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Nuclear Power

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In the last decade, nuclear energy has been used by many developed countries in the world with testing the applicability of the energy source. However, the perceived benefits have come with ramifications that have left the inventors counting losses. This is the reason why this innovation has been surrounded by various arguments that have emphasized on need for exploring safer alternative sources of energy. Drawing examples from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster as well as the 20th century Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, this articles provide an analysis of the risks versus the rewards of investing in nuclear energy.

The major selling point behind the implementation of nuclear power plants is based on the fact that no carbon dioxide is emitted. Therefore supporting this source of energy is based on the fact that the global warming threat (which results from the carbon dioxide) outweighs the potential threats such as local meltdowns in Chernobyl. The truth of this claim is however dubious. When everything has been said and done (between extraction of uranium and oil enriching, and constructing and operating a plant), approximately more than 0.25 million tons of carbon dioxide is produced by a 1, 200 megawatt nuclear facility during its lifetime (OECD, 2007). Being factual, more than 25 million tones have been produced in entire U.S. Well, this should not sound like a lot without looking at the other side.

In contrast, carbon dioxide amounting to almost 2.2 billion tons is produced annually only in U.S. from coal energy (OECD, 2007). Other pollutants are also emitted in the process. This pollution includes soot that causes lung related complications, sulphur dioxide that result in acid rain and smog, and mercury which contaminates aquatic life (Charles, 2007). In fact, in every one death caused by nuclear power, coal kills 4,000 (ration of 1: 4000).

The events in the Chernobyl nuclear incident in Ukraine drew a clear example of the risks that can be associated with nuclear accidents. In this nuclear energy disaster, there was an eruption to the environment of an unknown amount of plutonium, cesium, and plutonium (these are very radioactive elements). This 1986 accident resulted to instant deaths numbering 300 with more than 5 million people being affected by the radiation spread (Charles, 2007). In addition, more than 4, 200 people developed thyroid cancer. This was as a result of consuming milk that was radioactive. In Japan, its radioactive contaminated products found their way out of the country spreading globally. Worse still, the winds drifting as a result of radioactivity affected the West Coast region (Charles, 2007).

The nuclear explosion at the Fukushima power plant (located in Sendai region) provides another example of the risks associated with this source of energy. Triggered by the tsunami and 8.8 magnitude earthquakes, this March 11, 2011 nuclear accident crippled the power supply from this plant.



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