Comparing Nuclear Energy To Other Energies Sources Environmental Sciences Essay

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This study contains information on five different types of energy beginnings. It is a literature survey that compares two renewable ( solar and air current ) beginnings and two non-renewable ( coal and natural gas ) beginnings to atomic energy. The comparing is based on factors such as use, cost ( both capital costs and running costs ) , safety and stableness, storage of waste and the impact on the environment. The beginnings are separately compared to atomic energy. In the comparings merely the factors relevant to the two energy beginnings being compared at any given clip are considered factors are non repeated in the comparing. It besides looks at whether the media 's portraiture of the dangers of atomic energy is accurate or whether it overestimates the dangers involved in bring forthing atomic power. The purpose of the study was to find the viability of atomic energy as a beginning of power to back up electricity demands of the population in the hereafter.

This is a literature survey turn toing the portraiture of atomic energy by the media and its viability as an energy beginning in comparing to other methods of bring forthing electricity. The study compares Nuclear energy to energy generated by coal, natural gases, air current and the Sun ( i.e. solar energy ) . The energy types are separately compared to Nuclear energy. Each subdivision high spots specific jobs and advantages associated with Nuclear energy as it relates to the energy to which it is being compared. Factors taken into consideration include the costs involved with the assorted types of energy, how much it is being used globally, impact on the environment, storage of waste, safety and stableness. The study was written to run into the demands laid down by JSQ216, a 2nd twelvemonth technology topic at the University of Pretoria.

The study was completed by apportioning each of the four group members a specific energy to research and comparison to atomic energy. The research was so completed by utilizing journal articles, books, cyberspace sites and nearing two applied scientists about the job. The information was processed, the dependability of the beginnings assessed and a short part of the study was generated by each group member. All four parts were so put together for the concluding study.

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Figure 1: Break down of solar energy [ 2 ] The Sun has been around since the beginning of clip but merely late has it been used as a beginning of renewable energy. Approximately 120000 TW of solar energy is absorbed by the Earth 's surface which is equal to 10000 times the entire planetary demand for energy. Merely 0.1 % of this energy would be required to fulfill the universe 's present ingestion of fuels. [ 1 ]

There are three chief ways to tackle the Sun energy. These include solar cells which convert sunshine straight into electricity. Solar H2O heating where heat from the Sun is used to heat H2O inside panels on roof tops. And in conclusion solar furnaces that make usage of mirrors to concentrate the suns energy into a little infinite to bring forth high temperatures. As illustrated by figure 1.

There are close to 440 atomic power workss in the universe today which supply 16 % of the universe 's energy demand, nevertheless merely 1 % is functional energy with the remainder being atomic waste. If 1 % of the country where there is recoverable energy utilised solar energy devices all the universe 's energy demands could be met with solar energy entirely. If 10 % of the country were to be utilized so in two old ages the electricity produced would be equal to all known militias of fossil fuels. [ 1 ]

Cost jobs with solar energy are the high capital costs involved in the installing of solar panels which can be really expensive. The demand to hive away energy because of solar handiness due to factors such as clip of twenty-four hours and conditions conditions is besides dearly-won. States at higher heights with day-to-day cloud screen will hold an economic disadvantage due to long distance transportation of energy. Care of panels besides has to be considered. Nuclear energy is soon cheaper than solar power nevertheless the building of the installations and the disposal of radioactive waste is dearly-won and can impact the environment. [ 3 ]

Solar power is comparatively safe to utilize every bit long as you do non look straight into the Sun 's beams or come into contact with hot solar panels. In the instance of atomic power it is besides safe to utilize as the atomic reactors are equipped with excess systems to do certain there is no atomic meltdown. This makes it a really stable energy beginning. Nuclear energy starts to acquire more unsafe in the signifier of exhausted fuel rods and radioactive waste. Even though atomic energy is dependable and stable as a whole, when something does travel wrong it can go really serious and really unsafe.

