The pros and cons of the nuclear industry
Nuclear power has a significant role to play in the global energy industry. Across the world it contributes in high volumes to the resources that are available to power homes and businesses. However, it is not without its detractors. Nuclear energy does have huge positive potential but there are also downsides.
The cons of the nuclear industry
Accidents can be disastrous
Chernobyl is probably the most famous nuclear accident, causing up to 30,000 people to lose their lives and still affecting the health of more than 2.5 million Ukrainians even today. The recent Fukushima nuclear disaster, the result of an earthquake in Japan in 2011, is the second biggest nuclear event in history. The full impact of that leak is not yet known.
Radioactive waste can be detrimental for the environment, especially if not properly disposed of. Nuclear plants also emit small amounts of air pollution although the levels of carbon dioxide are fairly negligible, especially when compared to other energy processes.
Environment impact of the nuclear fuel chain
Processes such as mining, enrichment and waste management can be detrimental to the environment, especially with respect to the level of carbon dioxide emissions.
The pros of the nuclear industry
Less pollution than other energy sources
Nuclear power has a big role to play in enabling the UK to transition to cleaner energy. This is because it produces less pollutants than other processes such as coal mining.
The option to develop better, greener fuels
Currently, uranium is the fuel of choice for most nuclear power sources but is a finite resource (estimated around 80 years remaining). However, it’s not the only option. Thorium, for example, is an alternative fuel that is gaining increasing traction, especially in countries such as Russia and China. As well as being a good alternative fuel, Thorium is also thought to be a greener option than uranium.
There are costs involved in setting up and running nuclear power plants. Initial construction costs can be high, as can the expenses involved in enriching and processing nuclear fuel and carrying out regular maintenance of the plant. However, when these are compared to other options for generating energy – such as coal and oil – these tend to be cheaper, which is what makes the nuclear industry cost-competitive.
A stable base load of energy
Nuclear energy is flexible and can work in tandem with other energy sources. The stable base load of energy means that electricity production from nuclear energy can be increased or decreased depending on the other energy sources available, such as renewable energy.
There are many advantages to nuclear energy, which is why the UK has invested so heavily in it. The question of whether or not it is sustainable is one that will only be answerable as innovation and technology develop.
At RG Group we monitor a range of industrial construction with interest. The next decade will be an interesting one for the nuclear sector. Call us today on 01732 526 850 to find out more.