According to the Carbon Plan Executive Summary from UK government in 2011, in order to mitigate global warming, the UK is committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. As carbon-free technology, nuclear energy currently has better efficiency performance than renewable energy, it seems a good choice to develop nuclear power plant before renewable energy technology developed. Ethical frameworks are used to judge whether nuclear energy should be invested and developed.
Support nuclear energy to be invested and developed
The energy problems have been discussed in human society for over decades. In the past decades, fossil fuels have represented the primary energy resources. However, energy scientists were considered the nuclear power to be the major energy resources in the future. This statement is based on the advantages of nuclear energy in several aspects.
- Lower greenhouse gas emissions: According to the results of statistics, the impact of nuclear energy on the current environment is the lowest. The reason is that it does not release any greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. Based on the data from report of World Nuclear Association, nuclear energy has the same level of CO2 emission with renewable energy like wind and hydroelectric technology.
- Outstanding performance: The energy density of nuclear energy is much higher than that of fossil fuels. The report has also shown that most of the fossil fuels have similar energy output per unit, while the Energy density of Nuclear Fission is 2,715,385 times denser than coal. That means only need very less amount of raw material to achieve the effect of fossil fuels.
- Stable and cheap electricity: The cost of nuclear plants is relatively higher than other generating methods. In the long term, stable resources and long life-cycle of nuclear plants can reduce the cost to generate cheaper electricity.
Benefits of relative shareholders:
For government, on the one hand, as the nuclear energy does not emitted any greenhouse gas, and also the amazing performance in electricity generation, it is a perfect choice for government to solve the dilemma between increasing energy demand and greenhouse effect. On the other hand, because nuclear energy does not consume any fossil fuel, it can help the government to reduce the reliability of external fuel supply from the foreign governments or countries, and increase the energy independence. In addition, the plenty of jobs provided for the public will not only help the society stable, but also make more tax revenue for the government.
For the nearby residents, compared with the heat-engine power plant, the nuclear power plant not only provide an attractive electricity price, but also avoid the air pollution from the harmful gas emission. Thus, a nuclear power plant can give the residents in the vicinity a blue sky.
Based on the Utilitarianism ethical framework from a big scale, as the action of developing nuclear energy will mitigate the global greenhouse effect which is protecting the human from climate change, and also the high performance of nuclear energy can make sure sufficient energy supply for the development of society.
Against nuclear energy to be invested and developed
As a high-risk energy, there are still problems of using nuclear energy. One of the major problems for the nuclear power plant is the process and storage of the waste. If the waste of the nuclear power is handled incorrectly, it may make the environment degradation and attack the human health. It is necessary to make proper management of the nuclear power waste. The main purpose is to protect people and the environment in managing and disposing of radioactive or other waste. Compared with other industrial waste, it is different that the level of the hazard of the whole nuclear waste diminishes with time. In order to realize it, almost all the waste is in the management, which need deep and permanent burial. However, the radioactivity left will be 0.001% until the waste of the nuclear power should be storage for 70-100 years. During this period, it has the potential possibilities that the storage of the waste has a negative effect on the near environment and human health. The waste also may be handled incorrectly and even someone may steal the waste to make nuclear weapon for the malevolent intention. According to the freedom principle framework, everyone is free to has the authority to enjoy the friend environment and have a health life.
Apart from the potential influence of the waste, once a meltdown occurs, there will be significant influence on environment and human health. Considering the severe nuclear power plant disasters in Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011), the accidents may be caused by not only flawed design and operational mistakes, but also inevitable natural disaster like earthquake and tsunami.
A meltdown or explosion can easily cause negative influence. Take the disaster in Fukushima as an example. After the meltdown, the volatile radionuclide released to air and polluted the land and human in certain area. Particularly high levels of radiation are measured in the soil outside the 30 km (evacuation) zone. The effect of the cesium will last at least 300 years, which lead to region uninhabitable and unusable for agriculture. Also, the people lived near the disaster area are influenced physically and psychologically. For safety reason, there will always be large scale of evacuation after a meltdown and the rebuild may last for several years. In Fukushima, the evacuation involved a total of over 400,000 individuals and separated and broken families are a common occurrence among Fukushima evacuees. Besides, with the radionuclide leakage into the water, the marine resources including algae, fishes and other creatures will have the potential to be contaminated, which will cause global influence.
With the Utilitarianism frameworks, the benefit and happiness of the majority should be concerned and satisfied first. With the significant negative influence of a meltdown, it is not a wise idea to develop and invest nuclear power plants.
Group 76: Xinyao Bai, Kuan Wei Chen, Peixin Xu, Jiayi Jin