A field of wheat flows gracefully in the wind, deer frolicking on the outskirts. Birds fly playfully overhead, scouting their next meal. Children run through the wheat, tracing their hands across the stalks. Underneath, millions of worms slither through the mud, while moles scurry along in their tunnels, nibbling at the roots. Ecosystems, similar to this one, struggle in a battle against human interaction and intervention. Representative of human interaction, nuclear power plants can cause great harm to the environment while encompassing other harmful aspects.
Currently, nuclear energy contributes a large percentage of the world’s energy production, especially within the United States. Nuclear energy can also produce less carbon dioxide emissions than produced during traditional energy production. However, nuclear energy has been deemed costly by many, with high costs to implement and operate new nuclear power plants. Also, nuclear energy has many risks associated with operating nuclear power plants. Finally, nuclear energy can have immense negative impacts on the environment surrounding the power plant and waste management sites. Therefore, due to nuclear energy’s costly, dangerous, and environmentally unfriendly nature, nuclear energy should not stand as a viable alternative energy source.
To begin with, nuclear energy remains costly to implement and operate. Although scientists are continually searching for less expensive methods of operation, nuclear energy’s high startup costs remain a problem for countries attempting to begin nuclear power programs. Moreover, these great costs make nuclear energy inaccessible to poorer countries. According to researchers’ analyses at the Canadian Center for Treaty Compliance (CCTC), nuclear power does not provide an available source of energy for poorer countries, since costs for nuclear reactors have consistently increased in recent years.
Thus, professional investors may not cover nuclear power plant costs because affordability plans about nuclear energy programs “may be driven by politics, national pride, energy security, industrialization strategy, or in the unlikely worst case, nuclear weapons hedging, rather than sound financial analysis or a rational national energy strategy” (Alger, 2011, p. 74). Since poorer countries cannot afford to set up nuclear programs, nuclear energy should not remain a viable alternative to traditional energy sources, due to the prevention of nuclear programs’ establishment by costly nuclear reactors.
Furthermore, extensive maintenance on reactors makes nuclear energy expensive for investors and governments. According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear energy has become costly for investors in the past making it difficult to achieve the projected 80% increase in nuclear capacity by 2030 (Brumfiel, 2008), demonstrating that investors remain wary of nuclear energy and therefore will not invest in budding nuclear energy programs. A direct consequence of these wary investors is the increasing net cost of nuclear power plants for interested parties or nations. More so, the costs of nuclear energy may divert public opinion from promoting the creation of nuclear reactors due to the economic effects of these reactors.
According to Mycle Schneider, a nuclear consultant from Paris, nuclear parts programs will likely not expand, due to the poor market and lack of skilled labor for the costly nuclear energy programs (Brumfiel, 2008). The diversion of public opinion may cause nuclear energy programs to lose funding making previously built nuclear reactors inactive. These potentially inactive reactors indicate that nuclear energy does not have the stamina required to become a viable alternative energy source. Thus, the costly nature of nuclear energy results in its inability to be consistently implemented throughout the world as an alternative energy source. Most importantly, nuclear power can require government spending, where many governments do not possess the money to shell out for large nuclear reactors.
Confirmed by a situation of the United States Enrichment Corporation, nuclear power plants rely more on government funding due to private investors’ disinterest in the risky nuclear energy business. Exemplifying this statement, the US government funds expensive nuclear projects such as the $3.5 billion power plant in Piketon, Ohio (Brumfiel, 2008). Since government funds redirect from necessary governmental programs, nuclear power plants take much longer to construct than privately funded reactors due to the limited money available for these programs since governments cannot defund other programs simultaneously to pay for the reactor. The redirection of funds to construct a nuclear reactor can also cause nuclear energy programs to lose public support due to the decreased funding of previously beneficial governmental programs.
Not only are nuclear reactors costly, but nuclear energy also comes with many risks of operation within the reactors. Given, nuclear energy can produce large amounts of energy in one plant and releases relative low quantities of carbon dioxide; however, the risks of nuclear energy outweigh these advantages, proving nuclear energy unsuitable for large scale contribution to the world’s energy banks. One of such risks is the many probable health complications stemming from nuclear power plants.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the alpha particles and gamma rays given off by Uranium-238 can increase the probability of lung and bone cancers, and, if ingested at high concentrations, Uranium can cause internal damage to organs as well. Also, Uranium radiation can create reproductive problems or cause cancer in fetuses (Palliser, 2012). This demonstrates that nuclear energy can be extremely dangerous for those working in nuclear power plants since the nuclear decay used in nuclear reactors releases the isotope Uranium-238, thus making nuclear energy a dangerous alternative to traditional energy sources.
