Wind Farm or Nuclear Harm?

In the early morning of April 26, 1986, in what was then part of the USSR, a catastrophic accident took place in what is now known as the worst nuclear meltdown in history. Since that day, the viability and safety of nuclear power has been put into question. This article aims to provide an unbiased review on the pros and cons of nuclear energy with a focus on whether the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the potential danger it possesses.

Pro Nuclear Energy

Currently, we release over 2.4 million pounds of CO2 per second using non-renewable energy sources. This combined with the depletion of oil at a rate of 19.4 million barrel per day, it is essential that a cleaner alternative energy source is found. Source 1 Nuclear energy is a strong candidate for a clean alternative energy source. Unfortunately, the technology has garnered some speculations regarding its safety due to a few nuclear meltdowns that have gained international media coverage. It must be stated that in over 16000 years of cumulative nuclear power generation, there have only been 3 major incidents; 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Source 2 Although the occurrence of a nuclear meltdown is statistically less likely to transpire than a car accident, nevertheless the occurrence of these three disasters have given nuclear energy a bad name.

Even though these disasters were fatal and resulted in significant environmental decline, it must be stated that the occurrence of a disaster leads to better understanding of nuclear power and thus improve the safety of next-generation nuclear power plants. Therefore, we can look at nuclear energy at a consequentialist stand point. Further development of nuclear energy will not only provide a cleaner energy source alternative, but it can also provide a safer workplace environment as workers are not subjected to dangerous conditions such as those found in coal mines and oil drilling plant which causes thousands of work-related deaths per year. Source 3

Although the scientific community regards nuclear power as a safe way of obtaining energy, there are certain aspects about the technology that have been made safer because of careful analysis of the three previous infamous meltdowns. Aspects such as the power plant location, is one aspect that have improved over the years. Placing the power plant away from densely populated areas reduces the amount of people affected should a meltdown occur. Source 4 Furthermore, we can take Kant’s theory to justify nuclear energy. Nuclear energy offers immense potential for the development of humanity as in theory, it can offer almost limitless energy which therefore agrees with Kant’s theory that it is humanities moral duty to further itself in its endeavour for greater understanding.

A Utilitarian “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” perspective can be applied to nuclear power; the approach aims to minimise the potential for harm while maximising the good that society can benefit from. The slight risk taken in using nuclear power is easily justified by the immense potential for energy output which benefits millions across the world.

To conclude, nuclear power holds immense potential as a cleaner alternative source of energy. Although many issues hold significant concerns over the technology, taking a utilitarian and consequentialist approach in analysing the situations puts our opinions for the development and use of nuclear power.

Vues aériennes et au sol du CNPE de Chooz
Vue aérienne du CNPE de Chooz, le long de la Meuse.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

On the other hand, should nuclear power be used as an energy source given its history of putting people’s lives at stake, especially when there are other means of renewable energy?  There have been approximately 99 incidents involving nuclear power across history and there are various problems still continuing today. Source 5 The largest and most catastrophic incident at Chernobyl caused multiple fatalities, costing billions of dollars’ worth of damage to surrounding areas. Source 6 The clear lack of respect for the danger of nuclear energy was shown by the Ukrainian government, still operating the 3 remaining reactors at the plant due to energy shortages. Source 7 In the event of any disaster, shutdown reactors completely!

Moreover, at Sellafield, there have been numerous leaks of radioactive material into the ground and thus potentially leaching into the sea and drinking water. Source 8 Surely something as dangerous as nuclear waste should be stored in the safest and most secure environment? There is debate on whether nuclear energy is even renewable. To be considered as renewable, the source of energy must be maintainable indefinitely. Uranium deposits on earth are limited in comparison to solar and wind. Source 9

Furthermore, it would be much more beneficial to the environment and the safety of others to focus on developing solar and wind means of energy. Such innovative examples include the helium-filled floating wind turbines recently launched in Alaska, which is situated higher in the sky where wind is much faster. Vortex bladeless wind energy generators are thin structures that harness energy from vortices in moving air, making it a lot safer for birds and takes up less space. Source 10 Both options coincide with the Utilitarianism ethical framework, where actions should be governed by the amount of pain/pleasure imposed. Apprehensive conservationists and the mourning of fatalities is surely enough to oppose nuclear energy?

In addition, other alternatives to uranium that could be further developed include solar power through solar panels, electrolysing water to form hydrogen for fuel cells Source 11 or even geothermal energy from converting heat underground into electricity, with the advantage of being available 24 hours a day. Source 12 The virtue ethics framework is relevant to these actions as they are dependent on the engagements of research institutions and engineers through innovating new advances in generating renewable energy. Professionalism with every aspect is mandatory! Following this virtue ethics framework, consequentialism is also applicable. Poor regulation, improper funding for maintenance and disposal of waste, and focus on the energy requirements instead of considering the consequences of actions could and have resulted in catastrophic events transpiring.

