Nuclear technology – deliverance or bane?

For years now, the argument about nuclear power has seemed to be a never ending story. Although the debate peaked during 1970’s and 1980’s – when accidents at a Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disaster occurred – it had not stopped till today. Of course, this turn of events was caused mainly by more disastrous incidents (e.g. Fukushima, 2011).  However, the controversy around each of these accidents somewhat undermines their significance as arguments against nuclear power usage. Moreover, the technology itself has already provided the society with numerous benefits – not only in the energy sector – which convinces an increasing number of people in favour of nuclear science.

Energy benefits

Even though renewable energies make strong competition, nuclear power is still in the lead when it comes to efficiency and controllability. It is significantly cheaper than fossil fuels (e.g. oil and coal), and, differently to them, generates very little to no carbon dioxide emissions. This is an extremely valid pro-argument, in the times when global warming proceeds ten times faster than throughout 5,000 previous years. Even though cost-wise there appear to be a few more profitable technologies, such hydro and geothermal, nuclear technology does not depend on atmospheric conditions and is able to generate energy for nearly 90% of the year. Hence, power obtained from nuclear fission reactors is contributes significantly to increase in energy security.

Ambiguous circumstances

Of course, numerous accidents have catalized a strong oppositional movement against nuclear power usage. However, the circumstances accompanying each of the disasters were out of usual routine and, hence, very ambiguous. For instance, Chernobyl accident occurred due to experimental operations performed on cooling system, which were not even consulted with scientific manager nor reactor chief designer. In case of Fukushima,  a 15-meter tsunami (caused by a major earthquake) disabled cooling of the reactors, which led to the disaster. This shows that the accidents were often not a consequence of the usual routine, but of other, non-standard events.

Beyond energy

Apart from power sector, nuclear power research led to discoveries of numerous medical solution. For instance, nuclear activation (one of the uses of the nuclear reactors) can produce radioisotopes widely used in medical industry. For example, yttrium-90 microspheres are used to treat liver cancer cells. Other products, such as strontium, gallium or thallium, are facilitated to tissue examining, which dispenses the state of an analyzed organs and indicates the presence of the disease.

It is known that many issues providing the society with irreplaceable solutions had been controversial at some point, but which have earned their way to success, after all. In case of nuclear technology, its benefits in terms of energy production and environment protection are clear – the increase in air pollution in areas where nuclear power has been used dropped approximately by half. Additionally, more than one third of patients treated with nuclear medicine have recovered from cancer since 2010. Even though numbers speak for their own, everybody has to decide on their own which side to take.


Sources:

  • “What Is the Most Efficient Source of Electricity?” WSJ. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.
  • “Nuclear Energy.” Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Power. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.
  • “Global Warming : Feature Articles.” Global Warming : Feature Articles. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.
  • Fukushima Accident. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.
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