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In this essay I am going to investigate into the topic of nuclear power. I am going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of using nuclear generated electricity as oppose to the burning of fossil fuels and the use of renewable energy. The issue of pollution caused by these sources of electricity will also be discussed in this essay and compared to each of the other sources. The reality is we need more generated electricity as you can see from the graph; the energy we need is rising and is expected to keep rising.
But at the same time, we must not generate more greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The over production of greenhouse gases is currently a very important issue because the already very high, and increasing levels of greenhouse gases is leading to global warming, I found this information from wikipedia,(www.wikipedia.com / Greenhouse Gases). Governments around the world have agreed to the Kyoto protocol which means that they have agreed to be working towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions and therefore lowering pollution because the temperatures are rising and could eventually lead to the melting of the polar ice caps which would lead to the rise of the sea levels.
Therefore we must cut back on carbon dioxide emissions by reducing the amount of energy produced by burning fossil fuels but then at the same time find an alternative method of producing the energy that we currently are getting from the fossil fuel power stations. Is nuclear power the answer?
The following pie chart shows the percentage of each fuel used
As you can see from the graph, it shows that the majority of the energy that we produce comes from coal and gas, 2 fossil fuels.
These produce a lot of carbon dioxide, adding to the greenhouse effect, and the worlds resources of these fuels are rapidly decreasing.
Nuclear Power Stations
There are many advantages of using nuclear reactors as an alternative source of electricity as oppose to fossil fuel burning power stations such as:
* Nuclear power stations are relatively cheap to run as they cost about the same as coal burning power stations.
* Nuclear power stations do no produce smoke or carbon dioxide, so does not contribute to global warming.
* There is a huge amount of energy produced from a small amount of fuel.
* There is only a very small amount of waste produced.
* Nuclear power is reliable.
* Fossil fuels are running out in the near future (oil is predicted to run out around 2030), whereas uranium will not run out for a very long time.
As with everything there are also many disadvantages of using nuclear power, but the question is, do the advantages overcome the disadvantages, so is nuclear power, overall, a good idea or bad?
* Although not much waste is produced, the waste is highly toxic and must be sealed up properly and buried for many years i.e. 1000s of years, to allow the radiation to ‘leak away’ for the area to become safe again.
* People do not want to live near a radioactive dumping ground because of the danger, and because of this house prices around these areas dramatically fall.
* Although a lot of money has spent on safety, if it does go wrong then a nuclear accident can be a major disaster. E.g. at Chernobyl in Ukraine went into meltdown and caused major radiation all across Europe, some radioactive dust, called fallout, landed in the UK.
* Power stations only have a life expectancy of 20-25 years.
* Transporting uranium and the waste is very dangerous and hard to do safely.
* Nuclear power stations cannot just be built anywhere, they must be built far enough away from settlements because of the radiation.
* Exposure to radiation has been known to cause thyroid cancer, which is non-fatal but highly traumatic and life changing.
* There is also a risk of the nuclear fuel and/or waste falling into the wrong hands, i.e. terrorists using the radioactive materials as weapons.
The information used for the advantages and disadvantages came from a website I found which was written by a science teacher (www.darvill.clara.net/alternerg/nuclear.htm). This could be biased however as the teacher may be for the use of nuclear reactors.
Should we be looking to use more nuclear power or more wind farms?
We all know that fossil fuels are running out but how can we replace the energy that is produced by these power stations? To decide this I am going to look at the costs to provide 20% of the energy needed in the UK over 30 years for both a nuclear power station and wind farms. I will produce a graph looking at these costs.
As you can see from the graph there would be little difference in the cost to produce 20% of the UK’s needed energy if it was not for the massive costs to store the radioactive waste. So it is more efficient to produce power via wind farms. I got the information needed to make this graph from the OCR handout so it is reliable and should not be biased.
In conclusion to the question, should we build more nuclear power stations, I think that there are many positive aspects of using nuclear power. Several of the advantages of nuclear power are important, such as the fact that nuclear generated electricity is, cheap to produce, reliable and produce a huge amount of energy from a small amount of food. There are, however, a couple of very important factors.
One of these being, that fossil fuels are rapidly running out which means that an alternative energy source must be used sooner or later. This is not the most important reason that we should change to nuclear power however. I believe that the best reason for changing to nuclear power is because nuclear power stations do not produce carbon dioxide emissions or smoke, thus not contributing to global warming which helps to solve 2 problems at once.
However, nuclear power stations are not all good. There are also many disadvantages with generating nuclear electricity, such as; nuclear accidents can cause major disasters (Chernobyl), power stations have short life spans and power stations must be built far away from settlements due to radiation. The most important reason for not building nuclear power stations however is due to the fact the toxic waste produced must be sealed and buried for a very long time. I think this for several reasons, as the surrounding areas of these burial places are greatly affected in many ways, the humans, animals and plants around could be affected by radiation and house prices fall greatly due to the fact that people do not want to live near these places.
The radiation is bad enough but also the cost to store the nuclear waste is huge. If it was not for the cost to store the nuclear waste then nuclear power would cost approximately the same as wind power but due to storage costing so much, ï¿½170 billion approx, (www.uspirg.org/home/reports/report-arhives/healthy-communities/the-high-cost-of-nuclear-power-why-maryland-cant-afford-a-new-reactor), it puts the cost of nuclear energy sky high. It is for these reasons that I believe that we should not build more nuclear power stations, but try to replace the energy produced by the burning of fossil fuels with wind power.
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