Nuclear Energy and the Environment Essay Example
Nuclear Energy and the Environment Essay Example

Nuclear Energy and the Environment Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 5 (1310 words)
  • Published: February 5, 2022
View Entire Sample
Text preview

Nuclear energy, solar energy, and wind energy produce clean energy with minimal carbon emissions as they do not emit any greenhouse gases.

Nuclear energy from fission emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to coal, natural gas, or oil, resulting in less harm to health and the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear power does not directly release harmful gases into the atmosphere that can have negative environmental consequences. It is the only energy source capable of replacing a significant portion of polluting fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are plans to use nuclear power for efficient transportation in the future. Furthermore, advanced temperature reactors have the potential to efficiently produce hydrogen gas and fresh water from sea water.

In this research paper, the main focus is to analyze the impact of nuclear energy on the environment and its role


in both preserving and harming it. The paper discusses both the positive and negative effects that nuclear energy has on the environment as well as human lives.

The Positive Impact of Nuclear Energy on Pollution Levels

Recent surveys have shown a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere over recent decades, which can be attributed to the increased utilization of nuclear energy. Unlike other forms of energy production, nuclear energy does not emit harmful gases such as carbon dioxide or other carbon-based gases that contribute to global warming (Whicker et al. 345). When it comes to power generation, except for transportation, nuclear energy does not cause harm to water or land.

When fossil fuels are burned, a significant amount of carbon dioxide gases is emitted into the atmosphere. Approximately half of this is absorbed by vegetation and oceans, while

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

the remaining portion remains in the atmosphere. This process has resulted in changes to the atmospheric composition, which have had negative impacts on Earth's climate. To address these challenges, there is a growing demand for renewable energy sources that cause less harm to the environment.

The advancements in modern life include energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. For instance, nuclear energy produces minimal quantities of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides - all of which have detrimental effects on environmental health. In contrast, burning fossil fuels releases large amounts of these harmful gases.

The release of nuclear energy is minimal in comparison to the waste from fossil fuels. The water resulting from nuclear production is stored in deep geological sites that do not affect the biosphere (Keeny 67). This aspect has a lesser impact on the ecosystem. Additionally, the waste from nuclear energy plants decomposes over time unlike certain waste from chemical and fossil fuel production.

Fossil fuels, when utilized, contribute to global warming, acid rain, and other atmospheric pollution. In contrast, nuclear energy production generates radioactive waste. The main environmental concern associated with nuclear power is the generation of different types of radioactive waste such as spent reactor fuels and mill tailings. These wastes have long-term effects and pose a threat to both humans and the environment. Although nuclear waste levels decrease over time due to decay, they still remain hazardous (Weinberg 28).

Temporary storage is used for radioactive wastes with short half-lives before they are disposed of in order to protect workers and ensure safe transportation. Uranium mill tailings, for example, are typically covered with soil and rocks to prevent erosion of the top layer. The

appropriate disposal of protective clothing is also important to prevent environmental contamination from radioactive materials. Additionally, the high level of radioactive waste, including irradiated reactor fuels, presents significant risks to the environment.

The repositories are focused on including radioactive wastes, engineered barrels, and the geological environment. The geological barriers in place are able to contain the wastes and prevent movement, even currently (Rahn et al. 59). Despite agreements on the safety of disposing radioactive waste, many countries remain skeptical. Reprocessing nuclear energy doesn't eliminate the need for repositories; it only reduces the long-term radiation hazard.

The challenges posed by the community on the repository are not eliminated by this process. Numerous countries around the world have made significant progress in addressing the impacts of high levels of radioactive waste, which are often considered in public consultations. The production of low levels of waste involves processes such as evaporation, with liquid waste stored in filtered gas wastes to allow for decay over time. Solid waste is disposed of and can remain disturbed for many years, often being a combination of waste from material handling and buried in designated sites. Several groups are advocating for clean-ups and challenging uranium companies.

When mines are left contaminated for a long time, they increase the risk of radioactive contamination. This contamination seeps into the earth's surface, causing adverse effects.

The Nuclear Accidents

The production of radioactive waste has serious consequences for human health, the environment, and people's lives. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 remains the worst accident in history. Its harmful effects on human beings and the environment can still be felt today.

Chernobyl Disaster

During the Chernobyl disaster, large amounts of radioactive contamination were

spread across Europe. Agricultural products and land were adversely affected by harmful strontium and cesium substances.

The accident happened during a test of the control system of the reactors, leading to an uncontrolled power surge caused by operational deficiencies. The radioactive materials from the reactors affected the surrounding regions of the Soviet Union in a negative way (Dincer et al. 54).

The disaster caused widespread devastation, affecting an expansive area of over 100000 km2 across Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Research indicates that the release of radiation from the disaster had detrimental impacts on the neighboring regions. Presently, numerous individuals reside in contaminated zones as a result of the nuclear incident. The long-term repercussions of the fallout remain uncertain, potentially causing adverse effects on local plants and animals, as evidenced by reports of mutations in vegetation within the affected areas.

Fukushima Disaster

The Fukushima disaster was primarily triggered by a tsunami, resulting in equipment malfunctions and a coolant loss accident.

Extreme levels of radioactivity were detected due to the emissions and evaporation of sea water, releasing radio isotopes into the earth's atmosphere. This release was similar to the Chernobyl accident, where radioactive waste was carried by wind currents in the form of radioactive clouds, thus impacting the atmosphere. Consequently, soil particles became contaminated with nuclear fallout, posing a risk to human tissues. The cooling process of reactors necessitated large amounts of water, resulting in significant quantities of radioactive waste being disposed into the sea and absorbed into the soil. Moreover, this disaster affected food and drinking water which could potentially cause cancer and genetic mutations in humans. As a result of these meltdowns, there has been widespread contamination of food and

beverages within the affected country.

Fuel Storage and Decommissioning of the Reactor

The spent reactors of the assemblies of the fuels are highly radioactive and have recently been stored in designed pools containing water to act as shields of radiation. With an increase in the number of reactors in operation, older storage facilities have been placed in special containers that enhance cooling with air (Slade 34). Decommissioning involves safely removing reactor equipment to reduce levels of radioactivity. Uncontrolled reactions in nuclear reactors have the potential to spread contamination and pose various risks to the Earth's environment. The large surrounding space may also be vulnerable to security concerns, so it is important to always protect it.


In the present day, nuclear energy is considered a major environmentally friendly source of power production. It emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to traditional sources like coal plants.

Despite being environmentally friendly, nuclear energy is faced with the challenge of emitting harmful radioactive waste. This issue revolves around the protection of human beings from these radiations.

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds