Is It Time to Revive Nuclear Power

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Peng Wu
September24, 2010
Is It Time to Revive Nuclear Power?
Today, we are facing most significant problems in our human's history, global warming and energy crisis. As a different energy source from the conventional fossil fuel, nuclear power can reduce the carbon emissions and support our energy supply. Unfortunately, nuclear energy has many problems that can’t be ignored. The issue comes up whether deploy substantive nuclear energy plants is valuable with these unsolved problems. Sequent paragraphs will summarize a “yes” article and a “no” article on this issue of deploying nuclear energy plants and give my own critiques. Professor Stephen Ansolabehere’s writing of the article “The Future of Nuclear Power” from the book “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues(11th En.)”, edited by Thomas Easton 2006, McGraw-Hill Contemporary Learning Series, Dubuque, IA, states his argument of supporting expanded use of nuclear power. Stephen states the problems come from our energy system depend on the fossil fuels can only be relieved by several options include maintain nuclear power. The increase of nuclear power is limited by four reasons: cost, which is nuclear energy has no advantage compare to the fossil fuel with no carbon tax or disposition; safety, nuclear energy is considered dangerous especially after the Three Mile Island accident; proliferation, the concern of nuclear power plants’ components are used as precursor of nuclear weapons; waste, the disposition of spent fuel will cause problems after long time. In the global growth scenario, in 2050, carbon emission will probably be 13,000 million tones, if 1000 GWe reactors of nuclear power are deployed, they can avoid 800 million tones carbon emission from gas-fired or 1800 million tones carbon emission from coal-fired. There are three representative types fuel recycle deployment, which are one through mode thermal reactors, reprocessing thermal reactors and fast reactors with a balanced closed fuel cycle. At present one through mode thermal reactors fitting the condition of low cost and low possibilities of proliferation. US’s Public attitude toward nuclear power is not supportive and people don’t consider that carbon-free character as a reason to expand nuclear power. On economics nuclear power is not competitive because the capital cost and the lack of carbon tax. Government should make it convenient to get operating licenses and provide subsidy for some new nuclear plants. Today’s safety standard can be expected the frequency of serious reactor core accidents from 10-4/reactor year to 10-5/ reactor year. This standard can be ensured by new light water reactor plants. The high temperature gas-cooled reactor is another candidate has some advantages in some aspects compare to light water reactors. Waste management as a major issue of nuclear energy has not been solved completely. Spent fuel will cause long-term risk. The U.S. attempt to solve this problem on the program of Yucca Mountain and achieve successful commissioning but if nuclear energy are expanded future more and more Yucca Mountain repositories should be built all over the world. Advanced, closed fuel cycles can be a solution of reducing long-term rick from the waste and the load of spent fuel. They analyzed the waste management and the conclusion is that government should balance the short-term rick, long-term risk and the economic costs. Small proliferation risk is necessary to expand nuclear power all over the world. Government should restrict the enrichment and weapon-usable material. Nowadays there are three issues should be focused: existing stocks of separated plutonium can be directly used as weapon, transfer of technology and the nuclear facilities which are lack of controls. They suggest The International Atomic Energy Agency should focus on its safeguard function and be given the authority to inspect declared facilities to suspected illicit facilities. More attention should...
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