Mar 13, 2020 in Analysis

How Ethical is the Nuclear Energy

The world is constantly changing, it keeps growing in terms of population and economic development but there some serious drawbacks of inevitable effects on nature. Nuclear energy has always been a subject of not only scientific but, more importantly, ethical debate. It deals with four crucial issues. The first is environment since it causes air pollution and emits toxins in the atmosphere which, consequently, affects the climate change.

The second aspect is social since a plenty of human rights violations are reported to take place on nuclear power plants and in the nearby settlements. One more thing is politics which is a crucial one because there is still a lot of countries in the world not only using nuclear power and building new nuclear reactors but trying to use energy factor to influence those without them. The last aspect to mention is economics since a lot money is invested in the sphere and countries get great benefits from it.


Nuclear power, until recently,was considered as the most promising. The main advantage of nuclear energy, compared with a thermal, was a smaller amount of fuel consumed and no permanent emissions of combustion products.The first nuclear power plant was built near Moscow in 1954 with power of 5000 kW. By the middle of eighties, the world has more than 400 nuclear power plants. During 30 years of nuclear power plant existence of the in the world, three big accident happened: in 1957 in the United Kingdom; in 1979 in the US and the gravest one in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which is still the largest catastrophe in the world.

After the Chernobyl accident more than 450 types of radionuclides emitted in the atmosphere. The most common radionuclides were long-lived and assimilated by living organisms. The artificial element plutonium which is produced in nuclear reactors and is extremely dangerous for human beings, is the most toxic substance that man has ever created.After the Chernobyl catastrophe the main danger of nuclear power plants became associated with the possibility of such accidents. Some countries such asBrazil, Sweden, Italy and Mexico have decided to totally ban nuclear power plant construction.

The general influence on the environment is tremendous as well. Radioactive waste is produced at all stages of the energy cycle and require special methods of treatment. The most dangerous is the fuel in the reactor since during the process of fuel burning only 0.5 - 1.5% is actually burned, the rest is radioactive waste. Some of it may be recyclable but most of it is not.

Nuclear power plant is also a source of thermal pollution. A plant emits abouttwo times more heat than the usual power station. The volume of heated water at the plant is much bigger. Average time of nuclear power plant’s operation is around 30 years. It requires tremendous sums of money for decommissioning of nuclear power plants. The main problemabout it is building a sarcophagus over them and providing service for a long time.

Another effect on the is the destruction of ecosystems and their elements such as soils, aquifers. The land is confiscated for the construction of nuclear power plants and facilities for supply, drainage and cooling heated water. Power plant of 1000 MW capacity requires cooling pond of about 800-900 hectares. Ponds can be replaced by giant cooling towers with a diameter at the base of 100-120 m and a height of 40-storey building. Another problem is the removal of significant amounts of water from various sources and discharge of heated water. If this water goes into rivers and other water sources, it leads to the loss of oxygen and consequently to the climate change. Radioactive contamination of air,water and soil is also possiblein the process of production and transportation of raw materials, during storage and processing of waste on nuclear power plants.

Human Rights

Another very important issue is human rights violations. Studies prove that nuclear power may kill not only in case of accidents. Actually, accidents with leaks occur every year in many countries and only by sheer luck none of them has not yet developed into a second Chernobyl catastrophe. Usually, "trouble-free" nuclear power plants emit the "allowed" amount of radionuclides which is primarily radioactive noble gases like tritium, iodine-131. Analysis showed that cases of children leukemia in areas near Nuclear power plants occurs 2 times more than average, the effect is visible at a distance of 50 km.For example, 77 cancer sick children were detected in the area37 of which had leukemia. If these children lived away from nuclear power, then the number of cancer cases would be only 48 including 17 cases of leukemia which is 2 times less than the observed level.

