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Nuclear Power

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Discuss the view that nuclear power can be managed so that it is an environmentally sustainable source of energy

For nuclear power to be considered sustainable source of energy it musn’t deplete resources or causes long term environmental damage for future generations. Because it is a non-renewable energy source it cannot be classed as a sustainable source as it will run out in 200 years at current consumption. However, it can be thought of as an environmentally sustainable source of energy if managed the correct way.

Unlike other non-renewable energy sources such as coal, nuclear power does not release any CO2 emissions, which is a strong positive of its use. This will also contribute to the government’s aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. However, the production of nuclear power isn’t all green as building the power station produces a lot of CO2.

Another reason why nuclear power can be environmentally sustainable is because it does not release any ash or sulphur dioxide which would damage ecosystems and food chains in the surrounding area. For example, France produces 78% of their electricity from nuclear power and they have the cleanest air in Europe; proving that polluting the environment is minimal.

On the other hand, nuclear power produces radioactive waste that is extremely damaging to the environment and can scar the landscape for hundreds of years. Consequences such as human, animal and plant deaths and illnesses, destruction of the local environment and contamination of large areas can occur if not managed carefully. You only have to look at the Chernobyl disaster to see what can happen. The explosion alone caused 56 deaths along with the thousands dead from the radiation. The area is still heavily contaminated today and this accident shows how harmful a nuclear disaster can be.

Even if Britain built ten new reactors, which would cost billions, the carbon emissions would only be cut by 4% by the use of nuclear power over other energy sources. Questioning if it is really worth it.

My view is that if looked after extremely carefully, the use of nuclear power can be environmentally sustainable. However, I don’t believe the risks should be taken as storing the radioactive waste poses huge threats to the local environment and its clear what can happen after past disasters in Chernobyl and Japan.

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