Friday, February 24, 2012

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Power

Nuclear power is widely perceived as a dangerous technology. However, it is a significant source of power. Read on to know the pros and cons of nuclear power.

Everyone is familiar with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. America dropped atomic bombs on these Japanese cities. They demonstrated the power and destructive capability of the atom. However, nuclear technology is not limited to use in war. It is a major source of energy. Nuclear energy is produced by harnessing the power of the atom. The Sun and other stars are sustained by nuclear reactions. Manmade nuclear power is produced in nuclear reactors. Nuclear fission is used to generate nuclear power. Scientists are currently working on ways of using nuclear fusion to generate nuclear power.

A country like France meets 78% of its energy through nuclear reactors whereas a country like India gets only 3% of its energy through nuclear reactors. Presently nuclear power meets 15% of the world’s energy needs and there are over 400 nuclear reactors in the world. An interesting fact is that the US has not built any nuclear reactors since 1978. Here we look at the pros and cons of nuclear power.

Advantages of Nuclear Power

A single nuclear reactor can produce a substantial amount of power. A nuclear reactor produces much more power per unit weight of nuclear fuel than conventional energy sources like coal and oil. The production of nuclear power does not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence does not contribute to global warming.

The operating costs of a nuclear reactor are relatively low. It decreases dependence on pollution-causing fossil fuels. It results in a nation's reduced dependence on the costly foreign fuel.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Power

The technology used for generating nuclear power can also be used for producing nuclear weapons. The country of North Korea is a classic example of this. The technology still does not exist to use nuclear power in relatively smaller devices like automobiles. 

The waste products which are produced after generation of nuclear power and last for thousands of years, This is a significant polluting factor and there is the problem of safely disposing it. Accidents in nuclear reactors are much more devastating than the conventional energy plants. An instance of this is the 1986 Chernobyl incident. The water in the nuclear plant overheated and subsequently pressure built in one of the pipes, out of which one exploded. The accident was caused by low quality safety infrastructure.

Nuclear reactors are particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The construction cost of a nuclear reactor is high. It takes a significantly long time to construct nuclear plants. At present, the reserves of uranium, a critical nuclear fuel, are limited in the world. Nuclear plant workers may be exposed to high levels of radiation, which can cause cancer and other ailments.

Developing nations like India and China are likely to use cheap and polluting substances like coal for their future energy needs. This will definitely aggravate the problem of global warming. Countries rich in nuclear fuel should supply them with it and countries possessing advanced nuclear technology should give it to them. I hope nuclear power becomes a safe and useful energy source in the future. Let countries invest money and time to improve upon this technology.

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