In the face of a global climate catastrophe, many people and countries are suggesting we look to energy sources that were previously dismissed as too dirty or dangerous: Nuclear energy is among these proposed solutions. So let's take a closer look at what could possibly be an energy saviour for our times.
While there have been many improvements regarding the safety and disposal of nuclear waste in the nuclear sector in the past decade or so, this ability does not always reflect the reality in the nuclear industry. The major facility where this improvement has occurred is in Finland. A project at the Finnish Posiva nuclear facility casts its nuclear waste in iron, encases it in more iron and then buries it deep underground in a borehole, which is then filled with a special type of clay. This is predicted to store the dangerous nuclear waste for as long as a million years.
"Only if every nuclear facility followed this type of standard to a tee, could
we come to depend on nuclear as a major source of energy in the future."
However, now that this standard has been set, there is a new growing false sense of security amongst the public. While Finland may have cleaned up their act, the nuclear industry in other countries, where environmental regulations are poorly regulated, can continue to pollute and discard waste unsafely under the guise of a new and improved industry standard. Unfortunately, it's simply too dangerous to rely on the industry to self-regulate when the cost of nuclear spills
both to the environment and human populations is so high. Disposing of nuclear waste safely costs much much more than it does to be shady about getting rid of used-up uranium, so there is little incentive to change disposal methods. And trust isn't something that the nuclear industry has earned since it started up in the 1950's. Whether it's in Chernobyl, Yucca Mountain in the U.S., or the Sellafield nuclear complex in the United Kingdom, nuclear facilities world-wide have been accused and often found guilty of dirty disposal tactics.
There is also significant debate in the scientific community about how much energy it takes to extract uranium from the earth compared to how much energy the uranium will yield. There are some studies that suggest it takes much less energy, and some that suggest that it takes more. Unfortunately all parties are well-sourced and look to be correct. So who's right? Well, in my eyes, the proof is in the pudding. Most nuclear industries are heavily subsidized by their governments, and few new reactors have been opened since the late 1980?s, leading me to believe that it is not a particularly profitable and efficient source of energy, therefore not one that we should rely on to save us from the perils of climate change. This is especially true when there are other, far less dangerous options available.
Source(s): Monbiot, George. "Heat", South End Press: London. 2007.