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Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power

Updated on November 22, 2016
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Concrete chimneys at a nuclear power plant.  Nuclear energy has long since been controversial.  Detractors highlight the possibilities for catastrophic accidents, plus the long term environmental damage caused by the waste disposal.
Concrete chimneys at a nuclear power plant. Nuclear energy has long since been controversial. Detractors highlight the possibilities for catastrophic accidents, plus the long term environmental damage caused by the waste disposal. | Source

Nuclear power has been around for decades, but it is still controversial, due mainly to safety concerns regarding the technologies used to produce the energy and the waste disposal resulting from the process.

Accidents and leaks, such as those that happened in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, have reignited public fears about the safety of nuclear power in recent times.

On the other hand, many politicians and people interested in clean energy see nuclear power as a way of combating global warming and perceive it as a relatively cheap, safe, reliable, and efficient form of fuel to produce.

My list of the main pros and cons of nuclear power is below, I hope you find it interesting.

The Pros of Nuclear Power

  • The technology involved with nuclear power has been established and improved over many decades, unlike some of the newer power generating technologies which are still in the development phase and untested.
  • Nuclear power can be produced relatively cheaply and efficiently compared to most other types of energy.
  • One nuclear power plant on its own can produce significant amounts of power and is more suited to providing for the needs of big cities and heavy industry than some of the low-power technologies such as solar power, which are more suited to small scale projects such as heating individual homes and offices.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions during nuclear energy production are low, meaning that nuclear power production is one of the best ways to minimize the creation of green house gasses and combat global warming.
  • Developments in nuclear technology mean that some nuclear waste can now be recycled in places like Japan and the EU.

Humanity has nearly suffocated the globe with carbon dioxide, yet nuclear power plants that produce no such emissions are so mired in objections and obstruction that, despite renewed interest on every continent, it is unlikely another will be built in the United States.

— Michael Specter

Nuclear power will help provide the electricity that our growing economy needs without increasing emissions. This is truly an environmentally responsible source of energy.

— Michael Burgess
"Atomic energy?  No thanks" flag.  Opponents of nuclear power in Germany have been effective at lobbying the government to close down plants.  President Angela Merkel recently promised to close all of the country's nuclear power plants by 2022.
"Atomic energy? No thanks" flag. Opponents of nuclear power in Germany have been effective at lobbying the government to close down plants. President Angela Merkel recently promised to close all of the country's nuclear power plants by 2022. | Source

The Cons of Nuclear Power

  • Despite decades of effort, no satisfactory solution has been found in regard to what to do with nuclear waste. Nuclear waste, created as a side effect of producing power, is generally extremely dangerous and remains highly radioactive for thousands of years.
  • As nuclear waste can be used to make nuclear bombs and also some of the technology involved in power production and bomb making is the same, the more that nuclear power spreads, the more chance there is of more countries developing nuclear weapons, making the world a more dangerous place.
  • Nuclear safety can never be fully guaranteed and there will always be a chance, however small, of accidents. These accidents, even if relatively rare, can have devastating effects on the people and environment around them. The more countries that use nuclear power and the more power plants that are built, the more the chances of accidents happening.
  • Modern nuclear power plants depend on uranium. There is only a finite amount of uranium around in the world and it will eventually run out - some scientists think that the uranium supply may be used up within as little as thirty years.
  • Much of the uranium sources are on land occupied by tribal and indigenous peoples, who do not want uranium mining on their land.
  • Nuclear power’s ability to reduce green house gasses is limited in practice. For one thing, it takes two or three decades to plan and build new nuclear power plants in a typical Western Democracy, but global warming needs to be tackled straightaway.
  • Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build.
  • Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks by extremists, with potentially catastrophic results.

Site of the 2011 Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Years later, the site is still highly radioactive, with 160,000 evacuees living in temporary housing.  Some of the surrounding area will be unfarmable for centuries. The cleanup will take 40 yrs.
Site of the 2011 Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster. Years later, the site is still highly radioactive, with 160,000 evacuees living in temporary housing. Some of the surrounding area will be unfarmable for centuries. The cleanup will take 40 yrs. | Source

List of The Worst Nuclear Accidents

1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US - 3 killed when control rod is improperly removed.

1976 Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia - Malfunction during fuel replacement causes 2 deaths.

1986 Chernobyl disaster, Ukrainian SSR - Fire and meltdown causes the direct death of 56, with 4,000 to 985,000 at cancer risk.

2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan - Steam explosion kills 4 and injures 7.

2011 Fukushima, Japan - Tsunami floods reactor plant and drows 2 workers. overheating, meltdowns, and evacuations result

Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on clean renewable energy and one more dollar spent on making the world a comparatively dirtier and a more dangerous place, because nuclear power and nuclear weapons go hand in hand.

— Mark Z. Jacobson

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© 2014 Paul Goodman

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