Are Nuclear Plants worth the risk?
With the devastation in Japan and with the spreading fears of a nuclear catastrophe, world is re thinking about the nuclear power once more. We have discussed the pros and cons of using nuclear energy before, but it is time to have a relook in today’s unique context.
Is nuclear power really cheap?
This is the first question came to my mind when I thought about nuclear power. The answer is, yes it is cheap. But the problem is it is not as cheap as we may think it is. When compared the fuels and operating costs, it is cheaper by a big margin. Nuclear power will cost around just 2 Cents (US$) compared with something like gas which will cost around 8 Cents or Oil which costs around 18 cents per Kilowatt Hour. Refer this for more information. In addition it is easy to transport the nuclear fuel, as it is concentrated. It emits much less carbon, which is very important.
But above figures are excluding the capital costs and indirect costs. When capital costs come in to the picture above figures do change. Cost of nuclear power goes up to around 11 cents/ Kilowatt hour while coal looks much cheaper at around 5 cents/ Kilowatt hour produced. (Refer this for more info). So nuclear power costs almost twice when compared with coal, when just $ are compared.
But coal is not available in abundance as Uranium is. So depending on coal is risky. Coal pollutes the environment heavily by releasing tons and tons of CO2. So environmentally, coal is much more costly. So nuclear power can be the more reliable and less polluting alternative for the fossil fuel.
Is nuclear power worth the risk?
The obvious next question is “If nuclear is not cheap, but a cost effective alternative, is it worth the risk?” If we are to release massive amounts of carbon by burning coal, day after day, we will have a problem. We cannot simply let it happen. We will face more and more natural disasters and the world we live in will be not suitable for living. In this context we will have to look for alternatives.
But obvious alternatives like solar and wind power are just being used in industry scale and still have their share of problems too. So only large scale and reliable alternative proven is nuclear power.
In this scenario, we are left with no other option but to go ahead with nuclear power. But we need to find safer ways of doing it.
In addition, if we stop harassing the nature by emitting tons and tons of CO2 and other poisonous gases, nature will not throw us challenges like earthquakes and Tsunamis making nuclear energy much safer.
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