Clarifying Doubts about Nuclear Energy

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Clarifying Doubts about Nuclear Energy

Introduction

Thesis Statement:

This research paper seeks to highlight the history, dynamics of technology development of nuclear energy, and strategies contributing to the economic growth of countries that utilize nuclear power as a source of energy. MAYBE:people’s attitude towards

History of Nuclear Energy

The story behind the discovery of nuclear energy began with passionate scientists, who started studying and investigating the composition of atoms and its ability to produce energy. Atom, which is a Greek word, defines unseen shape or phenomena and it represents the smallest element of matter. In 1900, Earnest Rutherford, Physicist, was called the father of nuclear science due to his experiments and research which helped  define the structure of the atom. However, thirty-four years later, Enrico Fermi was amazed when he noticed that bombarding the Uranium with neutrons resulted in producing several elements even lighter than Uranium. This observation opened the door for scientists like  Lise Meitner, Fritz Strassmann, and Otto Hahn to conduct more in-depth experiments. Later, Lies figured out that the mismatch in calculation was due to the  lighter elements of the atomic mass. As a result, fission,which is the mechanism of splitting the nucleus, was proven since it complied with Einsteun’s Law of mass and energy. In 1942, the first self-sustaining experiment was conducted in the University of Chicago, sparking to the nuclear era (U.S. Department of Energy, 1995).

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        During World War II, a whole body of research was conducted on weaponizing this atomic energy and using it as a massive destruction weapon. For example, in 1945, Manhattan Project was the cover name for this type of research in the United States. First experiment was executed in Almogordo, New Mexico. After the use of atomic massive weapons, namely Little Boy and Fat Man, the world began to realize how dangerous  this technology could be? In response to that devastating event,, in 1946, the US congress established the Atomic Energy Commission for the sake of managing and promoting  the peaceful use of nuclear energy (U.S. Department of Energy, 1995).

        In the 1950s, the objective of atomic energy was aimed to the production of electrical energy. Many electrical power plants were established either for commercial or military use. The reactors were simple in technology and used water to cool them down. In addition, companies started to invest in this kind of light-water reactor and its operations. However, in 1979, one of the commercial reactors in Pennsylvania, Three Mile Island power plant, had a major accident due to failure in cooling system, which, in turn,  led to a meltdown and released hazardous radiation to the environment. Both the regulations and safety measures were changed following the aftermath of this accident. The worst major meltdown however took place in  Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986. This one t resulted in releasing radiation due to lack of containment of released radioactivity. The latter incident pushed and triggered many social movements to fight for the consideration of shutting down all nuclear power plants for good (U.S. Department of Energy, 1995).

Generally speaking, sources of energy depend on many factors including the country’s geographical location for hydroelectric sources, geological situation for geothermal energy, coal, and oil and gas resources, latitude and longitude for the solar measures, height in sea level and climate conditions for wind energy, and last but not least, the heavy metals and metalloids. Limitations of energy resources in terms of  lifetime usage , costs, and location have affected the growth of many countries and left them with power shortage. However, permissibility of using nuclear energy without those restrictions, apart from security and safety, which were the most critical and sensitive restrictions in the eyes of the world, gave it an advantage. Scientific progress in this type of technology have led to an efficient energy fits to support both the economy and environment. This research paper concerns itself with the investigation of the different factors, dynamics, and strategies contributing to the economic growth of those countries  utilizing nuclear power as a source of energy.

Contributions in Nuclear Energy Source

Reliability:

Every power source plays an important role in the field of energy reliability. A reliable source is a  source in that has the sustainability within its elements  and constancy in its generation process. Uranium, which is one of the most precious radioactive materials from which  nuclear energy is  extracted , is  just like any other natural material that is found in nature. In addition, many countries have begun the exploration process which includes mining and production  the Uranium. Canada, as an example, started a serious mining program in 1942. Despite the fact that it was potentially for the military use, in 1959, production of Uranium started to exceed 12000 tonnes with total of 23 mines and 19 treatment location. However, total production of 14039 tonnes of Uranium ,in 2016, in Canada represented 22% of world’s total production. Thus, it is difficult for countries in which have no resources of this material to rely on type of energy. (Uranium in Canada, 2018)

China situation is setting a good example within its inconvenient population expansion with distribution of resources. While 80% of china’s coal were based in the North and 70% of the hydroelectric power are in the Southwestern region, the growth and the population expansion is heading towards the East. As a result of the difficulties of transportation either in the power transmission or the logistic resources, the supply of growing areas have demand building nuclear power plant for Eastern blind spots in different areas to support and cover the growing demand of electrical energy. Thus, with all of the steps has china proceeded with its progress in gaining well experienced professionals in designs, operation, and building the base form for training nuclear specialists. However, projects of Qinshan and Daya Bay had been the most proven progress towards a sustainable source with two 900 Megawatts power units capacity. (Ping, 1987)

  Nuclear Power Policies:

In the 23rd of October 1956, the law of International Atomic Energy Agency was confirmed and became applicable in the year after. The mission of the agency is to support the whole world with the nuclear energy development, energy planning, offering expertise, assisting facilities to ensure safe running, standards, guidance, assistance, and security against nuclear terrorism. According to the Statue of International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA (Statue, 1989) The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. It shall ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.”

