Sie sind auf Seite 1von 12

Running Head: NUCLEAR ENERGY

Nuclear Energy: A Review of the Literature Carlos E. Garcia University of Texas at El Paso

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Abstract Nuclear energy, a relatively new energy source that has had outstanding growth in the past years, has brought the world a new alternative from conventional energy sources. Along with the growth in popularity there has been a growth for concern surrounding nuclear energy, and there are as many of those who oppose the implementation of nuclear plants as of those who favor this new step in creating energy. The following literary review will inform the reader on the current issues that nuclear energy makes on an environmental, economic, and personal level.

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Nuclear Energy: A Review of the Literature Nuclear energy has been one of the most controversial sources of alternate energy since its inception. Some harmful uses such as weapons of mass destruction created negative effects on how people perceived nuclear energy; however, nuclear energy enables us to create clean electric power. The world is in need of a new source of energy. The main provider of nuclear energy is currently carbon, which creates immense amounts of carbon monoxide pollution that contributes to global warming. Alternative sources of energy like solar and wind will not sufficient in providing enough electrical energy for the population, especially considering the rapid rate of growth in the population. The search for a clean, safe, and effective source of energy is raging forward, but is nuclear energy the answer to the problem? Many Americans think the solution lies in nuclear energy. Yet, in order to truly understand the impact of the implementation of nuclear energy, four important questions must be considered: 1. Are nuclear hazards any different from other hazards we accept every day? 2. Is the use of nuclear power necessary to alleviate global warming? 3. What is the expected future of nuclear energy? 4. Is the cost of nuclear power justified given its current usage? The following review on literature will provide enough substantial liable information to answer the questions stated above in a non-biased thorough manner.

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Are nuclear hazards any different from other hazards we accept every day? The implementation of nuclear plants to produce energy comes with a high risk of a potential new hazard, but how does this differ from the hazards that surround everyday life. With a reform of this magnitude concern about the safety of nuclear power is an important issue. Nuclear waste is the primary concern regarding nuclear hazards, after uranium is processed and used, the waste has to be disposed of properly, the storage and transportation of hazardous waste poses a threat to the environment, if not stored correctly nuclear waste can seep into the soil and infect the land, it could also harm local flora and fauna, if near a city the nuclear waste could contaminate potable water and affect the population directly. Scientists have found alternate ways to dispose of the nuclear waste, and its also been discovered that the waste can be safely put underground with no known effects to the planet, and scientists have discovered how water can effectively get rid of the waste (Presidio Buzz, 2009). Even with innovative techniques to dispose of the waste the risk still remains, there is always the factor that something could go wrong, accidents happen and the storage of nuclear waste is not exempt from human error. People worry about nuclear waste but seem to forget about the threats and hazards carbon based energy creates, the amount of waste that carbon leaves behind is much greater than the little uranium that is used in a nuclear reactor, a while nuclear waste is more toxic carbon dioxide pollution creates some of the same problems, with its vast emissions into the atmosphere carbon waste creates acid rain which contaminates water bodies and harms the environment as well as contributing to global warming and creating a greenhouse effect (Want To Know It, 2009). Another primary concern is the proximity of nuclear reactors to big cities, the growth of popularity in nuclear energy makes the construction

NUCLEAR ENERGY

of nuclear plants have a very possible future. The proximity of the nuclear plants endangers the lives of thousands of people because in the event of a nuclear meltdown at the plants would have horrible consequences. This happened most recently in 2011 in Fukushima, Japan, where nuclear explosions occurred, and wiped out complete cities, and let lifelong effects on the land, and people that are left behind in the aftermath (National Geographic, March 2012). Any incident at a nuclear power plant would have catastrophic consequences on the environment surrounding the plant. A coal powered plant will bring a considerable amount of pollution into the city, over the years that could lead to serious health issues in the population of the city. The hazards that a coal powered plant poses on a neighboring city are a lot less drastic compared to those of a nuclear power plant, but they are still a serious issue. Cities have grown used to accepting the hazards that come from coal powered plants, they live around these plants and are not worried about the hazards they face, this could be the case for nuclear plants it will only take time for people to accept and grow into the idea of having nuclear plants form a part of their everyday life.

