The Nuclear Power Debate Essay Research Paper

The Nuclear Power Debate Essay, Research Paper The Nuclear Power Debate In 1953, nuclear energy was introduced into America as a cheap and efficient energy source, favoured in place of increasingly scarce fossil fuels

The Nuclear Power Debate Essay, Research Paper

The Nuclear Power Debate

In 1953, nuclear energy was introduced into America as a cheap and

efficient energy source, favoured in place of increasingly scarce fossil fuels

which caused air pollution. Its initial use was welcomed by the general public,

as it was hoped to lower the price of electricity, and utilise nuclear power for

it’s potential as a resource, not a weapon. However, as people became aware of

the long term dangers involved in storing nuclear waste, it’s use was criticised.

Two accidents, at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, demonstrated to the world

the enormous risks involved in producing nuclear power.

Nuclear power provides 17% of the world’s electricity but coal is the

main source, making up 39%. However, fossil fuels such as coal, require greater

quantities to produce the equivalent amount of electricity produced from Uranium.

The use of nuclear power opposed to burning fossil fuels has reduced carbon

dioxide emissions by 2 billion tonnes per year, minimising the global warming

effect on the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is responsible for half of man made

gases contributing to the Greenhouse Effect, and has sparked action from the UN

Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change. Their consensus is a concern for the

environment in the next century if fossil fuels continue to be used, even at

present global levels. The Panel claims that for carbon dioxide to be

stabilised to safe levels, a 50-80% reduction in all emissions would be required.

The United Nations has predicted a world population growth from 5.5

billion to 8.5 billion by the year 2025, meaning demand for energy will increase.

Nuclear power is the only practical source, in consideration for the

environment, cost and efficiency. Coal-fired generation of electricity would

increase carbon dioxide emissions, and renewable sources such as solar and hydro,

are not suitable for large scale power generation.

Nuclear power is not without its own implications. The process includes

disposing of radioactive waste, which poses a threat to the environment and the

world if not contained properly and temporarily disposed of with maximum

security. In the thesis, “Nuclear power: an energy future we can’t afford”,

by Peter Kelly from Hamilton College, he wrote,

“…we’d still have to worry about terrorists making bombs out of nuclear waste.

Just five pounds of plutonium, a component of nuclear waste, is enough to make a

nuclear bomb. Such a bomb could topple the World Trade Centre and kill hundreds

of thousands of people…Terrorists may be able to recruit disgruntled


Disposing of nuclear waste is extremely controversial, because it takes

thousands of years to decompose, and the radiation remains active.

Other than the environmental effects of disposing nuclear waste, the

potential of radioactive fallout from a faulty reactor is a dangerous

possibility, and the events following the accident at Chernobyl demonstrated the

long term destructiveness radiation is capable of. In 1986 at Chernobyl, an

unauthorised experiment conducted with the cooling system turned off, lead to

the explosion of one of the reactors. The radioactive fallout spread through

the atmosphere, reaching into northern Europe and Great Britain. The Soviets

claim 31 people died directly from the accident, while deaths due to radiation

are yet to be determined. Radiation sometimes causes genetic mutations in the

child whose parents were exposed to radiation. A few years ago on the

television program ?60 Minutes’, they presented a story on the after effects of

the Chernobyl accident. They revealed horrific shots of mutated embryos

preserved in jars, the most disturbing, an embryo named ?Cyclops’, because it

only had one eye.

While nuclear power is more efficient and environmentally safer in terms

of global warming than fossil fuels, it has a destructive potential that cannot

be ignored. Electricity, generated from the nuclear fission of Uranium 235 or

Plutonium 239 are both elements which are used in nuclear weapons. Radiation

either from waste or fall out from a reactor explosion can cause detrimental

effects, both long and short term, to the environment and society. Precautions

must be taken in security, disposal, and generation of nuclear power and its

waste, in order for it to be a successful resource and temporary alternative.

At present, renewable energy sources are too expensive and are not suitable for

large scale power generation. However, advancing technology may improve on

current systems, making them more efficient and suitable for major electricity

generation. Peter Kelly concluded his thesis, ?…nuclear power should be seen

as a way to tide us over to an age of conservation and renewables. Barring an

unexpected breakthrough in fusion, the age of nuclear power will end in the

foreseeable future.?


1. Microsoft Encarta `95

Microsoft Corporation


2. Nuclear power: an energy future we can’t afford

Peter Kelly

3. World

Energy Needs and Nuclear Power

Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper 11