Nuclear energy is a powerful source of energy that has been used for decades to generate electricity. It has many advantages, such as its low carbon footprint and its ability to provide a reliable source of energy. However, it also has some major drawbacks that must be taken into consideration. In this article, we will discuss three major issues with nuclear energy: weapons proliferation, cost and waste risks.
Uranium, the fuel used in nuclear reactors, is a finite resource and requires a lot of energy to extract and process. This means that much of the net energy created by nuclear power plants would be offset by the energy input needed to build and dismantle plants and to extract and process uranium ore. The cost of nuclear power is also much higher than renewable sources such as wind and solar. Initial capital, fuel and maintenance costs are much higher for nuclear plants than wind and solar, and nuclear projects tend to suffer from cost overruns and construction delays.
The price of renewable energy has fallen significantly in the last decade, and is projected to continue to fall (1). Finally, nuclear power plants produce massive amounts of toxic and radioactive waste. The most dangerous of these wastes is called high-level waste, a liquid waste stream that transports chemicals used in reprocessing along with many radioactive isotopes from spent fuel or other material. Underground tanks where liquid waste from past reprocessing is stored have been known to leak, posing fire or explosion risks as a result of chemical reactions inside the tanks.
It is clear that there are advantages and disadvantages to nuclear power, but it is important to consider the potential risks before investing in this form of energy. Countries with a history of using nuclear energy have learned the importance of regulation, supervision and investment in safety when it comes to nuclear energy. Poor countries with no experience in building and maintaining nuclear power plants may decide to build them anyway, which could lead to disastrous consequences if not properly regulated. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) licenses plants for 40 years, but with the average age of nuclear power plants in the United States reaching 40 years, “the possibility and value of continuing to upgrade these aging plants rather than replacing them with more efficient and resilient alternatives is increasingly being questioned” (Ferguson).
In conclusion, while nuclear energy has many advantages, it also has some major drawbacks that must be taken into consideration before investing in this form of energy. Weapons proliferation, cost and waste risks are all issues that must be addressed before investing in nuclear power. Countries should lead by example and encourage poor countries to invest in safe energy technologies.