Is Nuclear Energy Green, Renewable and Safe?

When we hear the word nuclear energy, the first thing that comes in our mind is destruction and war. Being a nuclear energy is a position of being highly powerful because you have a lot of potential to produce energy. The fusion and fission of the atoms of uranium produces a huge amount of useful energy. No doubt, this is a reliable source of energy which can be used for productive needs besides making an atom bomb!

It is common that while talking about nuclear energy we are usually referring to the generation of electricity using nuclear reactions. It is interesting that although the production of electricity is the most common utility, nuclear energy can also be applied in many other areas, such as agriculture, medical needs and environmental applications.

Nuclear reaction tends to release a million times more energy, in contrast to solar or wind energy sources. So a large amount of electricity can be generated using Uranium at very low cost. An interesting fact tells us that nuclear power generates around 11% of the world’s energy needs, and also contributes to the production of vast amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel. But the question arises, Is producing energy through nuclear cells green, renewable and safe?

Is it green?

Nuclear energy being green or not is one the main arguments in time. But without doubt the biggest advantage of this energy is that greenhouse gases, be it carbon dioxide, methane or ozone are not released during a reaction of nuclear atoms. The major cause of global warming and climate changes are the greenhouse gases and they act as a great threat for the globe and the burning of fossil fuel generally leads to the production of such gases. It is menace for both the environment and human health! Because there is no emission of these gases into the atmosphere during a nuclear reaction, it therefore has no direct pollution and can be considered green.

But there is a little argument about nuclear energy not being entirely greenhouse gas free. It is true that nuclear power plants do not tend to release GHGs, but it is not absolutely accurate to say that uranium or the nuclear fuel cycle is gas free. We cannot deny that to develop uranium mines, to bring them into operation, transport the material and people to the sites, build the nuclear facilities and process fuel takes a considerable amount of energy.

What about the waste? With modern techniques used in the process of nuclear energy formation, used up nuclear fuel is safely removed. Also the used fuel is reprocessed to yield new fuel, radically reducing the amount of waste that need to be disposed off. An interesting fact tells us that if nuclear power is used to produce the entire lifetime needs, the waste would only be enough to fill a can of Coke. No wonder this is a very small quantity and can be safely deposited.

Is it renewable?

Nuclear power produces large amount of energy but the production of nuclear energy is highly dependent on uranium, which is just not limited but is an exhaustible fuel. The extinction of this resource can cause a serious problem. It is without any argument a sure story that once uranium is depleted, the reactors will be of no use, the plants will have to shut down, and will keep contaminating the land and environment for a long time.

But there is a contradiction on this argument. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory does not mention nuclear power source in its basic definition, there has been a regular try by Pro-nuclear officials and the nuclear industry to brand the nuclear technology as renewable, on the basis that it produces little or no greenhouse gases. Similarly, the supporters of nuclear energy all around the globe point out the low carbon emission aspect of nuclear energy as its chief characteristic to be simply defined as renewable energy. But, ‘If the goal to build a renewable energy infrastructure was just to lower the carbon emission then there was no reason for not including nuclear energy in the renewable list’ is what the strong opponents of the nuclear power say. However, efforts to categorize nuclear as a renewable source of power so far is making little progress.

Is it safe?

We cannot forget that any malfunction or accident at a nuclear plant can be potentially disastrous, even catastrophic. The events of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are prudent examples to be remembered. The event resulted in large amount of radiation being released in the environment, leading to loss of life, destruction of land and nature. But how can one deny the possibility of repetition of such disasters? There is no guarantee that a major accident may never happen, like what if it does?

This energy is also used for production and creation of nuclear weapons. It is common for nuclear weapons to make use of fission, fusion, or the combination of both reactions for destructive purposes. They can cause a large-scale devastation and prove to be a major threat to the world. No wonder the effects can be observed for many generations as all of us have seen the consequences of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is also a room to consider the potential to use nuclear materials and wastes as terrorist weapons, which is another threat to the world. In all cases, safety concerns of any incident or happening increases as nuclear technology spreads around the globe.

The conclusion for this debate can be made by a research done by Stanford University. They say that the existence of this debate is because the confusion stands over what exactly the term renewable energy means and the exact requirement that need to be met in order to be stated as renewable. A statement by Helene Pelosi, the interim director General of IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), says that IRENA will not support nuclear energy programs because it’s a long, complicated process; it produces waste and is relatively risky. This proves that their verdict has nothing to do with having a maintainable supply of fuel. And if they want to be considered as a renewable source then they have to figure out how to make a way to deal with the nuclear waste management and ask IRENA to reconsider them once again.

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