Is the use of nuclear power necessary to alleviate global warming? Global warming is one of the biggest problems the world is facing today, the temperature of the worlds oceans and surface have been increasing and this is being caused by the rise of greenhouse gases produced by humans (The Observer, May 2004). The human population is responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because of the deforestation and use of fossil fuels, these two combined have made a huge global impact on the worlds temperature rising. When people use fossil fuels as energy they emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, this toxic gas is accumulating in the atmosphere and making global warming worse. Projected gas emission by humans is expected to keep increasing (The Observer, May

NUCLEAR ENERGY

2004), and there seems to be no slowing down for this self-destructive act. The use of coal powered plants to create electric energy is one of the biggest contributing factor to the increase of greenhouse gases, in only one day of a 1-giggawatt coal powered plant 19,000 tons of CO2 will be produced and released onto the atmosphere ( TED Talks, Brand, 2010). To keep using coal powered plants to sustain the populations electric energy need will only deteriorate the earth. The population of the world keeps increasing and it will reach a point in which the need for electrical power will need to come from a different source not only coal powered plants. ( TED Talks, Brand, 2010). Compared to coal powered plants the waste a nuclear power plants produces is very small, the amount of a life time of nuclear energy waste for the average family is two pounds and a roughly measured volume of 12 ounces. The amount of coal needed to produce the same amount of energy a small piece of uranium would is extremely larger, this means the CO2 pollution will also increase. Nuclear power plants produce close to zero carbon monoxide pollution; they produce less waste and help decrease the greenhouse gases emission. Nuclear energy however will not be the answer to solving the global warming issue, there are various factors playing a role. Coal powered electricity plants are one of the main sources of CO2 emissions, but them being substituted by nuclear reactors will not end global warming, it will simply reduce the CO2 emissions, contributing to the bettering of the environment. This decrease in emission will slow down global warming and help the earths atmosphere.

What is the expected future of nuclear energy? The near future of nuclear energy has endless possibilities, with all the research being conducted in the field, it is impossible to exactly know what is going to happen ten years from today, but it is promising, nuclear energy holds the key to a new era of innovation in energy. Sadly the

NUCLEAR ENERGY

research in nuclear energy can also be used toward nuclear weapons, not every step we take forward in this field is for the enhancement of our social lives, some of the discoveries are put towards darker means, like weapons of mass destruction. Thankfully we are making progress in making nuclear power a safe tool intended for growth and not destruction. One prominent concept is smaller nuclear reactors, as Ben Bradford talks about in his article Are Mini-Reactors the future of Nuclear Power? He interviewed Pete Lyons, an assistant Energy secretary, who says the smaller nuclear reactors, are part of our future and would stimulate the economy. Bradford also got the opinion of nuclear physicists Ed Lyman, who says that the plants would just be targets for terrorist attacks (Ben Bradford, 2013), even though this is a main concern reality is terrorist attacks cannot be expected and should not be a reason to not move forward. There are attempts and research directed towards making the waste from power plants less harmful, scientist are working on ways to purify the toxic waste and decrease its half-life (The Economist). Although there is all this promise, Kelly Pflaum, a writer for Medill reports says that Rober Rosner, the director of Energy Policy at Chicago states that due to the high cost of initially starting a plant with nuclear energy, it could be awhile before there is a revival in the field. While this is true, the government has found funds to continue that research for nuclear energy. Investment in nuclear energy is a logical step, the government and private investors will find ways to keep the research going. Is the cost of nuclear power justified given its current usage? The cost of building a nuclear power plant is very high, the cost of maintenance is also expensive since everything about it has to be carefully monitored, the making of a nuclear power plant has to be precise and smart, and no errors can be allowed. Since the damages would be

