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Is It Time to Revive Nuclear Power?

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Today, we are facing most significant problems in our human’s history, global warming and energy crisis. As a different energy source from the conventional fossil fuel, nuclear power can reduce the carbon emissions and support our energy supply. Unfortunately, nuclear energy has many problems that can’t be ignored. The issue comes up whether deploy substantive nuclear energy plants is valuable with these unsolved problems. Sequent paragraphs will summarize a “yes” article and a “no” article on this issue of deploying nuclear energy plants and give my own critiques. Professor Stephen Ansolabehere’s writing of the article “The Future of Nuclear Power” from the book “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues(11th En.)”, edited by Thomas Easton 2006, McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, Dubuque, IA, states his argument of supporting expanded use of nuclear power. Stephen states the problems come from our energy system depend on the fossil fuels can only be relieved by several options include maintain nuclear power.

The increase of nuclear power is limited by four reasons: cost, which is nuclear energy has no advantage compare to the fossil fuel with no carbon tax or disposition; safety, nuclear energy is considered dangerous especially after the Three Mile Island accident; proliferation, the concern of nuclear power plants’ components are used as precursor of nuclear weapons; waste, the disposition of spent fuel will cause problems after long time. In the global growth scenario, in 2050, carbon emission will probably be 13,000 million tones, if 1000 GWe reactors of nuclear power are deployed, they can avoid 800 million tones carbon emission from gas-fired or 1800 million tones carbon emission from coal-fired. There are three representative types fuel recycle deployment, which are one through mode thermal reactors, reprocessing thermal reactors and fast reactors with a balanced closed fuel cycle. At present one through mode thermal reactors fitting the condition of low cost and low possibilities of proliferation. US’s Public attitude toward nuclear power is not supportive and people don’t consider that carbon-free character as a reason to expand nuclear power.

On economics nuclear power is not competitive because the capital cost and the lack of carbon tax. Government should make it convenient to get operating licenses and provide subsidy for some new nuclear plants. Today’s safety standard can be expected the frequency of serious reactor core accidents from 10-4/reactor year to 10-5/ reactor year. This standard can be ensured by new light water reactor plants. The high temperature gas-cooled reactor is another candidate has some advantages in some aspects compare to light water reactors. Waste management as a major issue of nuclear energy has not been solved completely. Spent fuel will cause long-term risk. The U.S. attempt to solve this problem on the program of Yucca Mountain and achieve successful commissioning but if nuclear energy are expanded future more and more Yucca Mountain repositories should be built all over the world. Advanced, closed fuel cycles can be a solution of reducing long-term rick from the waste and the load of spent fuel. They analyzed the waste management and the conclusion is that government should balance the short-term rick, long-term risk and the economic costs.

Small proliferation risk is necessary to expand nuclear power all over the world. Government should restrict the enrichment and weapon-usable material. Nowadays there are three issues should be focused: existing stocks of separated plutonium can be directly used as weapon, transfer of technology and the nuclear facilities which are lack of controls. They suggest The International Atomic Energy Agency should focus on its safeguard function and be given the authority to inspect declared facilities to suspected illicit facilities. More attention should be given to the limiting of enrichment technologies’ proliferation. IAEA should found a protecting frame of the whole process of nuclear power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy should establish a Nuclear System Modeling project carryout the analysis, research, collection of data needed to solve nuclear power’s problems. Professor Ansolabehere states there are only few solutions of reducing emission of carbon so we need all of these options to overcome global warming.

Increase use of nuclear power as one of these solutions we would better not exclude it from our solutions. The benefit we can get from increasing use of nuclear energy 50 years later could be decreasing 800 million to 1,800 tons carbon emission contrast to overall carbon emission will probably be 13,000 million tons carbon emission. On economics, because nuclear energy is carbon-free power source, it can take advantage of the carbon tax. Nuclear energy can be competitive on economics by the government’s subsidy and decreasing up-front capital costs. Risk of disposing spent fuel can be accepted in short-term, but it can cause long-term risks. Strengthening control of nuclear fuel cycle can decrease the probability of proliferation. The safety of nuclear power is acceptable if they can accomplish today’s standard which is from 10-4/ reactor year to 10-5 year. Because the serious issue of proliferation, the write should do more investigation on this aspect, like dividing the areas can be built nuclear plants and the areas suggested not build nuclear plants yet.

