Does The UK Need More Nuclear Power Stations?

In this piece of coursework I am going to explain my opinion on the question “Does the UK need more nuclear power stations”.

Ever since it was discovered people have wanted and got as much electricity as they wanted, because of this the amount of electricity used and produced has being increasing very rapidly in the last 20years - Does The UK Need More Nuclear Power Stations? introduction. This is causing several problems, especially the amount of pollution that is being produced by the ‘latest’ fossil fuelled power stations.

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Arguments For and Against Nuclear Power

For;

Politics-It is predicted that in the nest 15 years the government will be forced to repeat the 8 hour electricity rota, similar to what happened in the 1970’s miners strike. Also it is predicted that most of our oil and natural gas will need to come from politically unsafe countries, like Iraq or Russia and this means that they can use their production of fossil fuels as a political ‘lever’ and you would have situations like “If you do not give us compensation for X, Y or Z then we will shut down our pipelines”, this could cause tension between countries like Iraq and America, this could and probably will lead to another war.

Less Greenhouse Gases-Once built Nuclear Power Stations produce NO greenhouse gases, and while they are being built they equipment produces no more than if they were building a “normal” power station. This is a very important reason as at the moment the biggest worry is global warming, which is caused by burning fossil fuels, which could be reduced if the majority of our power was made my Nuclear Power Stations.

Against;

Nuclear Waste Disposal-Nuclear Waste stays highly radioactive for 1000’s of years and can cause severe radiation poisoning, cancer and even death if anybody is accidentally exposed to it, as what happened with Chernobyl. It is also expensive to store and transport High Level waste as it needs to be stored on special “casks” so that if there is an accident nothing should leak.

Risk of Terrorist/Activist Attacks-Due to the controversial nature of Nuclear Power, the risks of attacks from less “scrupulous” activist groups is greater as they could feel that nuclear power is more of a “risk”. Terrorists and/or Suicide Bombers will also be more interested in a Nuclear Power Station as they know that the destructive power is a lot greater (again look at the destruction the Chernobyl caused) this would mean that if a Terrorist somehow breached the containment buildings (several meters of concrete and lead) they could wipe out a whole country and leave it uninhabitable for centuries.

(1) Other Fossil Fuel “Mainstream” Energy Sources:

(1) Coal;

Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels, and is also the easiest to extract and use, as it is only burnt and does not require additional items such as control rods or a containment building, so was initially it is quite cheap, however because of tightening emission regulations many new features, such as converters that reduce the amount of CO2 being produced cost a lot of money, and can also waste up to 20% of the plants power to run the equipment, which in an average 1320MW stations means that 264MW is wasted, and because of this the cost of the electricity has risen.

(1) Gas;

Gas makes up approximately 20%-30% of the energy produced in the UK. It is cheaper than coal and less damaging to the environment, however it is more efficient to burn gas directly at a home then it is to burn it in a power station even more modern CCGT (Combined-Cycle Gas Turbine) stations. The bigger problem is that there is even less gas than oil, and there is predicted to only be 60 years of gas left. The biggest advantage with Gas is that it produces less then half of the CO2 per unit of electricity compared to coal but if the gas leaks it would cause severe environmental damage (Methane is a 20 times greenhouse gas then CO2).

(1) Oil;

The use of oil has being increasing in the 20th and 21st century, not only for fuel for power stations but also for the petrochemical industry e.g. plastics, and petrol, however oil has had a less than successful birth, when it was first being used, as has already being mentioned at the start, most of it was coming for communist or unstable countries and then in 1973 OPEC quadrupled the prices on oil and led to the oil crisis. Oil may emit less CO2, Nitrous Oxides and Particulates then coal but, it emits far more sulphur, which contributes to acid rain, and is causing the death of much of the wildlife close to the power stations, and now countries now have to pay lots of money to have oil burning stations converted to run on low sulphur oil.

