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Nuclear Renaissance: Risks versus Benefits


                                 The Author: Valeriya Belan
                                                Form                        10B
                                                Linguistic Gymnasia № 164
                                The Advisor: Nelli Porseva
                                                The     Teacher   of    English
                                                Linguistic Gymnasia № 164

   Krasnoyarsk Region

   I. The main counter-arguments for nuclear energy using
       1. Environment: problems with pollution
       2. Widely-known nuclear accidents - causes and consequences
              a) Three Mile Island accident
              b) Chernobyl catastrophe
              c) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa accident
  II. Lessons of the past
 III. Future forecasts
 IV. Conclusion
  V. Resources


       Aim of work was:
           To demonstrate an understanding of one of the challenges related to nuclear
           To synthesize and evaluate the information I have gained.
           To create my own interpretations about world events and concerns.

I. The main counter-arguments for nuclear energy using

       Nowadays, looking at all benefits of nuclear energy, it is possible to say that nuclear
technologies have really good chances to be developed. Using nuclear possibilities in only
peaceful way people may solve a problem of potential energy crisis.
But with growing number of nuclear power plants of today’s technical level, the percentage of
dangerous situations will grow. The majority of the most popular and strong counter arguments
about building new nuclear power plants are connected with
            Environment
            Well-known nuclear accidents

       1. Environment: problems with pollution

      The first argument about environmental pollution can be rather easily denied by the table
of comparison of CO2 emissions caused by different sources of energy.

        CO2 emissions for energy sources per kilowatt hour (gCO2-e/kWh)
Natural gas                    386                  Nuclear (OECD)               11-22
World Av.                      540                  Nuclear (Strom & Smith)      84-12224
Coal                           755                  Nuclear (ISA, Uni. Of 10-13025
Nuclear (Oko Institute)        3126                 Sydney)
        [1, p.10]
        It is easily seen how large the difference is. But people, who are absolutely against using
nuclear energy, can say that in case of the accident the damage will be long-lasting. They can
cite as an example the most widely-known nuclear accidents. To judge if these arguments are
truthful, we need to remember three most widely-known accidents.

       2. Widely-known nuclear accidents
        a) Three Mile Island accident – causes and consequences
         “On March 28, an accident in the cooling system occurs at the Three Mile Island Nuclear
Plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, releasing radiation into the atmosphere and requiring
evacuation of the area. Although no deaths are recorded, the core of reactor is damaged beyond
repair.” [2, p. 103]
        Three Mile Island accident is a good example of all most widespread problems. It showed
a weakness of technologies, problems with the environment irradiation, as the only result and
effect on people’s opinion about necessity of nuclear energy.
        “Fifty per cent of the core had been destroyed, and 20 tons of uranium had melted. New
safety and training standards were introduced, but the United States made no more plans to build
new reactors.” [3]
        The weakest factor – a human factor – was the reason of Three Mile Island accident. The
main mistakes were made:
              in technical equipment (“The monitoring equipment, however, gave an unclear
                 picture of the situation, so the technicians did not believe it”[3]
              in control of the work of the station (the reserve pump at the beginning couldn’t
                 work – it was turned off after the check shortly before the accident)
              by operators (unusual parameters were noticed only after 2 hours and 20 minutes
                 after beginning of malfunctioning).
The most interesting fact is that this accident is an excellent example of things which could be
avoided only by paying enough attention to the system of controlling the work of the plant.
“The radioactivity that got to the environment was only 1/40000 part of that of the Chernobyl
accident.” [4] It is possible to say that Three Mile Island is only some kind of warning, which
must draw people’s attention not to the problem of security, the problem of nuclear proliferation
or using nuclear weapon but to the problem of qualification and preparation of specialists. If
people don’t want to control dangerous industry spheres, where accidents can happen even
without irresponsible behavior of the personnel, than all the talks about danger of the nuclear
fuel cycle or of nuclear waste products are not serious.
        But Three Mile Island is not the only large accident. Chernobyl catastrophe showed us a
much more scary variant of further events.
        b) Chernobyl accident – causes and consequences
        It is a photo from Pripyat’, a town next to Chernobyl nuclear plant station, dated by 18 of
March 2004 – the city is absolutely empty.

         Pripyat’ is not the only town which was abandoned. Also there are Chernobyl-2, villages
Krasne, Zalyesje, Ryudki. This fact demonstrates how large and how dangerous the irradiated
area is.
         Chernobyl accident is the biggest in the whole history of nuclear energy. At first time as
the reason of the accident only mistakes of the personnel were mentioned. But in 1993 a new
report was published – it showed that serous mistakes were made also in the construction of the
              Reactor was designed incorrectly;
              Personnel wasn’t informed about possible dangerous situations;
              People made some mistakes, mostly because of absence of the information about
                the reactor; [6]
         But, nevertheless, all these mistakes were made by people.
         c) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa accident – causes and consequences
         Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant is the only of all three cases, when an
earthquake was the reason for the radiation releases. It was caused by the position of the plant –
it was built on rather unstable layer of the sand, and because of it 2007 Chūetsu offshore
earthquake, which epicenter was 19 kilometers away from the plant, was able to damage Unit 3
and cause a fire.

