Nuclear energy has been discussed by many governments and scientists as a new way ahead. It’s said that Nuclear energy is cleaner than Fossil fuels in contributing to climate change, it’s said that it is more efficient and well, the best path to take for the future. But is it what they say it is. Governments and others supporters will only inform you of the upsides but rarely mention the downsides. There are other ways of generating energy in a much cleaner and safer way. Renewable energy is another big path and also the idea of decentralised energy is upcoming as well. Firstly, let’s see in depth what all three types of energy are.
Nuclear energy is released by fission which is firing a neutron at Uranium-235, or other similar elements, breaking it into two daughter nuclei, Krypton (K) and Barium (Ba), and also releasing three more neutrons. The three other neutrons repeat this process resulting in high amounts of nuclear energy. The neutrons are controlled by control rods which absorb the excess neutrons preventing a meltdown caused by too many chain reactions. This process takes place in water. Nuclear energy then released by fission heats water in a separate system, evaporating it to steam which then rotates a turbine connected to a generator that is connected to the national grid. That is how nuclear energy is made. There are no gases emitted by this process that contribute to global warming but nuclear waste is produced that is radioactive.
This waste is then radioactive for about ten thousand years before it becomes slightly stable, this is its half life. Nuclear energy is seen as ‘dirty’ to some people. This is because the existing nuclear power plants in Britain will leave us half a million tonnes of nuclear waste that the government does not know how to get rid of. The cost of nuclear energy is very high as well, the amount of money needed to clean up the waste of the existing nuclear industry in the UK is estimated to be £65bn-£90bn with a further £20bn-£30bn for long term management of the half a million tonne of waste. In addition, even with ten new reactors in the UK, it only delivers a 4% cut in CO2 emissions by 2024, which is too little, too late. 2/3 or the energy generated at nuclear power stations is lost as heat and the transportation of the energy in the national grid.
It’s also unhealthy, one particle of plutonium, smaller than a speck of dust, can cause fatal lung-cancer. The UK civil nuclear industry has a stockpile of 102 tonnes of plutonium with no plans for what to do with it. What’s more, it is polluting. Every day, nuclear power stations pump radioactive pollution into the sea and air. These emissions can travel hundreds of kilometres on the wind and in water, exposing fish, farm animals, wildlife and people to deadly radiation.
The Irish Sea is now the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world because of discharges from nuclear operations at Sellafield. Lastly, it is very dangerous. Nuclear power stations are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. According to one study, a terrorist strike on the storage tanks holding dangerous liquid high-level radioactive waste at Sellafield in west Cumbria has the potential to kill over two million people. Even though Nuclear energy has its downs, it is still a very open choice as it tackles three of the greatest problems we have faced:
1) Nuclear power plants do not require a much space.
2) Nuclear energy or any of its bi-products do not contribute to climate change.
3) Nuclear energy is by far the most concentrated form of energy.
On the other hand, there is another choice. Renewable energy such as wind and solar produce electricity without emitting climate-changing gases. For example, solar panels work by placing a sheet of Silicon and Phosphor combined chemically, resulting in a negative charge, next to a sheet of Silicon and Boron combined chemically resulting in a positive charge. Wires that conduct electricity will be placed between these two sheets. When they are hit with sunlight, photons in the sunlight hit these sheets.
The Silicon and Phosphor sheet will be hit and will release one electron. This electron will then be attracted to the Silicon and Boron sheet. If this happens at a high rate, electrons will flow, electricity is generated. The electricity is then passed down the wire and into the National grid. Renewable energy poses none of the environmental or health threats of nuclear power, produces no dangerous waste, and does not contribute to global warming. Also, study after study has shown that wind power – both on land and at sea – is cheaper than nuclear power. Renewable energy is safe. Clean energy technologies, like local, energy efficient power stations, wind and wave farms are unlikely terrorist targets. Nevertheless one of the main problems with using solar panels is the small amount of electricity they generate compared to their size.
A calculator might only require a single solar cell, but a solar-powered car would require several thousand. If the angle of the solar panels is changed even slightly, the efficiency can drop 50 percent. Some power from solar panels can be stored in chemical batteries, but there usually isn’t much excess power in the first place. The same sunlight that provides photons also provides more destructive ultraviolet and infrared waves, which eventually cause the panels to degrade physically. The panels must also be exposed to destructive weather elements, which can also seriously affect efficiency. Finally, there were four thousand immediate fatalities from 1970 to 1992 all because of Hydro energy. This much higher than the immediate fatalities caused by nuclear, thirty one, in the same time period.
In my opinion, I think that renewable energy is the right way to go because it does not cause any damage to the environment or us at all. It also does not contribute to climate change. It’s also very safe as no terrorist smart enough will bomb a wind turbine. As for nuclear power, it’s very efficient and quick but it is too high of a risk to generate waste we do not know what do with because it can kill every living thing. Also, if terrorist were to get hold of the sites of nuclear reactors, we could have a very deadly threat on our hands, one even bigger than the event of Chernobyl.