Sure we need energy to provide electrical power to our homes and support our infrastructure, to name a few. This energy, which can be generated using fossil fuels (traditionally), solar energy (trending), tidal, geothermal, even nuclear (the dark horse). Where the world is fighting over source of energy generation, the question is less about: How do we live without power? And much more about: How do we pick the safest power-generation industry to supply electricity for our needs? If I ask you to give a thought to nuclear energy as a reliable energy source, what would it be like ?
Nuclear Power Isn't a Safe Solution, nuclear power is "dangerous, complicated and politically controversial."
Just a thought becomes a haunting experience as thoughts just looms around the three significant accidents which have occurred in history over a 50 year time period, Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011). With this extended operation history, only Chernobyl and Fukushima resulted in radiation exposure with the worst nuclear death toll of 58 people at Chernobyl, and none so far from Fukushima. Increased thyroid cancer as a result of radiation released from Chernobyl involved about 4000 people, of which most was curable.
Coming to fossil fuels, power sources such as coal and petroleum might seem safer than nuclear, but statistically they're a lot deadlier. Coal mining kills thousands of people annually—mainly from heart damage and black lung disease, but also through devastating accidents like explosions. Petroleum production also has safety and environmental risks, as demonstrated by various oil spills.
Though both nuclear and fossil fuel power plants produce electricity the same way. The heat generated in these plants is used to generate steam. This steam drives a turbine, which powers a generator that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. Nuclear energy is cleaner while generating electricity. Nuclear fission provides energy without releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. However, nuclear power plants generate significant amounts of radioactive waste. Combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As per studies, majority of the carbon emissions from electricity generation around the world come from coal-fired power plants. They emit pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, toxic metals, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.
Coming to availability of resources, Uranium is one of the most abundant energy sources on Earth. Uranium can be reprocessed and used again. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are non-renewable. There has been a steep decline in the energy reserves because of our dependence on them. Fossil fuel sources are gradually depleting, thus it might lead to an impending global scarcity of energy.
The three major reactor accidents have shown the industry that even among the worst accidents, few and far between, there is little loss of life, as compared to other fuels. In addition, nuclear power producers are constantly assessing safety upgrades, in an effort to protect the public from any pollution or harm. We are living in an energy-demanding world which will continue to increase its need. The proposed shift to electric cars is just one example. Nothing is risk-free, but risk can be minimized through constant review, upgrade and new designs. Nuclear generated power meets all these criteria, and more. Is it time to go nuclear ?