Solar energy does non hold any signifier of waste as replaced panels and constituents can be reused or recycled. Nuclear energy has two types of waste merchandises, the spent fuel rods which if non stored decently in pools of H2O to chill down could go really unstable. The other signifier is radioactive gasses and other waste merchandises that if released into the ambiance can present assorted hazards.

Solar energy produces no waste or pollution. Waste from atomic power must be sealed and stored resistance for long periods of clip. This waste must be kept safe from external factors and from human contact in order to forestall a menace.

Such a menace is presently under manner at the Fukushima Daiichi power works in Japan where a pool of exhausted fuel rods caught fire this twelvemonth.

Solar power is a renewable power beginning therefore it is environmentally friendly. It is soundless and requires no fuel hence there is no pollution. It even decreases the sum of harmful green house gasses. Although there are many advantages to solar energy there is still the fact that a big sum of panels is required to bring forth the needful electricity. This becomes really dearly-won. It is dependable and has no hazards that are associated with atomic energy. Nuclear energy on the other manus is non a renewable beginning and if non handled in the right manner could impact the environment in a negative manner. Even though it does non lend to planetary heating like other fossil fuels, the waste gasses it does bring forth could potentially do radioactive illnesss and malignant neoplastic disease in worlds and other life signifiers.

A sum-up of the advantages and disadvantages of solar and atomic energy can be found in the tabular arraies below

Table 1: Advantages of Solar and Nuclear Energy

Solar Energy

Nuclear Energy

Renewable energy beginning

Does non breathe green house gasses

Has no volatile waste

Plenty of resources available

Once panels are in topographic point the energy is free

Cheaper than solar power

Table 2: Disadvantages of Solar and Nuclear Energy

Solar Energy

Nuclear Energy

Does non work at dark

Radioactive waste

Presently really expensive

Long-run storage required for waste merchandises

Requires large Fieldss in order to reap a suited sum of energy

Some reactors produce Pu which can be used to do atomic arms

All around the universe we require every energy beginning that we can acquire including atomic. All energy beginnings have both pros and cons. Even though atomic energy is portrayed as an unstable beginning of energy it is in fact one of the most dependable and stable types in the universe today. The downside is in its waste that if treated falsely could set down in the custodies of terrorists. In the following 20 old ages at that place will be emerging economic systems throughout the Earth that will necessitate low cost, environmentally friendly alternate energy beginnings and Nuclear power is expected to fulfill this demand.

Wind Energy

Wind power is the coevals of electricity through the usage of air current to whirl turbines, which in bend, convert the air current 's kinetic energy into electricity. [ 1 ] The procedure of utilizing air current as a power beginning has been in usage throughout history from around the twelfth century where windmills were used to mill grain. [ 2 ]

Wind power coevals uses wind turbines to do electricity, air current Millss for mechanical power and air current pumps for pumping H2O. [ 2 ] It is a renewable energy beginning that non many states have attempted to develop.

Wind Power Worldwide June 2010 [ 3 ]



( MW )











Rest of the World



175.00Table 3: Wind Power Worldwide June 2010

In June 2010, The World Wind Energy Association ( WWEA ) published that 5 states entirely accounted for about 73 % of the universe 's entire air current energy production viz. USA, China, Germany, Spain and India. [ 3 ]

Figure 2: World Electricity Production 2008

On the other manus, atomic energy production seems to be far more popular in a batch of states with some states such as the USA and France holding no less than 104 and 59 atomic reactors in operation severally [ 4 ] in early 2010.

A survey done in 2008 to happen the per centum of each type of energy that is globally produced showed that air current signifiers portion of merely 2.8 % whereas atomic energy histories for 13.4 % of the universe 's entire power.

