As exploitation of nuclear energy continues, safety and security should be given prime concern .All forms of energy have draw backs with positive impacts of one form being recommended mitigation steps to negative impacts of another form of energy and vice versa.
Nuclear power exploitation has been rewarding in offering full time employment opportunities at every facility at the same time being a source of revenue to governments, guaranteeing non –interrupted supply of electricity enhancing energy security as they have larger generators of electricity efficiently full filling base load demands. This is due to the fact that the nuclear plants have long lifetime as they are designed to run for long time before they are shut down for refueling with small quantity of fuel producing larger volume of electricity. Nuclear power is low fuel cost effective since it’s cheap to fuel nuclear plants once they start operations because the fuel (uranium) they use is abundantly available at stable and low cost compared to power plants fired by fossil fuels which are expensive to fuel e.g. coal powered may use up to 100 tons of coal everyday in united states. Nuclear power may be considered environment friendly as wastes produced are contained and managed controlling emission of green house gases into the atmosphere unlike coal fired plants which releases billion tons of carbon dioxide gas accelerating rate of global warming, the high level nuclear wastes are produced at modest quantities with safe handling and storing mechanism.
How ever much nuclear power may be ideal source of energy for civilian use, various nuclear accidents have occurred leading to dangerous circumstances endangering civilian lives e.g. the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. High maintenance costs e.g. maintaining the core and cooling system, expenditure on physically protecting nuclear plants against sabotage and theft of nuclear materials to abet proliferation and terrorism, as (Bradford. P and Schlissel. D., 2007) noted that nuclear power plants are targeted by terrorists and eventual attack may stop operations of power plants even after expensively investing capital. Nuclear power is dangerous and controversial source of energy causing its fear and negative publicity .when not for peaceful use, the same reactors can be used to produce highly enriched uranium fuel to manufacture nuclear weapons for mass destruction a phenomenon which can bring global economy to standstill. Larger capital cost is needed to establish nuclear plant because reactors are expensive to put up taking too long translating into highly unbearable financial expenses unlike fossil fuels power plants which are cheap to build. Like owners cost in site evaluation, administration, staff, legal inspection and local taxes, direct costs of equipment, materials ,and labor, indirect cost of designing ,engineering and support services not forgetting contingency costs. According to (Schneider, M. Froggatt, A and Thomas, S., 2010-2011) high maintenance costs became uneconomical to some nuclear plants 20 years ago causing their shutdown, this may include the cost of maintaining the core and contaminated cooling system. Nuclear power production have become less attractive to investors due to liberalization of electricity production ,longer time taken to service capital cost making it difficult to secure private capital since investors would rather prefer shorter payback period to recover costs of investment. Requires adequate human capacity with qualified staff well trained and experienced in nuclear programs in terms of reactivity, toxicity and longevity as failure to follow the regulations due to ignorance or negligence is catastrophic for example the Chernobyl nuclear accident was due to operating instruction and design deficiencies.
Indemnification of nuclear accidents become difficult as nuclear liability risks can only be covered by states since premium costs for full policy cover is mostly uneconomical to private insurance companies. For example, it was difficult to indemnify victims of Chernobyl accident and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Ionization radiation is catastrophic with long lasting inter-generation effects across space and time. The occurrence of nuclear meltdown releases hazardous radioactive elements into the environment causing cancer and other illness related to radiation exposure, food insecurity as radioactive elements bio-accumulate in agricultural produce and fish products. There is displacement of persons after nuclear accidents since land around becomes uninhabitable for many years this further complicate compensation.
In relation to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, its worth concluding that nuclear power plants are disasters in waiting whether due to human error, natural catastrophe, financial constraints, or politics of the day . Nothing like safe level of radiation exposure as even low-level exposure is potential to cancer growth. Nuclear power should be used as last alternative with multi protective system adhering to the united nation’s international atomic energy agency regulations on exploitation of nuclear materials.
Bradford, P and Schlissel, D. (2007) why a future for the nuclear industry is risky
Retrieved from http://www.iccr.org/news/press_releases/pdf files/risky_Jan07.pdf
Coalition against Nuclear Energy South Africa – C.A.N.E (2007) Nuclear Energy: The Basics retrieved from http://www.cane.org.za/nuclear-energy-related/nuclear-energy-the-basics/
Hubbert, M. (2006) Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, retrieved from http://www.energybulletin.net/node/13630
Ramblings.com (2007) The Pros and Cons of Various
Methods of Generating Electricity retrieved from http://ramblingsdc.net/ElecGenProsCons.html
Schneider, M. Froggatt, A and Thomas, S. (2010-2011) The World Nuclear Industry Status Report, Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World, 25 Years after the Chernobyl Accident retrieved from http://www.worldwatch.org/system/files/NuclearStatusReport2011_prel.pdf