In conclusion, Nuclear power is outdated, dangerous and serves only to alleviate energy demands. Taking virtue ethics into account, is nuclear power a necessity? Even if so, greater steps need to be taken to ensure safety with regard to precautionary measures and regulations.

 

Group 77: Napoleon Escasinas, Alex Goodier, Lloyd Hans, Narinderjit Sangha

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9 thoughts on “Wind Farm or Nuclear Harm?

  1. Nuclear is in theory the cleanest of large scale baseload energy generation. The current renewables like solar and wind are great but can’t guarantee 24/7 generation.

    If we don’t replace the old Nuclear Power fleet of generators what will we do when the lights go out?

    The next generation of plants should have learnt lessons from the disasters. However that does not guarantee they will be perfect.

    No simple answers I’m afraid.

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  2. The article gives a brief introduction into the ethical concerns surrounding nuclear farm and covers the supporting arguments for wind farms sufficiently. The Utilitarian approach used to explain and evidence certain arguments is an interesting approach to the controversial issue of using nuclear energy. Good examples have been suggested to evidence both energy sources.
    However, it would be beneficial to have some more statistics surrounding the nuclear disasters (i.e Chernobyl) and how the impacts are still being felt 30-40 years on. Additionally, more examples of current innovations in renewable energy would be an invaluable contribution to this article as they show how far development into alternative sources of nuclear energy has advanced.

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  3. Interesting debate. With investment and technological advances in renewable energy continuing to increase over the next decade they will be far more capable and reliable so surely this is the way forward? For example, China have recently solved the issue of how to transport the energy generated by renewables over huge distances by using ultra high voltage direct currents. However perhaps Donald Trump’s views on climate change may slow this down, but evidence does suggest that China seems to have picked up the mantle to be the leader in green technologies. I guess the US’s loss is China’s gain.

    To touch on technology in the nuclear space, I believe in Finland they are developing ground breaking texhnololgy to store nuclear waste in capsules beneath the earth surface which may be the answer to the safe storage of nuclear waste.

    I guess it is an arms race between technology in the renewables versus the nuclear space.

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  4. Interesting article. Totally agree with the conclusion that nuclear energy is clearly dangerous and that more investment into renewable energy is obviously the best (and most ethical) long-term direction.

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  5. Surely if we have this much technology around, that has no risk in terms of safety and environmental damage, why do we need nuclear energy? People dont trust it enough as it is given it’s reputation. The UK has now able to power it’s population without any energy supplied from coal, it’s only a matter of time before the grid is supplied from renewable sources.

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  6. I believe that nuclear energy could be a great source of nuclear energy in the future. The number of disasters from nuclear power plants are small yet had distrastous effects, but hopefully scientists can learn from those previous mistakes and ensure that the risk of another disaster is even smaller. With all the technology and health and saftey measurements today I think that risk would be very small. However I think investing money into renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farming is far more ethical with less risk.

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  7. This topic is one which will be in debate for a long time. On the one hand there is the increasing demand for energy, which is unlikely to slow before the turn of the century, and on the other there is the constant wish to eliminate risk in the world. Personally I would say that since fossil fuels are dwindling there needs to be an alternative source of energy and that despite renewable sources being possibly less risky they cannot provide power in the same way nuclear energy is able to.
    The article is well written – however I feel that there needs to be a look into the negative effects of wind and solar such as the accidents that have been caused from this energy source.
    In terms of my stance on whether nuclear energy should be used, I feel it should. The nuclear accidents in the past are primarily human error based and this only leads to more precautions in the future which will prevent accidents occurring.

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  8. Extremely interesting read presenting valid points for both sides of the argument. However, I agree that even though nuclear power holds great potential, the catatrosphic risks associated with its use simply outweigh any benefits. The past has evidently shown us this and we would be stupid to ignore it. I have bright hopes for the future of renewable energy.

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  9. Despite an increasing population, the national grid power requirement has remained fairly stable over the last few years due to an increase in efficiency of both domestic and industrial appliances. This allows us to focus on becoming more ‘green’, rather than using ‘green ‘energy’ to top up the supply of the grid. The UK has committed to reducing it’s carbon footprint which means transferring from ‘dirty’ power sources (e.g. coal) to renewables (here we must note the reduction in abundance of coal and gas too). Renewables don’t guarantee security of supply due to their dependence on the weather and therefore we must pose a stop-gap for when renewables are unable to produce that required power output. Nuclear power works well as a stop-gap, because it produces a huge amount of power respect to the fuel required, where the fuel is found in great abundance and has a low carbon footprint. Despite previous instances of nuclear ‘disasters’, modern technology and monitoring equipment has further increased the safety when handling, storing and disposing nuclear materials and therefore the probability of another ‘disaster’ is continually being decreased. From this I believe that nuclear energy is the way forward, with renewables, to reduce our carbon footprint and meet the demand of the power grid.

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