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Nuclear energy; is it environmental friendly or is it not? This debate has been solely planted after the world witnessed the effects of major nuclear meltdowns on the environment. However, many have made the elementary mistake of overseeing the clear advantages that nuclear power generation hold over the likes of coal and natural gas power generation. Pessimists often fall back on the notion that nuclear meltdown will spell fatal for the environment and nuclear power plants operating throughout the world would sooner or later give way, resulting in environmental catastrophe. But then again, nuclear meltdowns occur only in the steepest of circumstances. Blinded by the advancement in nuclear technology and the availability of various nuclear meltdown defense mechanisms developed throughout the years, many continue to speculate brashly about how nuclear power affects the environment.

The Japan nuclear meltdown

The best way to go about this issue is by doing an in depth comparison between the most widely used power source which is natural gas and coal, and what could be considered its best alternative, nuclear power. These two types of power generation are understood to produce the highest amount of power in the world as compared to the greener substitute that is renewable energy. In Malaysia, natural gas and coal is understood to produce around 95% of the total energy mix. To put this into retrospective; due to the abundance in resources of coal and natural gas throughout the world, much of Malaysia’s energy is drawn from these resources.

The biggest problem with natural gas and coal (fossil fuel) is excessive pollution. Coal-fired plants spew out CO2 and toxins like nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide. The cumulative greenhouse effects promise catastrophic weather phenomena, widespread flooding, food shortage, displacement, and extinction. The effect of rise in temperature contributes to global warming. Agriculture is very sensitive to climate and hence is heavily affected, requiring shifts in crops that cannot be grown in different areas. Livestock are also affected and face difficulty especially in breeding and various forms of diseases caused by radioactive emission. Eventually, the melting glaciers will cause sea levels to rise which will result in loss of habitat land, allows inland penetration of salt water which heavily impacts aquatic life. Burning fossil fuel also produces sulfur dioxide, a gas that contributes to acid rain. Acid rain is destroying forests, making lakes unlivable for fish and degrade ecosystem.

The whole process of mining coal can be difficult and dangerous. Coal mining requires large amounts of strip mining which eventually destroys large areas of the landscape. Waste disposal for coal-fired power plant is a major issue. Coal-fired power plant produces large quantity of ashes and extreme amount CO2, which is difficult to contain. It destroys and pollutes large areas of land. Dust is also generated, causing health problems to human being and eloping plant surfaces. Based on this, it can be stipulated that natural gas as well as coal-fired plants are the catalyst to global warming.

Nuclear energy on the other hand produces minimal or negligible amount smoke or CO2, so it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. For the abundance of energy nuclear power plants is capable of generating, it has always puzzled many that the whole process emits only an insignificant amount of CO2. Well, this is just one of the great benefits of nuclear power. In every sense of the word, nuclear energy is definitely ‘eco-friendly.’ Thus ‘global warming’ process can be minimized. Nuclear power in no way changes the earth’s climate, which means that there will be no acid rain which is lethal to the environment. Acid rain contains high amount of toxins which can cause ecological imbalance by killing forests and disrupting the marine life. As for the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ goes, nuclear technology definitely fits all the requirements in providing for a safe and reliable mean for power generation as compared to coal and natural gas.

Nuclear energy produces a small amount of waste. As the quantity of waste generated by nuclear power plant is very small, the disposal of radio-active waste can be easily contained so they can be buried deep underground. Also, more effective ways can be found out as the technology is improving at a very fast pace. Avant-garde technology is constantly being developed to shield, curb, contain and disband radio-active waste.  Moreover, the quality of radio-active waste improved if it goes for reprocessing of spent fuel and the reuse of plutonium is incorporated.

References

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_lesser_evil_nuclear_or_coal/

http://www.ourenergyworld.com/nuclearvscoal.htm

http://environmentengineering.blogspot.com/search/label/nuclear%20power

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