Nuclear power – worth the risk?
Nuclear energy has garnered a bad reputation over the years. Anti-nuclear activists maintain that nuclear power is dangerous and that it should be phased out as soon as possible. Each time a nuclear accident happens, the public opinion shifts and puts pressure on governments to abolish nuclear power. More recently, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Germany closed 7 of its nuclear reactors (1) and now has only 6 operating reactors (2). Other large countries have no nuclear reactors or are currently phasing out existing ones (3).
However nuclear power is an important element for the earth to transition from fossil fuels. It is an efficient source of energy that produces less emissions than some renewable energies like solar and wind. (4)
The main arguments against nuclear power are the nuclear waste it produces and the risk of nuclear accidents. However, these risks could well be worth it. For one, nuclear energy produces minimal waste, mainly due to the fact that nuclear fuel is extremely dense (4). Additionally, in the future some reactors could exist that actually use nuclear waste as fuel (4). Regarding the storage of existing waste, there are currently efficient and safe ways to store it for the foreseeable future (5). In the long term, there is scientific consensus that deep geological repositories are a technologically safe, environmentally sound solution to storing high level nuclear waste.
The danger posed by nuclear accidents also seems to be overblown due to mainly public panic. It has been shown that nuclear power is safe in absolute terms, but particularly as compared with many of the other forms of energy production (6). The accidents that happened were due to faulty equipment, processes, or protocols that would not be allowed today. Modern reactors can incorporate recent innovations that could make accidents virtually impossible. (7)
In conclusion, nuclear energy should be considered more by large countries as a solution to the world’s fossil fuel problem, and governments should not outright dismiss it due to mainly political reasons.
- Washington Post. Japan crisis rouses anti-nuclear passions globally. 2012 Hearst Communications Inc. [En ligne] 16 March 2011. https://web.archive.org/web/20120118133708/http:/articles.sfgate.com/2011-03-16/news/28693627_1_nuclear-plants-nuclear-safety-nuclear-power.
- IAEA. Country Nuclear Power Profiles: Germany . [En ligne] 2021. https://cnpp.iaea.org/countryprofiles/Germany/Germany.htm#:~:text=Germany%202021&text=Germany%20has%20six%20nuclear%20power,have%20already%20been%20fully%20dismantled..
- The Economist Newspaper Limited 2022. When the steam clears: The Fukushima crisis will slow the growth of nuclear power. Might it reverse it? [En ligne] 24 March 2011. https://www.economist.com/briefing/2011/03/24/when-the-steam-clears.
- US Department of Energy . 3 Reasons Why Nuclear is Clean and Sustainable. [En ligne] 31 March 2021. https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/3-reasons-why-nuclear-clean-and-sustainable.
- World Nuclear Association. Radioactive Waste – Myths and Realities. [En ligne] January 2022. https://world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-wastes/radioactive-wastes-myths-and-realities.aspx.
- World Nuclear Association. Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors. [En ligne] March 2022. https://world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/safety-of-nuclear-power-reactors.aspx.
- HELMUTH BOECK. Why nuclear power is safer than ever. [En ligne] 1 February 2022. https://www.gisreportsonline.com/r/nuclear-energy-safe/.