Is nuclear energy safe is a question mostly asked by people of the developing nations and the answer to that is yes. Apart from small instances and the Fukushima incident in Japan there are no major mishaps that have occurred in the pursuit of nuclear energy for electricity generation which began soon after the discovery in the early 20th century that radioactive elements, such as radium, released immense amounts of energy, according to the principle of mass-energy equivalence. The Fukushima incident in Japan made mankind give a rethink on nuclear power and countries like Italy banned nuclear energy and Germany wants to close down all plants by 2022. Nuclear energy is much safer than other sources of energy especially when we compare with air pollution from coal, the largest supplier of electricity in India and the most dirtiest energy resource claims lives of more 1 lakh every year with almost 30 million people suffering from chronic bronchitis, chest discomforts and asthma attacks. However, nuclear energy which not only saves hydro and renewables but also doesn’t contribute to man-made climate change. >
Till today nuclear energy supplies are about 13% of global electricity and dozens of new reactors are being built in big economies like China, India and Russia. While US and much of the Developed world is in retreat with nuclear energy with new reactors not being developed or are in hold and the old ones are being retired. There is clear role of radioactivity and fear of nuclear accidents for the decline in demand of nuclear energy. The cost is even a bigger factor as the present nuclear reactors that produce inexpensive electricity get stalled due to billions of dollars going over budget in the construction if new plants forcing some utilities to abandon projects in midconstruction. Nuclear plants which have been made with designs from the cold war era actually become more expensive as they scale up. Larger plants require bigger and stronger containment domes that used expensive concrete and steel. Most of the plants outside France is not standardized which meant every reactor was produced made to order. In Fukushima meltdown no one was killed by the cost of accident was $100 billion and you have very expensive way to produce electricity. Cheap natural gas use in US and renewables preferred in much of Europe nuclear remain in decline in the first world countries until it gets cheaper.
However the question remains that can nuclear energy is cheap? Answer to that is yes it can be cheap after the development of entirely new reactor designs which can employ modular, mass-produced components with inherent safety characteristics that eliminate the need for the expensive backup systems that have helped inflate the costs of new plants in the past. Reactors with passive safety systems are likely to much cheaper as well as safer as there is no need to worry if power couldn’t be restored to the plant quickly in the event of disaster.
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