Nuclear energy is big deal for countries wanting to move towards sustainable electricity but, are disadvantages of nuclear energy? Why is it that not all countries adopt nuclear energy? You got your questions answered here.
To start, what is nuclear energy?
The energy source located in the nucleus, or core, of an atom is known as nuclear energy. Once captured, this energy can be used to generate power by causing nuclear fission in a reactor through either nuclear fusion or nuclear fission, two different types of atomic reactions.
The latter causes atoms to divide into two or more nuclei when uranium is used as fuel. The heat produced by the fission energy causes a cooling substance, typically water, to boil.
The steam produced by boiling or pressurized water is then directed into turbines, which spin and produce energy. Uranium is the material used in reactors to create nuclear fission.
Fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and petroleum allowed for the industrialization of economies all over the world for millennia; it wasn’t until recently that nations began to accept an alternative, renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy.
Early commercial nuclear power plants began operating in the 1950s, providing many nations around the globe with an alternative to importing oil and gas and a significantly less polluting energy source than fossil fuels.
Following the energy crisis of the 1970s and the sharp rise in oil prices that followed, an increasing number of nations chose to start nuclear power programs. The majority of reactors were constructed globally between 1970 and 1985.
With 439 nuclear plants presently in operation across 32 countries and about 55 more under construction, nuclear energy now provides about 10% of the world’s energy needs.
In 2020, 13 nations generated at least 25% of their total energy from nuclear sources, with the US, China, and France capturing the lion’s share of the market.
Table of Contents
Major Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy
- High Initial Construction Costs
- Accident Threat
- Radioactive Waste
- Fuel Availability
- Impact on the Environment
- Potential for Reactor Shutdowns
- Militants’ Favorite Target
1. High Initial Construction Costs
A new nuclear power plant can take five to ten years to construct and cost billions of dollars.
Although, understandably, some countries might be hesitant to pursue nuclear energy, nuclear plants are cheap and efficient for generating electricity while in operation, so much of the initial upfront cost to build (and more) is recovered throughout the lifetime of the plant.
Although the benefits typically outweigh the drawbacks, countries looking to construct new plants may be greatly discouraged by the cost.
2. Accident Threat
Nobody wishes to ever again go through a catastrophe like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or Fukushima Daiichi. However, mishaps do occur. It was either human error or a natural catastrophe in each of these significant nuclear incidents that brought the power plants to an end.
After all, human error is inevitable, and there is presently no way to prevent or control natural disasters. It is unrealistic to assume that there will never be a mishap because nuclear energy is managed by people.
After nuclear disasters like Five Mile Island and Fukushima, the effects on human existence are still being felt years or even decades later. The radiation from these occurrences still causes physical and neurological abnormalities in newborns.
3. Radioactive Waste
A nuclear power facility typically produces 20 metric tons of nuclear fuel annually, along with a significant amount of nuclear waste. That figure increases to around 2,000 metric tons per year when you take into account every nuclear power facility on Earth.
The majority of this waste transmits radiation and heat, indicating that any compartment it is stored in will eventually be consumed. Additionally, it may harm the plants’ surroundings and nearby living things.
As transmitted parts and supplies, nuclear power facilities produce a lot of low-level radioactive waste. Used nuclear fuel eventually degrades to safe radioactive levels, but it takes a very long period. It takes a lot of time, even for low-level radioactive material, to achieve adequate levels of safety.
In January 2019, the anti-nuclear environmental organization Greenpeace published a report that described the so-called “crisis” of nuclear waste for which “no solution on the horizon” is in sight. On Runit Island, one such answer was a concrete “coffin” for nuclear waste that has started to crack open and may release radioactive material.
4. Fuel Availability
A renewable energy supply is not nuclear energy. Although it is presently abundant, uranium has a finite supply. The possibility that uranium will eventually run out still exists even though it is not a fossil fuel.
Uranium must be mined, synthesized, and then activated to create energy; in contrast, renewable energy sources like solar and wind have an endless supply. This procedure is fairly pricey.
The extraction of uranium is a very lengthy process, especially because uranium is a scarce resource.
5. Impact on the Environment
Nuclear power plants have other effects on the environment in addition to the waste they generate. For instance, uranium extraction and enrichment are not eco-friendly practices.
Even though radioactive particles are not left behind during open-pit uranium mining, they can still cause erosion and even contaminate neighboring water supplies.
6. Potential for Reactor Shutdowns
When nuclear reactors are turned down, the structures are often too big and unstable to be removed. As a result, they occupy valuable land space and pose a risk of contaminating nearby regions.
7. Militants’ Favorite Target
Powerful nuclear electricity is available. Nuclear energy is now used to produce weaponry. It might be the end of the world if these armaments fall into the wrong hands.
Terrorist attacks frequently target nuclear power facilities. It can be brutal for humanity when security is a little slack. The potential for nuclear energy to be misused is a further case against it. such as in the manufacture of bombs and weaponry.
We hope you can responsibly make your own decision about whether you believe nuclear energy is a viable option for our future energy requirements now that you are more knowledgeable about it and are aware of some of its drawbacks.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.