Jabir Al Fatah

Nuclear power is the result of nuclear reaction that generates heat to produce electricity in an efficient and sustainable way. In nuclear power plant, nuclear chain reaction (i.e. nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, nuclear decay) releases nuclear energy that is used to boil water. The extreme pressurized steam of the water eventually rotates the steam turbine of a generator. The generator then releases huge amount of clean and reliable electricity into the grid that are directly served to the human population. Nuclear reactors produce nearly 20% of the electricity in the USA, and there are more than 400 power plants in the world constantly producing base-load electricity without emitting CO2 into the atmosphere [1].

To meet the demand of increasing world population we need to initiate energy source that can use minimum possible amount of time to produce massive energy, with relatively lower cost and environment friendly. Nuclear power meet those criteria, and it has ability to serve energy in larger scale, compared to other energy sources. Because massive amount of energy can be produced by using least possible amount of nuclear fuel, it can sufficiently meet the demand of large industrial area as well as city. Although the construction cost of power reactor is relatively cost unfriendly, once its built, we are only required to provide nuclear fuel (e.g. Uranium), maintenance cost, and proper preservation of nuclear waste. On the contrary, generating electricity from oil, coal, and gas is no cheaper than nuclear reactors. Nuclear reaction has high energy density. The amount of energy produced in fission reaction is ten million times greater than the amount released in burning fossil fuel [2]. The amount of nuclear fuel substances (i.e. Uranium) we have on the earth can cover 200 years of nuclear power supply, whereas fossil fuels such as oil is running low and there is risk that we will no longer be able to extract it some near future. Furthermore, considering the ecological sustainability, nuclear power station emits almost zero amount of greenhouse gases such as methane, chlorofluorocarbon, ozone into the environment, only substance it emits is hot water (i.e. clean water vapor). Therefore, we have less risk for global warming and rapid climate change, which is one of the greatest societal benefit for human kind. Last but not least, modern day power station handles nuclear waste very carefully so it does not affect environment.

Some challenges and compliance of nuclear power reactions are discussed below considering the Sustainability Principles (SP):
SP [systematic increase of substances produced by society into the biosphere]:
Emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gas is avoided through the production and use of nuclear power. The physics and chemistry behind the nuclear electricity manufacturing is different than the traditional energy sources. For example, the fission process in nuclear reactor does not release greenhouse gas, as other energy sources do. So, this SP is taken care while implementing the technology of nuclear power station. Moreover, in order to promote the sustainable living, we must work towards the “issues of global warming” and “climate change”, that are the main concern for the current age. So, the idea and application of nuclear power energy can protect us from decaying ozone layer and increasing the sea level.
SP [structural obstacles to health]:
It can be very devastating if any unexpected occurrence happens in nuclear station. For any accident, radioactivity of power reactor can spread out into the atmosphere and can bring serious disaster for humankind and ecosystem. The harmful and deadly radiation can indeed severely damage the human health and all other living things. Chernobyl and Fukushima are the two great examples. With the current technology available today, this issue is not tackled, and that is why nuclear power source is still debatable whether it should be widely used as a sustainable source of energy or not. Hence, considering this SP, sustainable development is not completely compliance with nuclear energy.
SP [systematic increase of physical degradation of the biosphere]:
The amount of land required to operate a nuclear power reactor is much less than other energy sources such as wind and solar power. As an example, the Arkanas Nuclear One Station (configured with 2 reactors) in the US occupies only 1,100 acres (1.7 square miles) to output approximately 1800 MW power [3]. To generate the same amount of power output, a wind and solar station requires 108,000 acres (169 square miles) and 13,320 acres (21 square miles) respectively [3]. Thus, excessive amount of area is not wasted, saving more agricultural land for sustainable cultivation.

However, as discussed earlier, the raw materials we use for nuclear power generation is estimated to cover only 2 more centuries. So, ultimate problem is that we will one day run out the Uranium mine. After that, all that power station we have built will be useless and occupied massive land area. So, the decision must be taken carefully whether we should rely on nuclear power source or not.

[1] Touran, N. c2017. What is Nuclear? / Nuclear Energy. [Online]. [13 May 2017]. Available from: https://whatisnuclear.com/articles/nucenergy.html
[2] maehlum, M.,.A. 3 May 2013. Nuclear Energy Pros and Cons - Energy Informative. [Online]. [15 May 2017]. Available from: http://energyinformative.org/nuclear-energy-pros-and-cons/
[3] Entergy. c2017. Entergy Arkansas | We Power Life. [Online]. [16 May 2017]. Available from: http://www.entergy-arkansas.com/content/news/docs/AR_Nuclear_One_Land_Use.pdf

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