As for the concerns of nuclear energy, the topic of running nuclear power plants is still debatable in many countries. Conducting a nuclear power policy is a big step ahead for many countries where they have the resources but they haven’t entered the era of nuclear energy yet. Australia, for example, holds 30% of the world’s Uranium deposits, all of which is being exported by the Energy of Resources of Australia (ERA) to the power utilities in United States, Spain, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, and even China. The nuclear power policies here are limited to electricity generation.  They regulate the processes of mining, extracting, treatment, and exporting of nuclear materials . As a matter of fact, Australia has its own policy for exporting the uranium with an international dual protection statues. (Australia’s Uranium, 2018)

Dynamics of technology development

Economy:

Potential Cost

 The cost of an entire nuclear power plant involves aspects  such as the type of nuclear reactor technology, the construction of the power plant, the environmental measures of protection, and overnight cost, which is the delay cost of the project and loan interest. Most of the times, the price of the construction results in 12% of the total cost. According to the cost assumptions of David Kennedy, in 2006, in ” New nuclear power generation in the UK: Cost benefit analysis”, construction period is accumulated in 8 years of predevelopment, 5 years for licenses issuing and site construction development, as well as 3 years of public inquiry. However, based on the financial situation of the project, an overnight cost might be involved due to the extension usually this sort of construction has. The overnight cost adds 20%.

Operation Cost

 The cost of the nuclear power plants differ for many factors. Those factors include the size of production referred to as capacity. Kennedy estimates the construction cost to be ??900/KW which means for a capacity of 10 GW, it costs ??2.8 billion by TVO company Project. In addition, the cost for constructing additional EPR reactor, in 2006, in Flamanville, France, was ??3 to 3.3 billion and ??22 to 36/MWh. However, the inclined price was due to the rise of steel price.

 The main cost to be discussed is the actual cost a client is supposed to pay. This cost is represented by the unit of one Kilowatt- hour consumed by the costumer. According to (Sims, Rogner & Gregory, 2003),”new nuclear power generating costs between 3.9 and 8.0 c/kWh can be competitive with coal and natural gas where coal has to be transported over long distances or natural gas pipelines and infrastructures are not in place.”

The cost might vary on some changes within the resources basis such as the variation price of the oil, and low and high price of gas scenarios. The changes of gas and oil prices, thus, are related to each other’s market prevalence. With the assumptions of central averaged prices of gas, coal, and nuclear resources, the price of produced gas energy is  ??35/MWh within 37 pence/therm while the price of nuclear costs ??37.50/MWh. The first sight of the comparison shows that gas has better price comparatively, thus, the rapid  related changes of oil and gas prices has to be considered. The price of gas energy was assumed at $40/bbl. However, the changes are reflected within the range of 21 to 53 pence/therm to the cost of ??25 to 45/MWh. (New nuclear power generation in the UK: Cost benefit analysis David Kennedy). Despite the narrow difference between nuclear and fossil fuel sources, the main concern is based on the rapid increases and the instability within fossil fuel sources prices.

Cost Saving

Based on the previous numbers regarding expenditure, it’s is critical to address the concerns critics have nowadays about nuclear power plants. In fact, the cost of unstable power source can even be more sensitive to both the consumers and power utilities. The consumer will experience an increased cost per the consumption of power ues, as a result of increased maintenance and operational cost compared to nuclear energy cost of maintenance and operation. On the other hand, renewable energy sources are not sustainable sources to frequent rely on  due to   environmental changes, as wind or solar energy, within a constant demand. Thus, based on the category of load, which has base, intermediate, and peak load, the load require a tremendous and sustainable source to prevent the frequent supplying changes. Those frequent changes could result on overloading and hence  black out the power plant. In addition, installation of nuclear power plant expands the capacity of nominal rated power energy could be produced by that plant compared to most of fossil fuel resource. A clear example of that is the reactor type AP1000, which is the most popular type in power plants, has the capacity of 6 MWe instead of the usual fossil fuel power plants of which doesn’t exceed 2 MWe production capacity. (Sims, Rogner & Gregory, 2003)

Environmental safety

Nuclear power can be a fatal source of energy. Fatalities caused by this source need to be compared with sources of carbon dioxide emissions, such as coal or gas. Forecasting the initial impact as well as previous collected data are being considered in such a comparison of the most dangerous source on the environment or fatality rate. In recent years, only five countries plus the OECD Europe have the impact on environment by producing more than half of the world’s emissions of  carbon dioxide. Those countries are China, US, India, Russia and Japan. However, estimations of fatalities caused by greenhouse gas (GHG), carbon dioxide emissions, or the number of lives saved by nuclear source of  energy are based on the amount of annual production of each source between 1971 and 2009. As a result, the rate of deaths in regards to each source based on unit of generated electricity. (Kharecha & Hansen, 2013)

 Every process works on both inputs and outputs in which waste is one of the main out measures related to the environment. Scientists and researchers consider the effect of nuclear energy on reducing the emission of carbon dioxide is one of the major factors towards saving both the environment and human lives. However, power plants operation on fossil fuel results in the emission of carbon dioxide. Air pollution caused by this emission due fossil burning , such as gas power plants, has direct effect on the global warming. In fact, generation of  6 GW by gas power plant release total of 15 million tons of carbon dioxide, on the other hand, this amount would not release if it had been a nuclear power plant. However, in relation of the effects of this huge CO2 production, both the environment, and human health and mortality were affected. According to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center “Nuclear power prevented an average of over 1.8 million net deaths worldwide between (1971-2009). This amounts to at least hundreds and more likely thousands of times more deaths than it caused. An average of 76,000 deaths per year were avoided annually between (2000-2009), with a range of 19,000-300,000 per year.”(Kharecha & Hansen, 2013)

References

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