With the world looking for alternatives to fossil fuels, nuclear energy is often looked upon as the best method to consider. Some have called it a clean energy source. Meanwhile, others have condemned nuclear power as potentially dangerous.
Nuclear energy comes from a process known as fission, where uranium atoms are split. Steam is generated from the heat of fission, which in turn is used to generate electricity through turbines. Unlike conventional power plants, nuclear ones do not emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. However, they come with their own dangers that can be even more catastrophic than global warming.
The Chernobyl Disaster
The most high profile nuclear power accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. During a safety test a combination of reactor design flaws and incorrect procedures led to a core explosion. This released radioactive graphite into the air. Fission particles entered the atmosphere and rained down over Russia and western Europe.
There were several deaths as a result of the explosion and its aftermath. Two workers died at the facility due to the effects of the steam blast. Two more died shortly afterwards. Over the subsequent weeks, at least 28 emergency servicemen died from radiation sickness. Another 134 were hospitalised with acute radiation syndrome.
The true number of civilians killed because of Chernobyl has been disputed for years. As of 2011 at least 15 people have died from thyroid cancer. Further study is needed to determine how widespread the damage was to the people of Russia.
Critics of nuclear power often cite Chernobyl as a reason for not trusting it as an energy source. The fact that a similar yet less devastating accident occurred at Fukushima in 2011 gives credence for distrusting fission. In order to utilise it safely governments need to recognise the extreme danger nuclear power has.
Nuclear power does not require the use of coal, a material known for emitting carbon. Therefore if countries replace fossil fuels with nuclear the effects of global warming may be diminished. There are also economical factors to consider. This form of energy has relatively low costs and yields a considerable amount of power. In fact a fission reaction will release a million times more energy than burning coal.