10 Important Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power Plants

As their name implies, nuclear power plants are a type of thermal power stations that use nuclear reactors as their heat source. They have been around for more than 60 years; the first nuclear power plant to generate enough electricity for a power grid was opened on June 1954 in Russia. The first full-scale nuclear power plant, which was named Calder Hall, started its operations in Cumbria, England, on October 1956. From then on, nuclear power stations have become an important part of modern development, with 435 operational nuclear power plants in 31 countries as of April 2014.

Just like any other kind of thermal power station, nuclear power plants have steam turbines that are connected to an electric generator. They then use thermal reactors to generate heat and create steam, which powers the steam turbines and causes the generator to produce electricity. Nuclear power plants means they have the ability to consistently generate enough energy to meet the minimum demand on an electrical grid for more than 24 hours.

For many people, nuclear power plants have greatly helped in the world’s development and modernization. However, there are also numerous folks who criticize these plants and consider them as a threat. If you’re not sure which side you should be on, take a look at the pros and cons of nuclear power plants.

List of Pros of Nuclear Power Plants

1. They produce less pollution
Compared to other energy sources, nuclear power plants produces fewer amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, which are highly efficient in trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing the greenhouse effect. This comes from the fact that nuclear power stations create energy not by burning natural gas and other types of fossil fuel but by breaking down atoms. So, by relying more on these plants, it is possible to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and slow down the rate of global warming.

2. They have low operating costs
Again, compared to other types of power plants, nuclear power stations have lower operating costs. Uranium, the energy source of nuclear power plants, are relatively less expensive to obtain than other fuel sources since it can be easily found in most rocks and even in sea water. Nuclear reactors can also last up to 60 years, which means there’s no need to build a new power plant every now and then.

3. They produce large amounts of energy
Nuclear fission releases large amounts of energy. In fact, it’s believed that power produced by a nuclear fission reaction is ten million times greater than the power produced when a fossil fuel atom is burned. This means that nuclear power plants can easily produce enough energy to meet the needs not just of homeowners but also of factories and other industrial and commercial establishments.

4. They are highly reliable
Unlike solar, wind, and wave energy (which are dependent on environmental conditions), nuclear power is reliable and predictable. As long as nuclear power plants are properly maintained and in good shape, they can produce a steady amount of energy throughout the year, regardless of what the weather is like.

5. Their technology is already in place
As mentioned above, over 400 nuclear power plants are operational around the world as of 2014, which proves that the technology for producing nuclear power is already tried, tested, and proven to be effective. There’s no need to wait for years to develop a technique and run various tests since the technology needed is ready to use.

List of Cons of Nuclear Power Plants

1. They have high start-up costs
Nuclear power plants may be relatively cheaper to operate than other options, but getting them up and running is a different thing. Compared to other power plants, building nuclear power stations require a large amount of money since they need special materials and equipment that can handle nuclear energy. Constructing them also require a large amount of time, which means it takes years before a new plant can become operational.

2. They can damage the environment
Nuclear power plants may not produce a lot of greenhouse gasses, but they do create large amounts of radioactive waste by-products of the energy creation process. These waste have high temperatures and emit large amounts of radiation so, if they’re improperly disposed and dumped in forests, lakes, and other areas, they can easily pollute the land and bodies of water and destroy plants and animals in the vicinity. The worst part of this is that radioactive waste can last for thousands of years, which means they can continue doing harm even millenia from now.

3. They use a finite power source
Uranium might be abundant in the environment, but this doesn’t mean that they can last forever. Just like with fossil fuels, the time will come when the supplies of uranium aren’t enough to power the nuclear plants around the world. To solve this problem, some countries are beginning to use thorium, another type of nuclear fuel that’s more abundant than uranium, although it may take several years before the rest of the world can catch up.

4. They can cause accidents
Nuclear power plants are specially designed to be sturdy enough to handle the nuclear fission process and ensure the safety of those who work in the plants as well as those who live nearby. Despite this, several accidents have occurred over the years, such as the Chernobyl disaster and the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster. These events haven’t only destroyed properties and damaged the environment but have also caused numerous deaths, injuries, and illnesses.

5. They can be harmful for people’s health
As mentioned above, accidents in nuclear power plants can be dangerous for their workers as well as for the people who live near them. Improperly disposed nuclear waste can also be dangerous since they can seep into the water table and pollute drinking water. This, in turn, can cause a wide range of illnesses in the people who drink them.

Final Note

Nuclear power plants are undeniably helpful in generating enough energy for the modern world. Still, it can’t be denied that they also have several flaws, which require the attention of scientists, governments, and other authorities.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.