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Advantages and disadvantages of

nuclear power
In this section we analyze the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear
power. Nevertheless, most organizations related to nuclear energy are
already positioned for or against the use of nuclear power. On this site we
try to make an objective analysis about this question, giving all the relevant
information and offering a space for different conclusions.

Advantages of nuclear power


The generation of electricity through nuclear energy reduces the amount of
energy generated from fossil fuels (coal and oil). Less use of fossil fuels
means lowering greenhouse gas emissions (CO 2 and others).
Currently, fossil fuels are consumed faster than they are produced, so in the
next future these resources may be reduced or the price may increase
becoming inaccessible for most of the population.
Another advantage is the required amount of fuel: less fuel offers more
energy. It represents a significant save on raw materials but also in
transport, handling and extraction of nuclear fuel. The cost of nuclear
fuel (overall uranium ) is 20% of the cost of energy generated.

The production of electric energy is


continuous. A nuclear power plant is generating electricity for almost 90% of
annual time. It reduces the price volatility of other fuels such as petrol.
This continuity benefits the electrical planning. Nuclear power does not
depends on natural aspects. It's a solutions for the main disadvantage
of renewable energy , like solar energy or eolic energy, because the hours of
sun or wind does not always coincide with the hours with more energy
demand.
It's an alternative to fossil fuels, so the consumption of fuels such as coal or
oil is reduced. This reduction of coal and oil consumption benefits the
situation of global warming and global climate change. By reducing the
consumption of fossil fuels we also improve the quality of the air affecting
the disease and quality of life.

Disadvantages of nuclear power

We've previously discussed the advantage of using nuclear energy to


reduce fossil fuel consumption. Organizations often use this argument in
favor of nuclear energy but it's a partial truth. Much of the consumption of
fossil fuels is due to road transport, used in heat engines (cars, trucks, etc.).
Savings in fossil fuel for power generation is fairly low.

Despite the high level of


sophistication of the safety systems of nuclear power plants the human
aspect has always an impact. Facing an unexpected event or managing a
nuclear accident we don't have any guarantee that decisions we took are
always the best. Two good examples are Chernobyl and Fukushima .
The Chernobyl nuclear accident is, by far, the worst nuclear accident in the
history. Different wrong decisions during the management of the nuclear
plant caused a big nuclear explosion.
Referring to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the operations done by the
staff were highly questionable. Fukushima nuclear accident is the second
worst accident in the history.
One of the main disadvantages is the difficulty in the management of
nuclear waste. It takes many years to eliminate its radioactivity and risks.
The constructed nuclear reactors have an expiration date. Then, they've to
be dismantled, so that main countries producing nuclear energy could
maintain a regular number of operating reactors. They've to built about 80
new nuclear reactors during the next ten years.
Nuclear plants have a limited life. The investment for the construction of a
nuclear plant is very high and must be recovered as soon as possible, so it
raises the cost of electricity generated. In other words, the energy
generated is cheap compared to the cost of fuel, but the recovery
of its construction is much more expensive.
Nuclear power plants are objectives of terrorist organizations.
Nuclear power plants generate external dependence. Not many countries
have uranium mines and not all the countries have nuclear technology, so
they have to hire both things overseas.
Current nuclear reactors work by fission nuclear reactions. These chain
reactions is generated in case control systems fail, generating continous
reactions causing a radioactive explosion that would be virtually impossible
to contain.

Probably the most alarming disadvantage is the use of the nuclear power in
the military industry. The first use of nuclear power was the creation of two
nuclear bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. This was the first and
the last time that nuclear power was used in a military attack. Later, several
countries signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but the risk that
nuclear weapons could be used in the future will always exist.

Advantages of nuclear fusion versus nuclear


fission
Currently the generation of electricity in nuclear reactors is done by nuclear
fission reactions. For the moment, nuclear fusion is not valid to
generate electric power . Once developed, if nuclear fusion is
really practicable, it will provide great advantages over nuclear fission :

Virtually inexhaustible sources of fuel.

