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Nuclear Power In Australia’s Energy Future

1284 words - 6 pages

Since its discovery in the late 19th century, nuclear energy has been used in a diversity of areas such as atomic bombs, medicine, reducing pollution and food irradiation (Gupta, 2012). However, one of the biggest outcomes since this discovery is nuclear energy generation. This subject is largely controversial as it has many pros and cons. It is considered to be a more eco-friendly alternative source of electricity, as it emits less carbon emissions than coal-fired power stations, for example. Yet there still an environmental risk provided by the radio-active waste and its inability to be disposed of for 100,000 years (Phillips, 2012). Today in Australia there are no active nuclear power ...view middle of the document...

Even environmentalists are considering carbon-free nuclear power as a remedy to climate change. Professor Per Peterson from the Department of Nuclear Engineering says, “It's difficult for me to see how we can transition away from fossil fuels and not use significant amounts of nuclear energy” (Phillips, 2012). Many argue that renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind should be implemented instead of nuclear energy as they too produce no air pollution. However, modern society requires a reliable ‘base load’ of electricity which renewables are not equipped to provide. In Australia there are limited sources that could potentially supply a suitable ‘base load’. They include coal and gas (which produce CO2 emissions) geothermal, hydro (which is limited due to the lack of water), developing technology and nuclear energy (Krieg, 2014). Renewable sources of energy also prove to be a problem as they are too fickle to provide base load power to a nation, as they depend on intermittent things such as weather and seasons, whereas nuclear power is available constantly whilst being a cleaner source of power.
An example of the environmental success nuclear energy has provided is France in the 1970s and 1980s. The country switched from using fossil fuels and instead used nuclear energy to supply 78% of its electricity (see figure 3). This in turn lowered the country’s greenhouse emissions by approximately 2% each year since. No accidents have ever occurred at any of France's power plants (Biello, 2013).
People opposed to the idea of nuclear generation also argue that it is unsafe as it holds the risk of nuclear disaster. The most talked about evidence of this is the1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. This caused the deaths of 28 workers as a direct result of the explosion and radiation that was emitted in to the air. 19 more were recorded to have died between 1987 and 2004 from numerous diseases, due to radiation poisoning, with 106 more suffering ongoing health issues (Krieg, 2014). More recently, in 2011, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster saw three of its reactors meltdown, releasing a considerable amount of radioactivity into the air (Bachelard, 2011).
Fear of disasters is a big reason nuclear energy doesn’t not yet have a place in Australia, however the unforgettable Chernobyl disaster which occurred almost 30 years ago was due to unsafe operating procedures and a poorly designed generation two reactor which had no containment structure around it (Krieg, 2014). The incident of Fukushima was, unlike Chernobyl, triggered by an earthquake, not the work of human error. As the entirety of Japan is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, there was higher probability that a disaster like this would occur, whereas Australia has a much lower chance of experiencing anything of that standard (Malamud,...

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