Bad Effects of Nuclear Energy

When nuclear engineers split an atom, the byproducts are radioactive waste and a huge amount of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy offers many advantages, especially in a world where fossil-fuel burning creates environmental problems, and where oil prices can jump wildly at the first sign of international unrest. But there are significant drawbacks to nuclear energy as well.

  1. Regional Safety

    • The potential for accidents at nuclear power plants is a serious concern for critics of nuclear energy, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Nuclear reactor meltdowns, such as those that occurred at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, pose both immediate and long-term hazards to the regions that surround them. Although other forms of energy production offer certain risks as well, the idea that a radiation leak can contaminate an area for decades after an accident turns many people off to the idea of building nuclear power plants near where they live.

    Radioactive Waste

    • In the course of its normal operation, a nuclear reactor produces radioactive byproducts that are extremely hazardous. Handling, transporting, and storing that radioactive waste is a difficult problem. Governments try to store it in secure, well-shielded areas, but finding suitable locations is a problem, as is convincing the locals to allow radioactive waste to be stored near their homes. Over time, radioactive waste has the potential to negatively affect the local environment. As the University of Michigan notes, though, most other forms of energy production, such as coal-burning, also create both immediate and long-term risks for local environments.

    Nuclear Weapons

    • A significant problem for nuclear energy is that countries that develop the technology and expertise necessary to build and maintain nuclear power plants may decide to build nuclear weapons as well, which poses a grave threat to world peace and international relations. Also, governments must devote resources to keeping nuclear waste products out of the hands of potential terrorists, who could use the radioactive materials to create "dirty bombs," which are conventional bombs that have the potential to spread radioactive waste over large areas.

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