No accidents in the reactor due to the chain reactions that occur in


fissions.

The waste generated will be much less radioactive.

Pros and cons of nuclear power


As a result of the current discussion how further global warming could be prevented or at
least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in everybody's - or at least in
many politician's - mind. It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate
global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of
nuclear power generation, its disadvantages are rarely
mentioned.
Hopefully, the following summary of arguments for and
against nuclear power can fill this gap:

Advantages of nuclear power generation:

Nuclear power generation does emit relatively low


amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). The emissions of green
house gases and therefore the contribution of nuclear power plants to global warming is
therefore relatively little.
This technology is readily available, it does not have to be developed first.
It is possible to generate a high amount of electrical energy in one single plant.

Disadvantages of nuclear power generation:

The problem of radioactive waste is still an unsolved one. The waste from nuclear
energy is extremely dangerous and it has to be carefully looked after for several thousand
years (10'000 years according to United States Environmental Protection Agency
standards).
High risks: Despite a generally high security standard, accidents can still happen.
It is technically impossible to build a plant with 100% security. A small probability of failure
will always last. The consequences of an accident would be absolutely devastating both for
human being as for the nature (see here , here or here). The more nuclear power plants
(and nuclear waste storage shelters) are built, the higher is the probability of a disastrous
failure somewhere in the world.
Nuclear power plants as well as nuclear waste could be preferred targets for
terrorist attacks. No atomic energy plant in the world could withstand an attack similar to
9/11 in New York. Such a terrorist act would have catastrophic effects for the whole world.
During the operation of nuclear power plants, radioactive waste is produced,
which in turn can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. In addition, the same
know-how used to design nuclear power plants can to a certain extent be used to build
nuclear weapons (nuclear proliferation).
The energy source for nuclear energy is Uranium. Uranium is a scarce resource,
its supply is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years depending on the actual
demand.
The time frame needed for formalities, planning and building of a new nuclear
power generation plant is in the range of 20 to 30 years in the western democracies. In
other words: It is an illusion to build new nuclear power plants in a short time.

Sustainability: Is nuclear energy sustainable?


For several reasons, nuclear power is neither green nor sustainable:

Both the nuclear waste as well as retired nuclear plants are a life-threatening
legacy for hundreds of future generations. It flagrantly contradicts with the thoughts
of sustainability if future generations have to deal with dangerous waste generated from
preceding generations. See also here .
Uranium, the source of energy for nuclear power, is available on earth only in
limited quantities. Uranium is being consumed (i.e. converted) during the operation of
the nuclear power plant so it won't be available any more for future generations. This again
contradicts the principle of sustainability.

Is nuclear power renewable energy?


Nuclear energy uses Uranium as fuel, which is a scarce resource. The supply of Uranium
is expected to last only for the next 30 to 60 years (depending on the actual demand).
Therefore nuclear energy is not a renewable energy.

Conclusion

From the above mentioned pros and cons of nuclear power plants, it should be
evident that nuclear energy cannot be a solution to any problem. Even worse: it
is the source of many further problems.
We must not any longer shut our eyes to the consequences of our being on earth.
Besides moral, ethical and spiritual reasons, at least for the pure will to survive we
should consequently strive for a sustainable living and realize it in our personal life. It's
time for change!

The actual interests of the energy industry in nuclear power


Generally speaking, the electrical energy industry is aware of the substantial drawbacks
of nuclear power generation. Nevertheless this industry is now spending an incredible
amount of money and time, lobbying for the revival of nuclear energy. The main interest
of the owners of existing nuclear power plants is however toprolong the life-span for
existing nuclear plants. Because the existing plants will be amortised at the end of their
originally planned life time, huge financial profits can be realised for any day longer
which these plants can be kept in operation. This is much more lucrative than building
new nuclear plants!
However, to operate nuclear power plants longer than originally planned can be quite
dangerous since any plant or technical appliance usually gets more troublesome towards
the end of its planned life expectancy.