The chief disadvantage of air current power is the undependability of the air current itself. In most countries the air current 's strength is excessively low to whirl a turbine. However, if wind energy were to be used in unison with solar and/or geothermic energy it could be developed into a stable and dependable beginning of power. The air current turbines themselves are rather safe with merely a few reported instances worldwide of damaged blades caused by bad conditions, none of which has resulted in any known hurts. [ 5 ]

Nuclear reactor workss make usage of radioactive stuffs to bring forth electricity. The thought that these stuffs could go unstable and acquire out of control is one of the chief concerns ( along with radiation toxic condition ) for states bring forthing atomic energy. The Chernobyl atomic catastrophe of 1986 lead to better, more efficient protocols being put into pattern go forthing most states to believe that they are now better prepared to manage any destabilizing of the atomic stuffs. [ 6 ]

However, weave energy remains theoretically a batch safer than atomic workss even with all the safety safeguards they take. The effects are much higher for a atomic catastrophe than for a air current turbine failure.

Wind turbines do non breathe any waste merchandises as they do non fire any kind of fossil fuels or radioactive stuffs, so there is no concern over where to hive away or dispose of emanations safely- unlike atomic energy. The radioactive stuffs ( like Uranium and Plutonium ) that are used up in atomic power workss continue to bring forth unsafe radiation for 1000s of old ages after they have been used up as a fuel for atomic energy. The most effectual manner to hive away these depleted stuffs has non yet been found but for now they are being kept in belowground storage pools where they will non be harmful to anybody. [ 7 ]

The initial apparatus of both air current turbines and atomic power workss are rather dearly-won. But one time built, wind turbines are cheaper to keep than the power workss, but they are both comparatively cheaper to keep than their fossil fuel opposite numbers with the atomic stuffs enduring a really long clip and with air current being a free resource to be used.

Environmental Impact:

Both air current and atomic energy as it is being produced, is friendly to the environing environment ( except in the tragic instance where radiation is leaked from the power works ) . However, wind turbines do do more noise than the power workss which is riotous to any locals remaining near the turbines. [ 8 ]

The sum of infinite that a air current turbine takes is less than that of an mean atomic power works and the break to the environment during building is worse for the power workss because they take so much longer to be built. [ 8 ]

Coal Energy

Coal, the most abundant and low-cost of the fossil fuels ( 1 ) , is a non-renewable energy beginning. It has been used as a beginning of energy for 1000s of old ages and has legion of import utilizations such as in electricity coevals, steel and cement industry, and industrial procedure warming. Coal frequently proves to be the lone alternate when low-cost, cleaner energy beginnings are unable to run into the turning energy demand faced with today ( 1 ) .

Fossil fuels are formed from the organic remains of prehistoric workss and animate beings that have undergone alterations due to heat and force per unit area over 1000000s of old ages. The procedure is still taking topographic point today but the rate of energy storage is little. The one-year biomass production stored this manner represents merely about 0.001 % of the current universe energy usage ( 2 ) . Even though wood coal can be made unnaturally, it is non possible to bring forth it at the rate of ingestion ( 3 ) . Therefore, coal is regarded as a non-renewable energy beginning and is bound to acquire depleted. Harmonizing to BP 's ( British Petroleum ) Statistical Review of World Energy 2010, there is a estimated 826001 million dozenss of proved coal militias worldwide, or 119 old ages reserves-to-production ratio ( length of clip that the staying coal militias would last if production were to go on at the old twelvemonth 's rate ) ( 4 ) . However, compared to other fossil fuels, coal militias are the largest 1s and are more equally distributed worldwide.

Nuclear energy is besides a non-renewable beginning as it is reliant upon a finite beginning of fuel that can be exhausted. Although, the universe 's known uranium resources increased by 15 % in two old ages to 2007 owing to increased mineral geographic expedition The U ( and sometimes Pu ) used in atomic power is a natural resource and is a common metal found in stones all over the universe. The World Nuclear Association suggested that there is about ( 13 ) 160 old ages of supply at today 's rate of ingestion.