       II. Lessons of the past

       Nowadays the memory about catastrophes is still alive. Since 16 of April there has been
an exhibition in Zelenogorsk devoted to Chernobyl accident. It is called “The lessons of
Chernobyl”. Information about liquidators of Chernobyl catastrophe, building of the famous
sarcophagus and people from Zelenogorsk, who didn’t come back from that place, is displayed
on this exhibition.
       These are photos, which illustrate our words: here are posters, devoted to the catastrophe
– a sun from barbed wire, the “Life is over” slogan can tell a lot about people’s opinion about it.

       (All three photos were made by Valeriya Belan)

       The exhibition shows also how the USSR government talked about this accident and
extremely dangerous work of liquidation. Building of sarcophagus was just a point of bravery
and a question of patriotism. Nothing was said about the real danger. It is also a very important
addition to all the details of people relationship to the work of nuclear power stations.

       III. Future forecasts
       All nuclear accidents are also arguments for starting thinking about perspectives of
nuclear energy. But technical progress can’t be stopped. This table shows that nowadays more
and more countries are going to build nuclear reactors on their territory.
Country                   Planned Proposed Country                           Planned Proposed
Argentina                 0          1           South Korea                 7          0
Armenia                   0          1           Kazakhstan                  0          1
Brazil                    1          4           Lithuania                   0          1
Bulgaria                  2          0           Mexico                      0          1
Canada                    4          0           Pakistan                    2          2
China                     23         54          Romania                     0          3
Czech Republic            0          2           Russia                      8          18
Egypt                     0          1           Slovakia                    2          0
France                    1          1           Slovenia                    0          1
India                     4          15          South Africa                1          24
Indonesia                 0          4           Turkey                      3          0
Iran                      2          3           Ukraine                     2          0
Israel                    0          1           USA                         2          21
Japan                     11         1           Vietnam                     0          2
North Korea               1          0
       Only 7 from 29 countries have abandoned the idea of building nuclear reactors. So, there
is one main question now – if people use nuclear energy, how perspective it could be in
comparison with other, less dangerous, possible variants? Here is a table of capacity comparison
between different renewable energy sources.
Energy source                    Technically possible stocks        Economically possible stocks
                                 (Q/year)                           (Q/year)
Hydropower                       0,065                              0,030
Geothermal power                 1,000                              <0,001
Solar Power                      10,00                              0,006
Wind power                       0,040                              <0,001
Energy of ocean waves            0,003                              <10-4
Total                              13,1                             <0,05
[7, p. 273]
        To make the analysis of energetic potential more understandable, we need to know that
the capacity of only nuclear reactors based on thermal neutrons can cover the energy of all
renewable sources and it will be something about 20 Q. [7, p. 277]
        The possibilities of reactors-breeders are much bigger – they allow
      to use 30-45% of nature Uranium (the percent of using nature Uranium in reactors on
         thermal neutrons is much more less)
      to use poor ores, where there is less than 0,1% of Uranium and which are not used
The capacity of such type of reactors with the account of all Uranium resources (using Thorium,
Deuterium and Lithium will be also possible) can be estimated as 2100 Q. [7, p. 279]

       Having such information about each way of energy production it is possible to talk about
    three ways of power industry development:
        Development of traditional energy sources using. This way will require changing
           of parity between all the extracted sources in favor of the coal.
           This way development will include problems of transport (because of the coal stocks
            in the world), ecology(CO2 emissions are huge) and technique(the problem of getting
            liquid fuel and gas from the coal)

           Development of renewable energy using. This way includes problems of
            economy(in the majority of the world parts it is unprofitable and economic
            consequences are hardly estimated)

           Development of nuclear energy production. It requires changing some principles in
            the sphere of technology and people’s opinion about the nuclear power. (The last
            option includes the question of security and qualification of personnel)

       IV. Conclusion

       Nuclear energy nowadays is the most perspective way of energy production. It can’t be
neglected because of the accidents or dangerous situations, which were caused by people in the
majority of cases. Certainly, these situations can’t be forgotten. Developing this industry, taking
into account all the existing experience, will be the best output for this situation. However,
people shouldn’t be sure that nuclear technologies are the last stage of the development in the
sphere of energy production.

  VI. Resources

     1. Barnaby, Frank and Kemp, James, “Too hot to handle?”, Oxford Research Group
        (Briefing Paper, July 2007)
     2. Diehl, Sarah and Clay Moltz, James, “Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation”,
        Contemporary World Issues (Santa Barbara, California, 2002)
     3. “Meltdown at Three Mile Island”, printed in Spotlight # 3, 2007 (Sportlight Verlag
        GmbH, Planegg/Munchen, Germany)
     7. Pshakin G.M. and others, “Nuclear nonproliferation”, (Moscow Engineer Physicist
        Institute, 2006)

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