Thus, nuclear power plants are directly responsible for 29 cases of cancer, including 20 cases of leukemia in children under 5 years. Moreover, studies show that an increase in the number of cancer cases is visiblewithin 50 km from the existing nuclear power plant. It is expected that direct evidence of harm to human health from normally operating nuclear power plants will be an additional argument for the implementation of the decision on the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants in Germany, and perhaps even accelerating this process in other countries.

Foreign Policy

The main advantage of nuclear energy in political sphere is that the country with more nuclear power plants and nuclear warheads is actually more influential in the world. They control the nearest small countries by establishing new price rates on electricity or just threaten them with a nuclear strike. Nuclear energy provides and opportunity for such states to become main regional powers. For instance, Russia generates electricity for almost every East European country and its border is situated in close proximity to them, so it can easily influence them trough threatening with its nuclear power.

It’s nearly 70 years now since the tragic nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even today it’s extremely important to realizethe role of nuclear weapons in the world, about the impact of nuclear arsenals in the security of individual states and the Earth's civilization as a whole. It would seem that the huge loss number of deaths and suffering that resulted from the bombing in August 1945 emphasized the danger of nuclear weapons. The awareness of this danger should have been strengthened due to the obvious destructive force and the long-term consequences of a nuclear bomb. But unfortunately, the situation is a bit different.

First, the maintenance of a significant nuclear weaponsand of raw materials for its production is inevitable because of the growing risks and intention of new terrorist groups to obtain and use weapons of mass destruction.Secondly, when nuclear arsenals are ready for immediate use, the price of technical failure or human error increases. Since the beginning of the nuclear era, several similar cases have taken place.For instance, an unintended launch of nuclear warheads from bomber during a training exercise in the United States or erroneous loading of nuclear missiles on the plane which flew several thousand kilometers above the American territory. Moreover, an errorof warning system during missile attack in September 1983 happened in the Soviet Union.

In all of these cases, it was possible to avoid the explosion of a nuclear bomb or a massive launch of nuclear missiles only by by good fortune or due to extraordinary skills of personnel. Finally, even if the technical systems work properly and the security of nuclear materials is provided at a high level, there is still the possibility of incorrect interpretation of the intentions of nuclear states’ leaders towardsone another, especially in the "fog of war" conditions which is a huge tension and uncertainty inherent to any conflict.


Another important aspect dealing with nuclear power is economics since huge sums of state budget’s money are directed on the building and servicing nuclear power plants. It’s a double edged sword because, on the one hand, it brings a lot of money to the country for electricity exports which is a great advantage for the French economy.On the other hand, it costs a lot not only to built and maintain already existing nuclear power plants but to safely keep those which have already finished their operation. France could be a great example of such a state. It’s the country that contributed much to the development and research of a nuclear physics with such genius minds as Pier and Marie Curie or Henri Becquerel. Therefore, it’s no accident that 58 nuclear power plants have been built built in France over the last century.

France generates 20 percent more electricity that its population actually needs.The rest of itis exported, bringing the country about three billion euros each year, which is among four most important French exports. This is a great advantage both for the country and the European Union as a whole because France is a key member of European Atomic Energy Community.The main buyers are Italy which is, by the way, the largest European importer of electricity most of which comes from France. The thing is, Italian law prohibits the usage of civil nuclear power.The United Kingdom, Switzerland and Spain are also importers of French electricity. ProbablyGermany will join them soon, because it has been trying to eliminate its own nuclear power plants for a decade.

Retail price for electricity in France, even with tariff subsidies of wind and solar energy is still very low which a great benefit for the population. For medium-sized industry, it’s 90 percent of the average price in the European Union, for private customers it lowers to just 50 percent.

So in conclusion, there is a great potential for awful harm caused by nuclear energy in different spheres such as social with human rights violation and deceases, economics with the huge sums of money directed to the development of nuclear energy, it’s dangerous for environment and crucial in the world of foreign policy. On the other hand, nuclear energy brings a lot of advantages for the states such as huge sums of money for selling electricity. Countries with their own nuclear power plants can reduce the retail price of electricity to the minimum which is actually a great benefit for population.

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