NUCLEAR ENERGY

terrible if anything went wrong with the reactor, like a meltdown or an explosion it has to be assured that the plant will be made to every specification. The plants are a long term investment, the earliest power plants that are still in use were made in the early 1970s (David A. Gabel, November 2010), to assure that the plants will continue to work and function properly the cost of maintaining a plant is extremely high. In comparison the cost to build and run a coal powered plant is a lot lower, but in the long run nuclear power plants would create more energy in their lifetime than a coal powered plant, the efficiency of a nuclear plant is higher than a coal powered plant, it also requires a lot less fuel to produce energy in a nuclear plant, this makes a nuclear plant seem like the better choice, but most countries in the world cannot afford to build their own nuclear power plants, they mostly rely on bigger countries who produce their own electric energy and their own small coal powered plants (FX Week, Dec. 2012). There is constant research conducted on nuclear power and how to harvest its energy, in the future the cost of nuclear power plants will decrease, it simply takes time to learn and be able to more efficiently control the factors that make nuclear power plants so expensive to make. The goal is for nuclear power plants to produce the majority of the electric power used in the world, and make them available to undeveloped countries like India, so they dont have to rely on others for energy and can become self-sustaining. If in the long term point of view nuclear energy is worth investing in why isnt the world more focused on expanding research? This is because of the general disapproval of nuclear power plants in the public, the population is afraid of the consequences a nuclear catastrophe could bring. This is slowing down the effort to generalize nuclear energy and make it part of our everyday lives. Figure 1 illustrates a nonscientific online survey conducted by the author to get an estimated percentage of the approval rate on the government funding nuclear power research. 60

NUCLEAR ENERGY

participants from various demographics were asked Do you believe the government should fund nuclear power research? The results indicated that 33 percent of the sample group asked believed that the government should be funding research, and a 67 percent believe the government should not be funding research. (see fig.1) Figure 1 a chart depicting the answers to the survey question Do you believe the government should fund nuclear power research?

Do you believe the government should fund nuclear power research?

No Yes

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Although the group sample cannot be generalized to the population at large we can an idea that the disapproval of nuclear research is a majority decision.

Conclusion

There will always be debate regarding the implementation of nuclear power plants, there are benefits to be gained from the use of nuclear reactors as well as there are downfalls and dangers, only further research and time will show if the world should invest its time into moving forward with new era of power, or search for alternate sources of energy.

References

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Advantages of Nuclear Power. (n.d.). Want to know it | Answers to life's questions | Everything Blog. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://wanttoknowit.com/advantages-of-nuclearpower/ Bradford, B. (2013, February 4). Are Mini-Reactors The Future Of Nuclear Power? : NPR. NPR: National Public Radio: News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts: NPR. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://www.npr.org/2013/02/04/170482802/are-mini-reactors-thefuture-of-nuclear-power Gabel, D. A. (2010, November 10). The Promise of Nuclear Fusion Power: Unlimited Energy, No Side Effects | CleanTechies Blog - CleanTechies.com. CleanTechies CleanTech Blog. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from http://blog.cleantechies.com/2010/11/01/nuclearfusion-power-energy/ Nivola, P. S. (n.d.). The Political Economy of Nuclear Energy in the United States | Brookings Institution. Brookings - Quality. Independence. Impact. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2004/09/environment-nivola Nuclear Power in Japan | Japanese Nuclear Energy. (2012, March 4). World Nuclear Association. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/CountryProfiles/Countries-G-N/Japan/#.UV5H21vwL40 Plaum, K. (2013, January 30). Policy, cost pose challenges to future of nuclear energy.

Medill Reports. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=21478

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Siers, M. (2012, December 3). High-frequency trading: managing the nuclear power supply - FX Week. FX Week - Currency Market (Forex) News, Commentary & Analysis . Retrieved

April 5, 2013, from http://www.fxweek.com/fx-week/interview/2227627/highfrequencytrading-managing-the-nuclear-power-supply