Coal is chiefly used as a solid fuel to bring forth electricity and heat. The coal is normally pulverized and so combusted in a furnace with a boiler for the coevals of electricity. The steam which consequences from the burning is so used to whirl turbines, which drives the generators therefore making electricity. When coal is heated at about 1000 grades Celsius in an airless environment, Coke is produced. The Coke is so used is used to smelt Fe ore for the production of steel.

A byproduct of this warming is Coal gas, which is a composing of methane and H, is produced. Coal gas was used for residential lighting and cookery in the 1940s ; but it was really dearly-won and so it was stopped. However, in recent times, these gasification procedures are being developed to be more cost effectual and so coal gas is frequently used as fuel for engines.

Nuclear power workss create electricity through a procedure called fission in which subatomic atoms called neutrons split uranium atoms, bring forthing enormous sums of energy. The consequence of the fission of these big atoms is the creative activity of smaller atoms and radiation. The energy produced is so absorbed by H2O which heats it and so stream is produced. The steam is so used to whirl turbines as in the instance with coal power workss.

Harmonizing to the Key World Energy Statistics 2010 ( 5 ) , 27 % of the worldwide energy demand was fulfilled by coal in 2009.Coal was the 2nd largest beginning of energy followed by Oil providing 33.2 % . China is a major manufacturer with coal with coal ever playing a dominant function in its primary energy ingestion. China consumed a high 46,9 % of the coal supplied and produced the most coal ( 45,6 % ) harmonizing to the BP Statistical World Energy Review 2010.

World primary energy demand is expected to go on to turn steadily, as it has over the

last two decennaries Harmonizing to the International Energy Outlook 2010 ( an appraisal by the Energy Information Administration ( EIA ) of the mentality for international energy markets through 2035 ) , universe ingestion of coal additions by 56 % over the following two decennaries ( 6 ) .

Nuclear energy supplies the universe 5.8 % of the universe 's ingestion which is less than a one-fourth of what coal supplies. This is expected as there are merely 442 operable atomic power Stationss world-wide, the first one being created about 50 old ages ago which is comparatively recent.

The extraction of coal involves two types of excavation: surface ( strip ) excavation and resistance

excavation. Surface excavation involves the remotion of coal sedimentations near to Earth 's surface whereas underground excavation is taking sedimentations found 100s of metres below the Earth 's surface. Underground mining histories to about 60 % of the universe 's coal production ( 7 ) and requires the creative activity of shafts and tunnels that are dug in to the coal beds. There have been legion tragic happenings in the history of coal excavation as it is a really hazardous concern and lay waste toing accidents occur in all states that produce commercial measures of this mineral. Most mining accidents occur as a consequence of cave-ins, methane detonations, mine wall failures, vehicle hits or the implosion therapy of the mine shafts. Besides asphyxiation, gas toxic condition, respiratory complaints ( chiefly Black Lung Disease ) were common. Over 100,000 mineworkers have dies over the past century in coal-mining accidents in the U.S ( 2nd largest manufacturers of coal ) merely ( 8 ) . However, most of these hazards have been reduced in contemporary mines owing to modern engineering and wellness and safety Acts of the Apostless puting stricter criterions. Nevertheless, in lesser developed states and some underdeveloped states, continue to see important Numberss of excavation human deaths each twelvemonth.

The copiousness of coal makes it easy accessible and the usage of cheaper manners of transit makes this resource an cheap signifier of energy when compared to energies such as solar, air current or hydro. It is besides somewhat cheaper than the costs involved in bring forthing atomic energy. When comparing the economic sciences in bring forthing energy from these two beginnings, it is of import to see several different types costs associated with both coal and atomic energy.

This includes costs associated with the fuel used in the production of energy which tend to be lower in a atomic works even though more intricate stairss are involved in the production of the fuel assemblies used in the reactors. Transportation system costs are, nevertheless, high for coal because a significantly big sum of coal is needed to bring forth the same energy as with the atomic fuel.

