This sample argumentative essay explores nuclear power production, how it is increasingly growing in number, and issues with safety and health. As one of the hottest debates of our time, there is no shortage of situations to which this type of document apply. Particularly in the academic world, this is a discussion worthy of everything from brief essays to full dissertations.
Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power
Nuclear power generation does emit relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). The emissions of greenhouse gasses and therefore the contribution of nuclear power plants to global warming is therefore relatively little. This technology is readily available; it does not have to be developed first. It is possible to generate a high amount of electrical energy in one single plant. (Rohrer)
The problem of radioactive waste is still an unsolved one. The waste from nuclear energy, also know as fusion energy, is extremely dangerous and it has to be carefully looked after for several thousand years (10,000 years according to United States Environmental Protection Agency standards). Nuclear power plants, as well as nuclear waste, could be preferred targets for terrorist attacks. No atomic energy plant in the world could withstand an attack similar to 9/11 in New York. Such a terrorist act would have catastrophic effects for the whole world.
During the operation of nuclear power plants, radioactive waste is produced, which in turn can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. In addition, the same know-how used to design nuclear power plants can to a certain extent be used to build nuclear weapons (nuclear proliferation). (Rohrer) For all intents and purposes, the argument against the production of nuclear power seems to be the strongest.
Meeting the world’s energy needs
Nuclear energy does not contribute much to the world’s overall energy needs. This is one argument against the production of nuclear powers.
In fact, “Electricity generation uses 40% of the world’s primary energy. Nuclear provides 14% of world electricity” (World Nuclear Association).
With about 160 nuclear power resources in the United States and approximately 440 commercial nuclear power reactors globally, there is a lot of information available regarding nuclear energy generation (World Nuclear Association). While most countries do not rely solely on nuclear energy, there are about 13 countries that get about 25% of their electricity by means of nuclear energy (NEI). The top contenders are:
- France – 76.3%
- Ukraine – 56.5%
- Slovakia – 55.9%
- Hungary – 52.7%
Nuclear power disasters
Another argument against the production of nuclear power is the risk of horrific nuclear explosions in power plants. In 1986, a nuclear power plant in Europe suffered from an accident that has become known as one of the most devastating in regards to nuclear power activity in world history. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded on April 26 when a sudden surge of power occurred during a systems test (The Chernobyl Gallery). Thirty-one people died and countless more were affected by exposure to radioactive substances released in the disaster.
“Nearly 400 million people resided in territories that were contaminated with radioactivity at a level higher than 4 kBq/m2 (0.11 Ci/km2) from April to July 1986. Nearly 5 million people (including, more than 1 million children) still live with dangerous levels of radioactive contamination in Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia.” (The Chernobyl Gallery)
The Mayak Nuclear Facility and the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disasters
The second most disastrous nuclear disaster in history occurred in 1957. The Mayak Nuclear Facility in Kyshtym, Russia suffered a fate similar to that in the Chernobyl disaster.
“As a result of disregarding basic safety standards, 17,245 workers received radiation overdoses between 1948 and 1958. Dumping of radioactive waste into the nearby river from 1949 to 1952 caused several breakouts of radiation sickness in villages downstream.” (Rabl)
There are many more nuclear power production incidents such as the Chernobyl and Kyshtym disasters that have had devastating effects on the environment, the human population, and even entire cities. Most recently, the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster comes to mind. Accidents are rated based on a numbered system called the International Nuclear Events Scale, or INES. Events range from a Level 1, which is considered an Anomaly, to a Level 7, which is a Major Accident (Rogers). Some of the more disastrous incidents that have occurred are as follows:
- 1952 – Chalk River, Canada – Level 5
- 1957 – Windscale Pile, UK – Level 5
- 1979 – Three Mile Island, US – Level 5
- 1980 – Saint Laurent des Eaux, France – Level 4
- 1993 – Tomsk, Russia – Level 4
- 2011 – Fukushima, Japan – Level 5
Nuclear waste’s impact on health and safety
The disposal of nuclear waste is yet another argument against the production of nuclear power.
“Nuclear waste is the material that nuclear fuel becomes after it is used in a reactor” (Rogers).
This waste is essentially an isotope of the Uranium Oxide fuel, or UO2, that nuclear reactors are powered by. This substance is highly radioactive and, if not disposed of properly, can leak into the environment, which subsequently can cause irreparable damage to the environment and people coming into contact with it.
The process of nuclear waste disposal is a lengthy process that can take years to mediate. Once the waste is captured, it must never become exposed to the outside world. The most method of disposal is underwater storage until the radiation in the waste decays and it can be moved to concrete tanks.
Keeping on the topic of nuclear waste disposal, the dangers of exposure to nuclear waste are catastrophic. In regards to plants, animals, and humans, exposure to radioactive waste can cause cancer, genetic problems, and death. Which brings to mind the nature and prospects of nuclear fusion- often called the “perfect” source of power – emitting neither radioactive waste nor greenhouse gasses that add to the global warming problem.
