NUCLEAR POWER AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO FOSSIL FUELS

by Saffie Jallow

The main sources of power in the United States are Fossil Fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum). The majority of fossil fuels are inexpensive and abundant but their continued use has proven to have a negative impact on the environment over the years. In 2013, CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. This rapid increase in CO2 displays a remarkable relationship with fossil fuel burning, and can be accounted for due to the premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air.[1] Even with the ideology of clean ways to use fossil fuels, (ex. clean coal) many none or low emission alternatives are being sought after.  With nuclear power being a zero to low emission source of energy generation, can it be one of those alternatives?

After the construction of the first commercial nuclear power plant in Calder Hallat Windscale, England, in 1956, nuclear power gained popularity. In the United States, the first fully commercial nuclear power plant began operation in 1960. According to the EPA, nuclear power accounts for nearly 20 percent of the power produced in the United States. Globally, nuclear power accounts for approximately 14 percent of the electricity used. According to these percentages, a few regions in the world are already using nuclear power as an alternative.

In regards to CO2 emissions, nuclear energy operations emit zero or negligible amounts of the potent greenhouse gas. Nuclear facilities also have relatively low costs for operation. With only these two facts, the question can be asked again; can nuclear power be an alternative to the use of fossil fuels? The answer seems to be a clear yes but nuclear power is accompanied by dangerous cons such as hazards from mishandling spent fuel.  Spent Fuel is used nuclear fuel that can become extremely hot and radioactive in certain circumstances. The malfunction of a nuclear facility and release of radiation can mean turning a thriving area into an inhabitable ghost town. Exposure to nuclear radiation is very harmful to humans and the environment. The best example of this occurred in fukushima, March of 2011 when a big threat came from spent fuel pools.  Due to an earthquake followed by a tsunami, some nuclear reactors malfunctioned causing high radioactive releases over a number of days. Approximately 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many individuals fight against the establishment of nuclear plants in fear of an incident similar to fukushima occurring in their back yard.

What occurred in Fukushima was an unfortunate incident but it should not further strength the fear of nuclear power facilities that began yeas before. The fukushima incident was not due to human error, it was due to natural causes (an earthquake, and tsunami). Cautious measures are constantly taken at nuclear power facilities to ensure the safety of everything and everyone in proximity. The use of nuclear energy can be an alternative to the use of fossil fuels but there is a need to heavily focus on low-impact designs and technologies. Extensive protection measures need to be taken/implemented to avoid the release of harmful nuclear radiation. The utilization of nuclear power has the potential to be a strong approach towards reducing the emission of GHG and combating climate change.

 


[1] NASA Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. “Graphic: The relentless rise of carbon dioxide.” http://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/24/ (Accessed 10-5-2016)

Comments
3 Responses to “NUCLEAR POWER AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO FOSSIL FUELS”
  1. cegeadmin says:

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  2. Jame Huang says:

    November 20, 2016 at 6:32 am
    The failure of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor actually was human error NOT caused by nature per se; Japan is a geologically active region and standards have been developed to avoid potential risks. But TEPCO did NOT apply those standards to their facility, they were well aware of periodical floods and were negligent in adequately increasing their residencies. Fukushima’s failure would NOT have happened if TEPCO followed the international standards and best practice.

  3. Jame Huang says:

    The failure of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor actually was human error NOT caused by nature per se; Japan is a geologically active region and standards have been developed to avoid potential risks. But TEPCO did NOT apply those standards to their facility, they were well aware of periodical floods and were negligent in adequately increasing their residencies. Fukushima’s failure would NOT have happened if TEPCO followed the international standards and best practice.

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