The capital costs are the costs associated with the initial building of the works and the alterations forms an of import portion when comparing the costs. For a atomic works, these costs are normally higher than for any other energy signifiers as the edifices used for containment or the safety-related equipment demand to run into higher criterions than those met by traditional coal workss. On the other manus, coal workss are required to include scrubbers to take airborne pollutants as a consequence of the combustion of the coal.

Another consideration is the operation and care costs involved. These are the costs involved in the daily operation of the coal and atomic workss. This includes labor costs, stuff costs, authorities fees and belongings revenue enhancements. It is found that the costs are really similar in both the workss.

The costs associated with the byproduct waste should besides be taken into history. For a coal workss, this is the coal ash and for a atomic works, these costs include a charge levied by the authorities for ultimate storage of the high degree waste. This charge is a level fee based on energy usage. The waste costs for atomic energy is well higher than the costs for coal workss.

Therefore, the costs involved in bring forthing coal and atomic energy are approximately the same ( 9 ) .

The combustion of coal is known to lend to planetary heating, and is linked to environmental and wellness issues such as acerb rain, smog and asthma owing to the particulate emanations that are emitted from power Stationss. Harmonizing to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that air pollution kills more than 2 million people yearly ( 10 ) . Coal is the largest subscriber to the human-made addition of CO2, a nursery gas which causes planetary heating and clime alteration in the air ( 11 ) . Strip excavation causes big countries of land to be temporarily disturbed and this causes dirt eroding and impacts on local biodiversity as after the land has been scraped and quarried for coal, it is normally abandoned. The waste after coal has been combusted is frequently disposed of in landfills or `` surface impoundings, '' which are lined with compacted clay dirt and a fictile sheet. As rain filters through the toxic ash cavities over old ages, the toxic metals are leached out into the local environment. Coal sludge is the liquid coal waste generated by rinsing coal and is known to incorporate toxins, and so leaks or spills can foul belowground and surface Waterss. ( 12 )

Natural Gas Energy

The Natural Gas used in power production is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas made chiefly of methane and other hydrocarbons ( including C2H6, propane, butanes and pentanes ) . It besides contains C dioxide, He, H sulfide and N, in smaller measures. Natural gas is a molecular compound with Van Der Waal attractive force between its molecules [ 1 ] . It has a boiling point of -161oC and is stable at a broad assortment of temperatures and force per unit areas [ 1 ] . Natural gas is transported in its liquid signifier as it taken up 600 times less infinite as a liquid than it does as a gas and weighs 55 % less than the same volume of H2O. It is a consequence of the decomposition of workss and animate beings and is found in pockets beneath the Earth and ocean.

Natural gas is an of import beginning of power in the modern universe. Harmonizing to Makogen ( 2010:49 ) if we were to utilize 17 to 20 % of the universe 's natural gas resources, we would be able to supply the universe with energy for 200 old ages. Although it presently merely accounts for 20 % of the universe 's energy, the demand is expected to increase well over the following 20 old ages. It is a cleaner fuel beginning than any other dodo fuel [ 2 ] breathing about no sulfur dioxide and far less C dioxide and NHx than either oil or coal. Natural gases can besides be used in concurrence with other power coevals methods, such as biomass [ 3 ] , to bring forth energy which will alter the sum of pollutants emitted.

