Nuclear Power: What’s in store for the future?
Ever since the 19th century, the world has been using fossil fuels in order to power our homes and buildings. But, as we know, more and more greenhouse gasses are being produced, and this is taking its toll on the earth: the ice caps are melting, the weather is becoming more extreme and the sea levels are rising. If we carry on the way we are, there will be dire consequences. However, there is a solution that is incredibly controversial, but it may just save our planet…
Nuclear power has been around since the 1940s, and yet it still isn’t widely accepted as an alternative to fossil fuels. Due to many stereotypes created by TV and comic books, it does not have a good reputation. When we hear about this alternative, most of us think of nuclear bombs and various nuclear meltdowns that have occurred over the years. But there are more benefits to nuclear power than most people realise, despite the fact there are also admittedly downsides.
There are many pros to nuclear power, one of which is the fact that it is a low-pollution producer. There are fewer greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power compared with fossil fuels, and it doesn’t discharge gasses like methane or carbon dioxide, which makes it an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. As well as this, nuclear power gives more energy, and less fuel is required to generate that energy. However, as with anything being produced on a large scale, there is an issue with transporting the uranium, which is the fuel used to generate nuclear power. Nuclear waste also causes significantly less damage to the environment than fossil fuels, but if disposed of or used incorrectly, nuclear waste is radioactive and can be dangerous to the environment. The nuclear industry generates around 2,300 tons of nuclear waste per year. Even the least radioactive substances will take hundreds of years to decay to safe levels, and if it is stored incorrectly, it can leak into the nearby environment and poison animals and pollute habitats, and even making people ill.
There is also the issue of nuclear accidents and meltdowns, which cause serious health issues to people and the environment. The prime example of this is the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred in on the 26th of April 1986. The incident, which occurred in Ukraine, is known to be the worst nuclear accident in history, and the effects of this can still be seen today. There is also the issue of uranium, the fuel used to achieve nuclear fission, being unrenewable; however, it is more abundant that fossil fuels, and so provides us with a temporary solution. Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, uses hydrogen, which is the most abundant element in the universe, but nuclear fusion generates the same amount of energy as it creates, so is useless. Nuclear power plants are also pone to terrorist attacks, due to the devastating effects that attacking them can cause. On the other hand, nuclear power has low operational costs, as uranium doesn’t cost much, and despite the high expenses needed to physically build nuclear power plants, running them is cheap, and the average life of a nuclear reactor is between 40 and 60 years. They are also extremely reliable, when used in the right way, and run without disruption from weather and climate, and nuclear fuel is also broadly accessible and it will last longer than fossil fuels.
So, as our fossil fuels run out and our planet’s health deteriorates, we need to begin finding and creating solutions to our impending doom. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to reverse climate change, and as soon as it becomes impossible, our planet will die. So, should we be using nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels, or should we try and find other solutions that are less risky?
By Beatrice, Year 10