Professor Karl Grossman writes article “The Push to Revive Nuclear Power,” on the book “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues(11th Ed.), edited by Thomas Easton 2006, McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, Dubuque, IA.” He wrote that The Bush administration and the nuclear industry are pushing revive nuclear power in the U.S. The Bush administration has close relationship with the nuclear industry. The energy “transition” advisors are no one representing renewable energy or environment organization. Bush founded a “National Energy Policy Development Group” and the General Accounting Office are proceeding a lawsuit because the chairman of the panel refuse to disclose who they met with before setting policy. The panel issued a report to substantially increase the use of nuclear power in America. The policy will increase the nuclear power plants by founding new generators on existing sites and extend the license of existing plants by another 20 years. The old reactors are dangerous and the Bush-Cheney administration is too bullish on the gas-cooled, pebble bed reactor. And pebble bed reactor has failed example in Germany.

The new nuclear push will be undertaken by the “one-step” licensing. This new licensing idea will reveal the defects of nuclear construction; the nuclear plants project can’t be slowed down or stopped anymore. The money of nuclear industry are involved in the presidential campaigns. Public’s right to hear on nuclear plant licensing is reducing. Nuclear advocates are trying to change the standards of radiation become harmful. The repository site at Yucca Mountain is facing a big problem of possibility of flooding and leakage. Some nuclear waste is buried in the leased land from Native Americans. The Price-Anderson Act limits the benefit of people who are affected by the nuclear plant disaster. The renewal of Price-Anderson is only to build new reactors. Because the exiting unclear plants are protected by this law and they have no responsibilities to the disasters and don’t need to pay anything to the people. The possibility of severe core melt accident happen is likely 45%. If more nuclear plants are built, the accident will probably happen in every aspects of the nuclear power chain. Nuclear energy plants are also the targets of terrorists and some findings concern the terrorist action to nuclear power plant are dismissed. The NRC board explains that the applicants of nuclear fuel plants are not required to design against large attack like nuclear warheads or artillery bombardments.

The renewable energy technologies and improving the energy efficiency are better choices. The Bush/Cheney administration is recklessly pushing the reviving of nuclear energy plants. Professor Grossman explained the motivate of the government promoting use of nuclear power is that the interest combines the nuclear industry and the apartment of government makes the promoting of reviving nuclear industry. The government’s panel made policies that will make licensing steps shorter and easier. Public’s hearing rights of licensing process are also reduced. Government made the Price-Anderson become a financial umbrella for the existing nuclear power plants. This law also provides a foundational financial compensating for people who are affected by nuclear power plant disaster. The writer declare that focus on promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency will be a better choice, but there is little analysis and information of these issues. The writer should do more statement and study on how promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency can be more competitive to expanding use of nuclear power.

Compare these two articles, my conclusion is that Professor Karl Grossman’s article is more convincing. Professor Stephen Ansolabehere argues that nuclear power should be an solution of global warming and energy crisis, but from the data that he illustrates we can see the contribution from deploying massive nuclear power plant is quite little. Compare to the risk of building new reactors this pushing of revive nuclear power is unvalued to reduce carbon emissions. Nuclear power does not have activities on economics without government’s subsidy. Professor Karl Grossman’s explain of government’s supportive behaviors make us understand the motivation of these act. The Chernobyl accident told us the risk of nuclear power plants. From the article “Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” written by Alexey V. Nesterenko, Vassily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Yablokov, translated from Russian and published on New York Academy of sciences, we find out the nuclear reactor is more dangerous than a nuke. The emission from Chernobyl caused 9000 people died of radiogenic cancers. More serious problem is more than three billion people are affected by this accident in varying degrees. Moat of the Chernobyl area’s children become unhealthy in twenty years later.

This disaster is an concern of application of nuclear power. If nuclear power can contribute significantly to reducing emission of carbon, it should be deployed all over the world. However this deployment will cause huge hidden danger of radioactivity. By comparison, promote renewable energy and energy efficiency is a better choice. As an example, the wind power generation is becoming a more and more important role of energy supply. The article “Low Wind Speed Turbine Development Project Report” written by Mikhail, Amir states that a new type of wind turbine can generate power competitively on economics. This new type of technology causes the sales of wind power electricity raised from 20KW in 2006 to 800KW in 2008. This strikingly rise indicate wind power’s has large latent capacity for electricity generation. Compare to investment large resource and risk on expanding nuclear power, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency is a more steady and wiser choice.

The revive of nuclear power should be discussed until the technology of nuclear power become more mature and safe. References: “Yes” article Stephen Ansolabehere, “The Future of Nuclear Power”, An Interdisciplinary MIT Study(MIT 2003) “No” article Karl Grossman, “The Push to Revive Nuclear Power,” Synthesis/Regeneration 28 Both of these articles are from the book “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues(11th En.)”, edited by Thomas Easton 2006, McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, Dubuque, IA Alexey V. Nesterenko, Vassily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Yablokov “Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”, translated from Russian and published on New York Academy of sciences “Low Wind Speed Turbine Development Project Report” written by Mikhail, Amir from National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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