This is going to be a short and not so supportive article of nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is not carbon neutral. Nuclear energy is not clean. Nuclear energy is not 100% safe. Nuclear energy is not going to be way to power the future.
Nuclear energy is not carbon neutral. Nuclear energy is not clean.
Let us start at the beginning. Mining the raw material requires huge amount of dirty fossil fuels to extract from the earth, process and finally refine or later reprocess into material that can be used in a nuclear power plant that produces electricity. All along that path there are huge amount of pollution released and carbon dioxide. Anyone claiming it is carbon neutral are only talking about there not being a smoke stack – they literally have blinders on and only see through the very small slit in their blinders.
Then, after the material is all used up and is no longer usable to produce electricity it is sent to a plant that can reprocess it taking out the spent parts and reform the usable material, which is a good idea but it requires energy to do so. It then has to be shipped back to the power plant and this can be repeated several times before the nuclear material ends up in a pool of water for storage on site where it stays until we can figure out what to do with it.
Nuclear energy is not 100% safe.
Nuclear material is unsafe for more than a one thousand life times (1,000 x 80 years = 80 thousand ) and possibly longer depending on the material and the way it is stored. This means that it is radioactive and harmful to all life forms on the planet for the entire time it is radioactive. Not only that there is the problem of tailings from mining and other sources along the path of processing or reprocessing.
Then there is the plant itself which after about 40 or so years becomes unsafe for people to work in as the whole plant becomes increasingly more radioactive. The only safe thing to do it to dismantle it and bury it. We have no other solution at this time.
Nuclear energy is not going to be way to power the future.
I have scoured for articles or any information on how much longer we can expect to mine material for our nuclear power plants and I have found varying time frames. Some say we have nothing to worry about we can use it well into our future while other’s say we will run out around the time we run out of oil, coal and natural gas – around 60 to 100 years. Just because it will be around for another 100 years does not mean we can sit back and do nothing, it means just the opposite. As we get closer to running out we can only expect the cost of it go up, and up as supply declines which means that near the end it will be so costly we just won’t turn on our lights or heat our homes any longer. We shouldn’t be complacent but rather act right now to overt the high costs we can expect in the coming future.
Follow what most of Europe is doing right now, moving toward a sustainable future with renewable energy and conservation. Europe has a three prong approach to the future: make use of all the current available measures that help to cut energy consumption by the maximum, like the Passivhaus. Then add Solar heat (and cooling), Solar Photovoltaic panels and a wide variety of windmills, from large windmills out at sea to smaller helix windmills on roof tops within cities or not as large windmills in the countryside. And last, add measures to help store excess energy in the form or pumped water or with biogas plants built near or on farms.
This is exactly what Germany and Sweden, among other European countries, are doing to produce all of their own energy within their own borders. Automobiles are also being replace with public transit and bicycles.
Nuclear energy can play a small part as we transition toward renewable energy sources but not for the long-term for the one big issue so many people brush aside – where are we going to keep radioactive material that is harmful to all life forms for such a long time. Some try to mislead you by saying it has a half-life of such and such but that is only represents half of the time required for us to store it safely. What about after that? Nuclear material and everything form tailings to the power plant itself need to be dealt with. The sooner we can close them down the sooner we can move on to something less dangerous to life on planet Earth.
A few references: