, yet they happen. However, nuclear plants have no gaseous waste. As to the solid wastes, scientists have developed an efficient way to dispose safely of them. It is proposed that the radioactive waste should be mixed with molten glass then cooled to be part of solid, corrosion-proof glass; thus, blocking its radioactivity (Morris, 2000). By efficient disposal, we’re not only cleaning the environment for good, but also eliminating any considered human health hazards.

While the fossil fuels waste would continuously pose a threat the environment and to human health. Those fossil fuels do not only harm the environment, but also violate human safety, by producing pollutants that cause serious diseases. Oil, gas and coal plants are responsible for 88% of the Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) released in the air, 50% of the Nitric Oxide (NO) and 80% of the Carbon Oxide (CO) released. All of which have been linked to serious neuromuscular and respiratory diseases, like bronchitis and lung-cancer. On the other hand nuclear energy is free of all those pollutants.

On the long run, imagine how many lives would be saved by just replacing fossil fuels with nuclear energy. Opponents of nuclear energy have been promoting nuclear energy for years to be a death tool; in fact, this claim has little truth to it. One is much more susceptible to death from air pollution, than of the radiation emitted by the nuclear plants. Air pollution causes 200000 deaths worldwide every year (Morris, 2000). When, the death toll for the Chernobyl accident was 20000 cancer deaths over 50 years, which means, 500 deaths per year.

Which confirms the claim that air pollution is much more dangerous than nuclear energy. Nevertheless, the radiation is still the major concern of those in opposition of nuclear energy because it has been publicized that nuclear energy produces excessive amounts of radiation causing three possible health effects: genetic mutations, radiation sickness and cancer. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki incident have been studied over a long period of time in order to evaluate the truth to this claim, and the results were opposite to what’s promoted.

As to the genetic mutations, it has been shown that excessive doses of radiation are not associated in any way with the genetic mutations. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were observed for thirty years, and no excess genetic mutation rates have been seen, we said excess because approximately 3% of all live births everywhere show mutations of some sort, naturally (Morris, 2000). So there’s no truth to those claims about mutations. Then there’s the radiation sickness that is a result of the damage to the bone marrow, which affects the white blood cells production.

This needs a minimum radiation exposure of 100,000 millirems, below that no radiation sickness occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nowadays, at the fence line of a nuclear power plant, by law, radiation may not exceed 10 millirems, that is 10,000 times less than the level at which radiation sickness occurs, it is also a tenth of the amount of radiation one could get from a medical x-ray yearly. Actually no one lives this close to a nuclear power plant, therefore, people would get less than 0. 02 millirems of radiation per year from a nuclear power plant (Morris, 2000).

The last argued health effect is cancer. It has been proven that no cases of cancer due to radiation occurred at less than 100,000 millirems exposure, which is a huge dose. Back to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 200 cases of cancer occurred in a carefully studied group of 80,000 Japanese people who were exposed to over 100,000 millirems of radiation, that is 0. 4% cases (Morris, 2000). Thus if we were to draw a conclusion from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it will be that 0. 02 millirems of radiation per year won’t cause any health problems.

And since the major concern is eliminated, then why not use what is considered an efficient power source that would supply us with sufficient energy? We have enormous amounts of raw nuclear fuel in the earth’s lithosphere, that can be efficiently stored and are much more energy-productive than fossil fuels. Therefore, nuclear energy is considered sustainable enough to provide energy security to the entire world, which is “ (a) reliable, stable and sustainable supply of energy at affordable prices and social costs” (World Economic Forum (WEFORUM), n. d. ).

Studies show that uranium reserve in our planet earth will be sufficient to contribute to the energy production for 1500 years from now. This is in comparison with the currently consumed sources, which, by the most optimistic estimates, are expected to be depleted in 40 years for oil & gas and 200 years for coal (Erkens, 2006). Not only do we have an abundance of uranium for energy production, but also uranium is the most eligible, among other sources of energy, for long-term storage. For example, a 1000 MWe -megawatts of electricity- power plant requires 200 tones of natural uranium annually, which is easily stored.

While if it was powered by coal it will require over 3 million tones of coal, that is impractical to store due to dust and visual implications (World-Nuclear Association, 2013). As one might already know, nuclear power plants produce so much energy with a relatively small amount of fuel as compared to the fossil fuels powered plants. When comparing the two types of energy, scientists use the term electron volt, that is, the amount of energy an electron acquires while being accelerated by1-volt battery.

The energy in a typical chemical bond is several electron volts, whereas the fission of one uranium-235 nucleus releases about 200 million electron volts (Ferguson, 2011). So nuclear energy is much more productive and efficient than the currently used fossil fuels. After all this, no one has any reason to reject such a clean, safe and efficient energy supply; thus, nuclear energy adoption is imperative for all countries that want to step out of the traditional, outdated and detrimental techniques that have been going on for enough time till now. And step into a more pioneering and innovative era of clean, sustainable nuclear energy. That would last for enough generations to live without having to worry about the depletion of energy sources.

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