Most countries today are becoming more and more dependent on nuclear power as a source of energy because of its high energy output and the availability of uranium used for fuelling nuclear reactors that generate power to provide electricity in households. Although using nuclear power as a source of energy has benefits like this, the danger posed by using nuclear power is very eminent. This was demonstrated in the recent Fukushima daiichi nuclear reactor crisis wherein the reactors as of March 24, 2011 at Fukushima emitted 30,000 to 110,000 TBq of Iodine 131 much higher compared to Chernobyl’s 760 PBq or 400 kg of I-131, 85 PBq Cs-137 (Shimbun, 2011). Another widely known nuclear reactor accident was the Chernobyl disaster that occurred on April 26, 1986 (Black, 2011).
Threats not only exists in accidents like the ones mentioned, but also threats exists not only from terrorists but also from other countries who have acquired or made nuclear weapons. An all out war will probably see the use of nuclear weapons against each nation’s enemy resulting in a nuclear holocaust. Millions of people will die not only from the initial explosions of the nuclear bombs but also from the following nuclear fallout that will cause widespread radiation sickness.
A German study showed that there is a statistically significant increase solid cancers (54%), and in leukemia (76%) in children aged less than 5 within 5 km of 15 German nuclear power plant sites (Fairlie, 2009).
Use of nuclear energy has two advantages over fossil-fuel plants. (1) Nuclear reactors use less fuel than a fossil-fuel plant to generate the same amount of energy a fossil-fuel plant generates. The fissioning of 1 metric ton of uranium fuel provides the same amount of heat energy as burning of 3 million metric tons of coal or 12 million barrels of oil. (2) Uranium, unlike fossil fuels, does not produce chemical or solid pollutants that are released into the air. (World Book Encyclopedia, 1996).
The trade-off is that (1) nuclear plants costs more to build than fossil-fuel plants. (2) Nuclear plants are potentially hazardous. In order for a nuclear plant to be built, it first has to pass several government requirements that a fossil-fuel plant does not have to meet. Nuclear plants must pass government tests before a certain nuclear plant maybe deemed safe to start operation. In addition to that there have been already many serious accidents involving nuclear plants like the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in 1986 and the more recent Fukushima daiichi plant in Japan that has already reached a certain level of severity making it as much or more disastrous that the Chernobyl accident causing widespread opposition against the building of more nuclear plants. (3) Uranium that is used for continues to emit radiation long after it has been used up posing dangers to any community close to the nuclear plants.
Although experts argue that nuclear power should be used as a source of energy because it is a clean source of energy and does not produce any chemical or solid pollutants, the uranium that is used in fuelling the nuclear plants still remains radioactive and can still harm the surrounding community. To make it worse, the problem of nuclear waste disposal has not yet been solved. A number of solutions have been proposed like geological disposal wherein the radioactive waste is buried 500 to 1000 meters below the ground or the more complicated and costly space disposal of nuclear wastes. The latter being too costly because of the technology needed to be developed and financed to efficiently dispose the wastes.
Proponents of the use of nuclear energy as a source of energy state that nuclear energy is the safest energy option. This, however, is contradicted and is shown to be questionable by the past nuclear plant accidents. Also, uranium, the source needed to power a nuclear plant to generate electricity itself is dangerous. The threat of nuclear terrorism also exists as terrorists can use radioactive nuclear wastes in building nuclear weapons for self-interests which in turn can cause a nuclear war that has the potential to wipeout the human race from the face of the earth.
Summarizing and analysis of the pros and cons of the use of nuclear power, we can see that the sinister consequences of the decision to use nuclear power far outweigh the advantages of using such sources of energy. Continued use of nuclear power could lead to more severe types of accidents with effects that can not be irreversible.
Countries world wide should research on better and safer sources of energy rather than risking the lives of millions of people just to generate the energy needed to supply our daily energy requirements.