Nuclear Stationss do non bring forth the same pollutants as fossil fuels do but blow direction remains the primary concern in atomic engineering. The waste merchandises of a atomic station are isotopes with highly long half-lives. The storage of these waste merchandises means making a safe storage infinite that needs to last longer than all the human civilizations combined. There are three different degrees of atomic waste, high degree, medium degree and low degree. Low degree waste is non really unsafe and disposing of it is non a job. The danger comes in with high degree radioactive waste. The waste is encased in concrete membranophones and buried up to a kilometer and a half into the land [ 5 ] . However, high degree radioactive waste can non be stored near any other high degree radioactive waste as it will interact with the other waste. It is besides of import to happen stable land in which to hive away the waste, as concrete can check and interrupt in the event of an temblor or shudder. South Africa is one of the safer places to hive away atomic waste as it has a geologically stable countryside. Some countries, like the northern Karoo, have experienced about 30 000 old ages of stableness. In between the remotion of the waste from usage and the concluding storage of the waste it needs to be left to soak in H2O for a period of clip, to acquire rid of some of the residuary radiation. In this clip the fuel rods need to be safely guarded as the waste merchandises are used in the creative activity of dirty bombs and atomic bombs. A soiled bomb is a normal bomb incorporating high degree radioactive waste and is detonated above a metropolis, leting the radioactive atoms to pollute the H2O supply in add-on to other harm. [ 5 ] Plutonium, one of the waste merchandises of a atomic power station, is a primary constituent in atom bombs and the rods frequently have to be processed to take all Pu before they can be disposed. The usage to which the waste merchandises can be used besides means that steps need to be taken in guaranting that any state with a atomic power station does non utilize the waste in a atomic arms plan. It besides leaves a state more vulnerable to atomic onslaught as should a dirty or atom bomb land near a atomic station the merchandises of the two would respond with each other, compounding harm.

The waste from a atomic station can be greatly reduced by the right direction of the station but it still remains a serious menace. Cold merger could theoretically bring forth energy without radioactive waste but experiments with cold merger have produced really small energy, non even plenty to power a light bulb. Cold merger is besides regarded as a cozenage by many scientists and has the same ill fame as `` ageless gesture '' and `` free energy '' in many scientific circles [ 9 ] .

The degree of efficiency of natural gas as a power beginning is, nevertheless, really much dependant on the engineering used to bring forth the power. In a comparing of different engineerings [ 4 ] it was found that Natural Gas combined rhythm engineering was the most efficient of the Natural Gas engineerings. The engineerings were compared based on efficiency, capital costs, care costs, the service life and electricity costs ( calculated based on the cost of the fuel, the care costs, capital cost and service life ) . The capital costs of the combined rhythm engineering were merely over a‚¬500 with an expected care cost of less than a‚¬0.005 per kg Watt hr and a service life of 20 old ages ( i.e. the clip the works operates before equipment demands to be replaced. ) A atomic station has to replace its one tierce of its fuel rods yearly [ 5 ]

Relatively, a atomic station 's capital costs are higher than any other fuel beginning [ 6 ] but they produce electricity at a really low cost which offsets the initial high cost. This can be seen in figure 2, below, which shows a comparing of the cost to bring forth energy for assorted engineerings. The cost of power from a atomic works besides tends to stay stable [ 7 ] even if the cost of uranium varies as up top 75 % of the fuel cost in a atomic works is to cover the start-up cost. On the other manus, natural gas monetary values are really dependent on the supply and so monetary values tend to change. Natural gas is besides capable to carbon revenue enhancements in some states because of its emanations, which reduces its cost efficiency.

Figure 3: Cost of Energy Generation for Different Technologies

Location besides plays a really of import function in finding whether or non natural gas or atomic energy is the most efficient solution of a state. A state that is abundant in fossil fuels and does non pay C revenue enhancements would happen that natural gas was a far more suited engineering. However, when it becomes necessary to import natural gases, the supply security of the works becomes compromised and it Nuclear may be a more financially feasible option.

Both Nuclear and Natural Gas beginnings have the advantages of being able to provide on demand. Most renewable energy resources are offered on an as-available footing [ 8 ] . This means that you do non necessitate to run a coal station alongside a atomic station in instance it does non bring forth adequate energy to run into demand.


Media is wrong in portraiture, excessively utmost but still non safe

Waste disposal is unsafe, careful consideration as to storage installations

Safety, security

Vulnerability to atomic onslaught

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