Also, nuclear reactors remain vulnerable to harmful accidents and meltdowns. The Fukushima reactor meltdown in 2011 proved the danger of current nuclear waste management methods, when a tsunami released radioactive substances into Japan’s ecosystem (Beckrich, 2013). Additionally, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, Chernobyl, released radiation into the surrounding environment in 1986 and remains unsafe for humans to inhabit within 30 kilometers of the meltdown point. Furthermore, nuclear programs neglect the probability of malfunction when constructing nuclear reactors. For instance, according to research done by the Governmental Nuclear Regulatory Commission, creation of nuclear power plants disregarded the areas’ propensity for natural disasters, and many believe that the nuclear reactors should move to make them safer (Clemmitt, 2011).
These nuclear reactors could be extremely prone to meltdown by the hands of a natural disaster and completely unaware of the propensity of a meltdown, as exemplified by the Fukushima meltdown of 2011. These instances show that nuclear power plants are too vulnerable to meltdown to be considered a viable alternative energy source due to the extreme aftermath of nuclear meltdowns if a nuclear reactor were to malfunction and the lack of site planning for the development of new nuclear reactors.
On top of the dangers of nuclear reactor operation, the waste produced from nuclear reactors can have adverse negative impacts on the environment. Granted, traditional energy sources can harm the environment as well; however, nuclear energy has the ability to cause extreme damage to the environment through the waste produced by nuclear reactors. Primarily, nuclear reactors produce trace amounts of radiation that leaks into the environment. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, nuclear power plants “can eliminate natural habitat[s]… and contaminate the land with toxic byproducts” (Palliser, 2012, p. 17).
When nuclear runoff leaches into the environment it introduces radiation to the environment, greatly harming the organisms within. According to the book Radioecology: Nuclear Energy and the Environment by Whicker and Ward (1982), radioisotopes present form nuclear byproducts, such as iodine, readily enter environmental systems and can be seen present in the “higher animals” (149). Thus, radiation from nuclear reactors greatly harms the environment and the organisms within it and should not be considered a viable alternative energy source.
Moreover, nuclear reactors store waste unsafely for long periods of time. Nuclear power plants produce “nuclear waste” which possesses radioactive properties, and must decay underwater in cement casings for around a decade before they can be safely disposed (Ruhe, 1997). Nuclear reactors must carefully store and discard nuclear waste, and even then can risk harming the environment with the waste. As demonstrated in the 2011 Fukushima meltdown, current methods of nuclear waste storage may be inadequate to safely contain the dangerous, radioactive waste produced by nuclear reactors. Additionally, according to a the website “Time for Change” (2011), a popular news source in the amateur scientific community, the risks of a nuclear reactor and its waste are numerous, with a high probability of meltdown and waste that requires thousands of years to become safe to handle.
This proves that popular media, which typically reflect popular opinions, sources also see the dangers of nuclear energy, further giving rise to the controversy between the benefits and disadvantages of nuclear energy. Current waste management methods have been proven unsafe and therefore cannot persist as a viable alternative to traditional energy sources at this time. Thus, nuclear energy can produce malignant effects on the environment and should not go on as an alternative energy source until methods of waste management significantly improve.
These reasons outweigh nuclear power’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions proving the inability of nuclear energy to become an alternative energy source. Thus, nuclear energy remains too costly for efficient implementation. Its high startup costs lead to weary investors, lack of governmentment funding, and waning public support for nuclear energy programs, demonstrating that nuclear energy may does not have the ability to become a widely used, viable alternative to traditional energy sources.
Also, nuclear energy remains prone to accidents and dangerous for those working within the power plant. The radiation released from nuclear reactors can harm those working within the reactor and the populus surrounding the nuclear reactor given the catastrophic event of nuclear meltdown. The dangers of nuclear energy to those within and near nuclear reactors outweigh the benefits of emission reduction proving that nuclear energy cannot exist as a viable alternative energy source. Finally, nuclear energy can have adverse effects on the environment through the byproducts and waste material produced from the nuclear power plant.
Nuclear waste can release toxic chemicals into the environment surrounding a nuclear reactor or nuclear waste storage site, causing harm to both the plants and animals within said environment or any humans who come into contact with these flora and fauna. Thus, on top of the longevity of nuclear waste prior to stabilization, the harmful attributes of nuclear waste outweigh the benefits of nuclear energy resulting in the inability of nuclear energy to be a viable alternative energy source at this time. A nuclear reactor involves many different parts which must all work together in order to work property, similar to the way all of the plants, animals, and inanimate objects in an ecosystem must work together.