Sunday, December 2, 2012

NUCLEAR FUELS ARE A CURSE ON HUMANITY

Today Energy security is the topmost priority requirement of the mankind and how to achieve this is the hottest topic of debate in all countries on our globe. While everybody seems to agree  to the idea of having clean energy so that global warming is controlled as a first step and subsequently reversed, a fierce battle is going on about the route to be adopted for this clean energy. The candidates for clean energy are nuclear, and renewable energy sources like hydro, solar, wind, ocean, geothermal etc. etc.. The major criterion for  any clean energy are 
  • Involvement of clean and safe processes for making available energy source at the power plant
  • Power producing  process to be safe, least accident prone and incapable of being catastrophic under any conditions
  • Wastes and by products resulting from the process should also be safe and clean
It does not require rocket science to understand that all renewable energy sources measure themselves adorably when subjected to the rigours of all criterion postulates mentioned above but can we say the same about nuclear energy. The answer is a big emphatic no to all the three criterion.
Let us now examine the story of energy from nuclear power plants rigorously.
  • Nuclear fuel mining: The troubles start right from the stage of the mining of uranium ores to their crushing, leaching to make what is known as natural Uranium. The miners are subjected to toxic effects and the mines are left with toxicity on the surface which otherwise was lying dormant deep under the surface of earth.Uranium mining is a very inefficient process and generates vast amounts of toxic waste.In fact uranium mine tailings leave vast amounts of toxicity.
  • Fuel enrichment: Natural Uranium is about 99.27% of U-238 and 0.72% of U-235, the fissile isotope which is used for nuclear reactors of power plants and nuclear weapons. What is left behind is called depleted uranium ( DU ) containing about 0.2 to 0.4% U-235 and the balance U-238. DU has a density of 19.1 g/cc and is used for defensive armour and armour piercing projectiles as also the so called Dirty Bombs. DU contamination occurs when these products are employed during a war and produces lingering toxic effects on humans and land area.
  • Nuclear power production: Apart from the ever imminent lurking danger  of  a catastrophic  accident, as probability theory cannot be relied upon for assessing the safety of a nuclear power plant in the light of big chunks of deficiencies in our knowledge of nuclear physics, mechanical sciences, material manufacture and subsequent behaviour in different conditions and the vagaries and severity of natural calamities and disasters. Also we have to understand that technology can never be a guarantee to safety.
  • Wastes and by products: The spent fuel and its disposal are the biggest cause of concern for the humanity and even though the world has been producing nuclear power for well over fifty years, no viable solution has been found. Solutions to the problem of managing Nuclear waste and its safe custody are the topics that are bothering the strongest exponents of nuclear power for the costs involved and effectiveness of these solutions.