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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Discussion on advantages of environment-friendly Nuclear power over fossil fuel and hydropower:


Discussion on advantages of environment-friendly Nuclear power over fossil fuel and hydropower:

Power from nuclear energy can prevent many of the environmental consequences arising out of the use of fossil fuels, hydropower etc. Below we discuss about the disadvantages of power generated from (a) burning of fossil fuels and (b) hydropower – two major sources of power available by many countries at present other than nuclear power.

A. Disadvantages of power generated by burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum and gas:

(i) The main drawback of fossil fuels is pollution. Burning any fossil fuel produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to the "greenhouse effect", warming the Earth. The effect of rise in temperature is disastrous to environment. Agriculture is very sensitive to climate and hence is heavily affected, requiring shifts in crops that cannot be grown in different areas. Livestock also been affected through problems in breeding, diseases. Eventually, the melting glaciers will cause sea levels to rise – causes loss of habitat land, allows inland penetration of salt water which heavily impacts aquatic life. Burning fossil fuel also produces sulfur dioxide, a gas that contributes to acid rain. Acid rain is destroying forests, making lakes unlivable for fish and degrade ecosystem.

(ii) Mining coal can be difficult and dangerous. Coal mining destroys large areas of the landscape.

(iii) Waste disposal for coal-fired power plant is a major issue. Coal-fired power plant produces large quantity of ashes, which is difficult to handle and store. It destroys and pollutes large areas of land. Dust is also generated, causing health problems to human being.

B. Disadvantages of hydropower: although hydroelectric power is considered to be a clean, renewable source of energy, emitting a very low level of greenhouse gases when compared to fossil fuel plants; it many disadvantages. Disadvantages are listed below:

(i) The flooding of large areas of land means that the natural environment, forest etc., is destroyed.

(ii) It requires water at a certain volume and speed. Rain fall or lack thereof can affect the efficiency of this type of energy source.

(iii) Dams are extremely expensive to build and must be built to a very high standard. The high cost of dam construction means that they must operate for many decades to become profitable.

(iv) People living in villages and towns that are in the valley to be flooded, must move out. This means that they lose their farms and businesses. In some countries, people are forcibly removed so that hydro-power schemes can go ahead. Most of the time rehabilitation of such large number of people becomes very much problematic and some time not possible for whole mass of persons destabilized because of creation of dams.

(v) The building of large dams can cause serious geological damage. There are many examples when big dams are created; it aggravated the chances of earthquake. For example, the building of the Hoover Dam in the USA triggered a number of earth quakes and has depressed the earth’s surface at its location.
(vi) Building a large dam alters the natural water table level of the area.

(vii) Dams built blocking the progress of a river in one country usually means that the water supply from the same river in the following country is out of their control. This can lead to serious problems between neighboring countries.

(viii) It alters the ecology upstream and downstream of the dam, although fish-ladders have some moderating effect on migratory species going upstream, but can chew up the fish on the way down. The diversion of water can impact stream flow, or even cause a river channel to dry out, degrading both aquatic and streamside habitats.

C. Below we discuss advantages of nuclear power vis-a-vis other energy options, especially fossil fuel.

(i) One of the greatest advantages of nuclear power is that it avoids the wide variety of environmental problems arising from burning fossil fuels - coal, oil, and gas. Nuclear energy does not produce smoke or carbon dioxide, so it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. Thus ‘global warming’ process can be minimized - changing the earth's climate, acid rain, which is destroying forests and killing fish; air pollution etc. Nuclear power checks degrading our quality of life; i.e., the destructive effects of massive mining for coal; and oil spills which do great harm to ecological systems can be prevented.

(ii) It is possible to generate a high amount of electrical energy in one single plant using small amount of fuel.

(iii) Nuclear power is reliable. This technology is readily available; it does not have to be developed first.

(iv) Produces small amounts of waste. As the quantity of waste generated by nuclear power plant is very small, the disposal of radio-active waste can be easily contained so they can be buried deep underground. Also, more effective ways can be found out as our technology is improving at a very fast pace. Moreover, the quality of radio-active waste improved if we go for reprocessing of spent fuel and reuse of plutonium is incorporated.

(v) Nuclear power is also not so expensive as compare to power from coal. Reprocessing and reuse of plutonium from spent fuel makes it even cheaper than coal based power plant. The concern about proliferation should be taken out of mind as there are much easier, faster, and cheaper ways for a nation to develop nuclear weapons than through a nuclear power programme.

D. Discussions on future dependability for production of clean electric power –

(i) As observed from above, nuclear power has advantages in many areas, including some that have been traditionally viewed as problem areas. It averts the pollution, environmental degradation and above all retards generation of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. It also solves difficult waste management problems.

(ii) In my opinion, the generation of nuclear power should be given most priority, to combat environmental degradation and global warming issues. Wherever there is stagnation in implementing new nuclear power projects, those should be sorted out immediately to get the benefits of nuclear power and to mitigate the global warming process. Any step which mitigates the global warming process has to be adopted immediately, without wasting time, as we may not sustain any more the adverse impact of global warming. Survival of human race is at stake due to global warming.

(iii) In my opinion, if we can generate sufficient clean nuclear power so that our dependence on fossil fuel is reduced to shear minimal – whether for generation of electricity or for transport – the overall environment would be much cleaner.

(iv) Nuclear power may be supplemented by other form of clean energy such as wind energy and solar energy.

(v) For efficient community power backup environment-friendly Sodium-Sulfur (NaS) battery or equivalent should be used extensively along with nuclear power, wind power.

(vi) Transportation including motor vehicles should be run only on clean electric power.

(vii) Another advantage of producing enough nuclear power for the requirement of almost every industry and day-to-day consumption is lesser dependence on bio-diesel, bio-ethanol and other bio-fuel. Use of less bio-fuel means availability of agriculture for more food production – reduction of poverty.

(viii) Research activities should be enhanced in the areas of development of efficient environment-friend batteries and other aspects of nuclear technology.

(ix) As technology advances, we hope to switchover to more environment-friendly nuclear reactor – ‘breeder reactor’ – soon; reducing radio-active waste disposal problem.

(x) Moreover development of FUSION TECHNOLOGY successfully is also not very far; once we do that we have sufficient energy.

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