Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power

721 words | 3 page(s)

The discovery, development and utilization of different sources of energy including fossil fuels and nuclear power have had both positive as well as negative effects. This article outlines the pros and cons of eliminating the current fossil fuel infrastructure as well as those related to the creation of new infrastructure for building nuclear power plants. Eliminating the current fossil fuel infrastructure would be advantageous in that it would reduce the negative effects of climate change especially harmful greenhouse gases which Harvey (2011) avers will be disastrous in the next five years. Additionally, it would enable governments to refocus on sustainable and renewable energy sources in light of dwindling finite fossil fuel sources while also reducing accidents like oil spillage and acid rain, among others tied to fossil fuel production. Further, it would eliminate costs associated with mitigation efforts which Rubin, Chen & Rao (2007) indicate is quiet expensive.

However, eliminating the current fossil fuel infrastructure would have adverse effects on society and the economy which, as indicated by Harvey (2011) rely a lot on fossil fuel energy production especially since the infrastructure and associated technologies are well-developed. As indicated by Pollack, Wood and Smith (2010) there is great dependence on fossil fuel energy which means lack of employment in entire industries while also eliminating a cheap energy source and raising prices for associated commodities. For instance, people working in associated industries including energy transportation as well as the use of associated commodities in the manufacture of fertilizers, plastics, computers and clothing would present great problems to the economic situation of country. Nonetheless, elimination of the current fossil fuel infrastructure would be beneficial from a futuristic perspective as there are other better sources of energy.

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Conversely, creating an infrastructure for building nuclear power plants would be beneficial for the long term as nuclear power is produced through nuclear fission whose action is continuous due to the production of neutrons and hence more energy. As such, an adequate infrastructure would support the ever-increasing energy needs of consumers with an added advantage of fewer greenhouse gas emissions as affirmed by Widder (2010) especially through reprocessing and recycling of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) or nuclear waste. With much emphasis placed on migration from fossil fuel energy production, Kessides (2010) avers that creating a nuclear power infrastructure provides the requisite capability in migrating to a low-carbon economy; providing carbon-free energy and one that is ‘amenable to significant scaling up’. Despite these positive aspects, the author acknowledges that a nuclear power infrastructure would come with its own challenges including disasters associated with human error and risks involving increased proliferation, safety as well as waste disposal.

Further, creating a nuclear power infrastructure would be derailed by increase in associated costs especially the construction of radiation containment systems which involves expensive solutions to prevent people as well as the environment from harm. This is affirmed by Widder (2010) where costly SNF reprocessing and recycling is worsened by political opposition by states which provide long term nuclear waste management as well as problems tied to uncertainties in financing, construction and licensing of new plants. As Ferguson (2007) asserts, reduction of global warming through use of nuclear energy is oversold and associated risks especially terrorism downplayed; which reduces the impetus for creating a nuclear power infrastructure.

Moreover, Kessides (2010) affirms the strong anti-nuclear sentiment held by many people which would derail creation of a nuclear power infrastructure especially when entire communities are afraid of power plants, as potential time bombs, being built in their backyard. Advice by Widder (2010), who advocates for comprehensive assessment and comparison of benefits, costs and risks associated with different energy sources, should be followed, if a better future is a priority goal.

  • Ferguson, C.D. (2007). Nuclear energy: Balancing benefits and risks. Council on Foreign
    Relations, 28: 1-39.
  • Harvey, F. (Nov 9, 2011). World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA
    warns. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/nov/09/fossil-fuel-infrastructure-climate-change
  • Kessides, I.N. (‎2010). Nuclear power and sustainable energy policy: Promises and perils. World
    Bank Research Observer, 25(2), 323–362. doi: 10.1093/wbro/lkp010.
  • Polack, R., Wood, S., and Smith, K. (2010). An analysis of fossil-fuel dependence in the United
    States with implications for community social work. Critical Social Work, 11(3),
    retrieved from http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/an-analysis-of-fossil-fuel-dependence-in-the-united-states-with-implications-for-community-social-wo
  • Rubin, E.S., Chen, C. & Rao, A.B. (2007). Cost and performance of fossil fuel power plants with
    CO2 capture and storage. Energy Policy, 35(9), 4444–54.

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