But because there is always the possibility of error in nuclear waste production, storage and disposal, there is always the risk that waste is somehow being exposed to the environment. The symptoms of exposure range from the following:
- Nausea and vomiting – within 10 minutes to 6 hours;
- Headache – within 2 hours to 24 hours;
- Dizziness and disorientation – immediately to 1 week;
- Hair loss, infections, low blood pressure – immediately to within 1 to 4 weeks. (Mayo Clinic Staff)
With the vast array of symptoms, illnesses, and effects of exposure to nuclear waste, it is easy to see why this is such a strong argument against the production of nuclear power.
Nuclear weapons’ impact on the environment
The development and usage of nuclear weapons have become a hot topic of debates and essay assignments in recent years. It has always been, but even more so in the 20th and 21st centuries. Seldom do most people make the connection between nuclear weapons and nuclear power production. It was once deemed that the production of nuclear power for the sole purpose of electricity production. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower first came to the realization that the two concepts could be connected.
“In 1954 utilities which were to operate commercial nuclear reactors were given further incentive when Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act so that utilities would receive uranium fuel for their reactors from the government in exchange for the plutonium produced in those reactors.” (NEIS)1
As the process of linking nuclear power production and nuclear weapon development has become more evident, so has the fact that the connection is more political than historical. The political and microeconomic aspects of energy production are vast. Because of how little the world relies on nuclear power for energy production, it only makes sense that many countries would instead use nuclear energy solely for the production of nuclear weapons. This leaves this type of energy production in the hands of terrorist-friendly countries and organizations. These entities often camouflage their intentions with “peaceful” nuclear production (NEIS).
Alternative renewable energy sources
As the world’s population continues to grow at exacerbated rates, so does its need for renewable and sustainable energy sources. In years past, nuclear power was a feasible solution to the problem. Yet another argument against the production of nuclear power lay in the fact that there are many more options available. The world has taken notice to the natural energy that lights upon us everyday care of Mother Nature. Sun, wind, and water offer many opportunities at alternative energy sources without the aid of the environmentally detrimental energy that nuclear power provides (World Nuclear Association).
There is a rather large list of potential alternative energy sources that could prove to be healthier and safer options to nuclear power. These options include:
- Rivers and hydroelectricity
- Wind energy
- Solar energy
- Ocean energy
- Decentralized energy.
(World Nuclear Association)
The problem with these types of energy sources is the act of harnessing them. It makes sense that if the world is willing to accommodate the cost of nuclear power exploration that it would also be willing to harness much safer means of energy production that can be found in natural resources.
The argument against the production of nuclear power is a strong one and one popularly presented in opinion pieces and research papers alike. The production of nuclear power is dangerous and comes with many negative ramifications. Nuclear disasters are tragedies that are unlike any other in history and are unnecessary. The consequences of nuclear waste exposure are immeasurable and create long lasting legacies of destruction, fear, and pain.
Despite efforts from the US Department of Defense to move toward energy efficiency, the correlation between nuclear power production and nuclear weapon promotion will inevitably be the world’s ultimate demise. There are too many other renewable and sustainable energy sources available that nuclear power production should no longer be an option.
The world does not rely on nuclear energy heavily enough for it to be a necessity. The majority of countries that once sought the “peaceful” exploration of nuclear energy production now use it with malicious intent. As politics take precedence in all things global, the protection of the planet and its inhabitants has taken the backseat. The world once survived with nuclear power. Hopefully, we will see those days again.
EIA. “U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” How Much Electricity Does a Nuclear Power Plant Generate? 3 Dec. 2015. Web. 02 June 2016. http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=104.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Radiation Sickness.” Symptoms. 2016. Web. 03 June 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/radiation-sickness/basics/symptoms/con-20022901.
NEI. “World Statistics.” Nuclear Energy Institute. Web. 02 June 2016. http://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/World-Statistics.
Rabl, Thomas. “The Nuclear Disaster of Kyshtym 1957 and the Politics of the Cold War | Environment & Society Portal.” The Nuclear Disaster of Kyshtym 1957 and the Politics of the Cold War | Environment & Society Portal. 2012. Web. 03 June 2016. http://www.environmentandsociety.org/arcadia/nuclear-disaster-kyshtym-1957-and-politics-cold-war.
Rogers, Simon. “Nuclear Power Plant Accidents: Listed and Ranked since 1952.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2011. Web. 03 June 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/mar/14/nuclear-power-plant-accidents-list-rank.
Rohrer, Jurg. “Time for Change.” Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power. 2011. Web. 03 June 2016. http://www.timeforchange.org/pros-and-cons-of-nuclear-power-and-sustainability.
The Chernobyl Gallery. “What Is Chernobyl? | The Chernobyl Gallery.” The Chernobyl Gallery What Is Chernobyl Comments. 2013. Web. 03 June 2016. http://chernobylgallery.com/chernobyl-disaster/what-is-chernobyl/.
World Nuclear Association. “Renewable Energy and Electricity.” 2016. Web. 03 June 2016. http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/energy-and-the-environment/renewable-energy-and-electricity.aspx.
World Nuclear Association. “World Energy Needs and Nuclear Power.” May 2016. Web. 02 June 2016. http://world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/world-energy-needs-and-nuclear-power.aspx.