There are many options for energy sources and each of them has positive and negative effects. Whether is hydropower, wind, nuclear, or fossil fuel power there are negative consequences and positive aspects. When I begin to weigh the different options and take into account the negative and positives, it makes the choice even more difficult as to which one might be the ???right??? one. As far as nuclear versus hydropower and the possible consequences of developing nuclear power versus the seemingly perfectly safe hydropower it is not an easy decision. I honestly believe that the combination of many different energy sources is the best option.
???Water-generated energy called hydroelectric power or hydropower taps the kinetic energy of moving water to generate electricity.???(Turk & Bensel, 2011, Chapter 8.2) Hydropower is one of the oldest ways of harnessing energy. ???Hydro-power systems convert potential energy stored in water held at height to kinetic energy to turn a turbine to produce electricity.???(Dictionary of Environmental Science and Technology, 2010) This seems like the best renewable resource option until you start research some of the drawbacks. Dams are built and then huge power generators are placed inside them. The water flowing through the dams spin turbine blades which are connected to generators and this is what produces the electricity. The electricity is then sent to your home and/or business. The problem is these dams change the environment around them and affect the land use, homes, and natural habitats in the dam area by disturbing the flora and fauna. The dams can change fish migration patterns and therefore affect their population. Another problem with operating a hydroelectric power plant is that it can also change the water temperature and the river??™s flow; both of these greatly affect the animals and plants living nearby or in the rivers. Sometime the reservoirs may cover people??™s homes causing them to have to relocate. Methane is a byproduct of the reservoir, a strong greenhouse gas, and can be emitted to the atmosphere. In general a lot of water and land is needed in order to build a dam and reservoir, both of these costs a lot of money and time for construction. Hydropower does have its good aspects too though. As stated before it is a safe energy for the most part unlike the nuclear energy and its safety concerns. It is estimated that about 7 percent of the total power is produced by hydroelectric plants, and it is most important to remember that it uses a completely renewable source of energy, water.
Nuclear power can generate electricity without methane emissions like hydropower and it also produces no carbon dioxide emissions either. This makes this option as a potentially and extremely useful way to meet our energy needs in an environmentally friendly manner. Like hydropower though, nuclear energy has its drawbacks too. Safety being one of the top concerns; the common question is where do you disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste Also the cost of building of nuclear power plant is extremely high. They are many that are concerned about meltdowns but this is not an event that happens frequently. With multiple safety checks in place, nuclear energy could be the answer to our energy concerns and our environmental concerns. If we want to get away from using fossil fuels, this is also a clean way of doing it.
When you look at the history of nuclear energy that is where it gets a little scary. Chernobyl was a devastating explosion that happened in 1986 in the Ukraine. ???The cause of the Chernobyl incident was an experimental reduction in power from 3200 MW to ca. 1000 MW. However, the reactor could not be stabilized quickly enough and power dropped to 30 MW. Neutrons absorbing xenon in the core prevented the raising of the reactor power level to above 200 MW. To counteract this, control rods were with-drawn and the reactor became unstable and a slow nuclear chain reaction ensued which blew the top off the reactor with the reactor??™s graphite moderator subsequently catching fire. This was eventually controlled by dropping 5000 tons of boron, limestone and sand into the reactor from helicopters.???(Dictionary of Environmental Science and Technology, 2000) A major reactor exploded after human error and miscalculations, which is the difference between it and Japan??™s Fukushima accident. Japan??™s accident was caused by a natural disaster. Both though have the same long term affects, radiation was released into the environment. That is why I think that with careful planning, building and using nuclear energy is not necessarily a bad option. While many think that having a nuclear moratorium because of these events is needed it really isn??™t going to make a difference. With the proper policies and procedures set in place, proper locations used, and extreme safety regulations in place, nuclear energy is the way of the future.
I truly believe that the use of many different energy sources is the best idea but if I have to choose between nuclear energy versus fossil fuel energy, I choose nuclear. The rewards that come from nuclear energy far out way the negatives, I choose it also because it is cleaner for the environment.
Turk, J. & Bensel, T. (2011). Contemporary environmental issues. San Diego, CA: Bridgeport Education Inc.
“Hydro-power (small-scale).” Dictionary of Environmental Science and Technology. Hoboken: Wiley, 2000. Credo Reference. 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.
“Chernobyl.” Dictionary of Environmental Science and Technology. Hoboken: Wiley, 2000. Credo Reference. 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 Aug. 2011.