Graphs/Statistics:

(1) Annual CO2 Emissions/How Long Will the Reserves Last/Cost per Unit of Electricity

Type Of Power Station

Amount of CO2 Produced (tonnes)

Reserves (years)(Approx)

Cost (pence)

Coal

7,025,000

230 years

3-4p

Oil

5,620,000

40 years

Approx 3p

Gas

3,895,000

65 years

2.5-3p

Nuclear

0,060,000

50-1000 years*

Approx 2.5p

*Uranium in “Thermal Rector” 50 years, Reusing/Producing Uranium in “fast reactors” 1000+years

(2)

This graph shows how the production of Nuclear Power has changed over the last 20 years, the graph starts on 1980 and finishes on 2006, so this graph is slightly out of date however as we can see the trend is for an increase in nuclear power generation in the whole world, including some more underdeveloped places such as South America. The largest producer of Nuclear Energy is Europe, because France is one of the biggest producers of Nuclear Energy. Finally some countries have “flat-lined” where they are producing a steady amount, like Eurasia.

(3)

This second graph shows how different types of energy sources have been increasing compared to all of the other sources of energy. Note how nuclear power is still a minority compared to Coal/Oil or Gas, and before 1970, was virtually non-existent and only took off around 1976, with the oil crisis forced changes upon people. Also notice how people are trying to find alternatives to coal, with things like peat, which may work in the short term, but would cause even more environmental impact over the long term as peat emits more total greenhouse gases then coal itself as the peat was actually helping to soak up the CO2.

(4)

The third graph/chart shows how use of resources has changed over the last 33 years as a proportion of how much electricity has being produced (in Mtoe or Millions of tonnes of oil equivalent). The first thing is that the amount of electricity being produced as nearly doubled in 30 years, so by 2050 that number could have doubled again, and seen as the worlds population is growing exponentially it could be even higher. On this chart you can see that more of the “greener” energy sources like Gas, Nuclear and Hydro-Electric have increased, but only slightly while the less “green” options have started to reduce, the only 2 anomalies are “Combustible Renewables (e.g. Trees) and Waste and Coal and Peat as these have done the opposite of there counterparts, this could be because we have started to recycle waste, so burning it seems like a less environmentally friendly alternative and Coal could be increasing due to lack of other resources.

Conclusion

After going through all of the information that I could I have come to the conclusion that, firstly, we should stop using high hydrocarbon fuels such as oil or coal as these are the biggest contributors to global warming and that if we don’t it could be too late to change it full stop, let alone with “alternative energy”. Secondly that people/PM’s/Presidents etc, should stop being so selfish about climate change “it not my problem”/”how can our county do anything if they don’t sign up” etc, it is all of our problems and we need to understand that sooner rather than later. Finally it is that even though Nuclear Power still has a long way to go before it a perfect solution and there are still a lot of problems, including disposal of waste, and the training of the people who work there, it is the best alternative, because it has the best balance of pollution/energy produced and also because modern power station are so safe the chance of a “Chernobyl” happening are almost zero, and finally because Nuclear Power is still being developed it can only keep getting better, compared to other mainstream fuel sources, which have already being as developed as much as they can be.

Appendix

(1) -Pages 10 to 14 of Developing Energy and Nuclear Power by British Nuclear Energy Forum

(2) -Copy of 6 Worldwide Recent Nuclear Generation.xls provided by The Science Department

(3) -Page 8 of Key World Energy Statistics 2008 written by The International Energy Agency

(4) -Page 8 of Key World Energy Statistics 2008 written by The International Energy Agency

Evaluating Sources

(1) -A very detailed source and contains lots of information about nearly all fuel sources, emissions, use and predicted lifespan of that fuel. It is, surprisingly a very unbiased source with balanced arguments for the fuel sources, and also gives all of the “cons” of Nuclear Power as well as the “pros” so you are able to formulate your own opinions better. Overall one of the best sources I have used.

(2) -A useful source of information and helped me to make the first graph.

(3) And (4)-Probably a better source of information then (2) as this contains the statistics and graphs for about 70 different things, from Total Energy Production, to Emissions, to Fossil Fuel Production by Region. This is also a better source because it has being written by a reputable organization, and also you would know anything written by them should be unbiased as they are such a large organization.

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