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Nuclear power: blessing or curse?

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Nick Nick | 11:52 UK time, Thursday, 12 April 2012

As of February 2, 2012, there were 435 nuclear plants across the globe. In 2017 our Belarus plans to join "the nuclear power club", uniting 31 countries where nuclear power plants operate. Ironically, just 31 years ago the dreadful nuclear disaster of Tchernobyl took place incredibly close to our border...

Tchernobyl disaster on 26 April 1986 marked itself as one of the most severe nuclear accidents in the world - as a result, appreciable part of the territory of our country was heavily contaminated with radioactive elements. With 135 000 people evacuated, several dozens died immediately and hundreds of thousands exposed to excessive radiation doses, disaster had also lead to a surge of cancer cases and associated mortality among population, soil contamination and a number of other side-effects.

Our leaders seem to have forgotten the lessons of the past. They set up plans to build a new nuclear plant - now in the perfectly green and clean area near Lithuania. Government reached an agreement with the Russian Federation to fund (by providing $9B loan) and actually build the power plant. Russia will also supply nuclear fuel for station to run.

Goes without saying that nuclear plant project caused great debate within society and in media. There were protests also, but it seems that Belarusians have finally tolerated the idea of potential nuclear bomb round the corner (as they tolerated a big bunch lot of unpleasant "presents" from the politicians).

The thing is controversial by nature. Yes, nuclear energy is really cheap, but it might be also really expensive in terms of ecology. It provides Belarus with a number of means to diversify its energy sources (now heavily dependant on Russia), but if examined closely nuclear power plant seems to even tighten embrace of our "big brother" (that's how is Russia sometimes called in Belarus). Why? Simple: we get workforce to build and support power plant, money to build it and nuclear fuel from Russia... Why don`t just continue pumping oil and burning coal?

Project of nuclear power station in Belarus leaves more question marks, than positive exclamations. Despite all the advantages, there are drawbacks that must not be overlooked - consequences may be fatal.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Nick,

    Yes with the advance of technology, Governments are finding new ways of resources. Nuclear technology is one way of them, which is being persuaded to generate electricity. Almost 14% of the world's electricity has been produced by Nuclear Technology.

    Despite the fact, this technology is being used in the development of atomic warheads. Countries having Nukes or Nuclear Site are the potential danger to not only for their neighboring countries during warfare,but also to Nature.

    Any nuclear plant near the sea creates water contamination, which causes threat to marine life. Nuclear reactors creating air pollution, which in turns greenhouse effect to the nature.

    Any unprecedented natural catastrophe, like tsunami in japan may create another disaster in the future, which is a throwback to the day when Chernobyl incident was happened.

    In my point of view; power sources like mentioned above can be used to curb energy crises. Increase hikes in Petrol prices created fueled unrest.Alternate energy resources like, Nuclear Power for public sector may curb this volatility.

    Cheers.

  • Comment number 2.

    [In my point of view; power sources like mentioned above can be used to curb energy crises. Due to hikes in Petrol prices,fueled unrest has been created.Alternate energy resources like, Nuclear Power for public sector may curb this volatility.] (grammar correction)

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Nick

    I quite agree with you that it’s a very controversial question. We got accustomed to conspicuous consumption of electric power. Many people can’t fancy their life without computers, washing/dishwashing machines, air-conditioners etc. Every year we need more electric power. I wish we had no nuclear power stations at all. But where can we get electricity? Our countries don’t have enough wind or sun for alternative energy source. Oil and coal will run out sometime. There are ten stations in Russia. One of them is near our city. In my opinion it’s the only possible way to provide such a big city with electricity.
    It’ll be the first station in Belarus. I can understand apprehension of Belarusians. Indeed the bitter memories about that overwhelming catastrophe in Tchernobyl are fresh. One my relative who lives in Belarus was a disaster fighter. He lost his health.
    Two years ago I was lucky to visit Belarus. I was in Brest and saw Belovezhskaya Pushcha. I was deeply impressed with this unique natural reserve. I saw how thoughtfully people take care of nature in Belarus. I think that residents won’t tolerate negligence running the station. Anyway if it’s already settled that the station will be built people can’t do anything with it.
    It’s a pity that there are so many misunderstanding between our governments. Ordinary people in Belarus and Russia treat each other very kindly. Plenty of people have relatives here and there. We have the same hopes and aims. I hope that some day the people above will come to an agreement. I do consider Belarus as a very close and friendly country.

    Best wishes,
    Tatiana
    St. Petersburg, Russia

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Nick!
    We Brazilians have a great advantage: we can generate a lot of hydroelectricity, 90% of the energy consumed comes from hydroeletric power plants. We have great rivers and many possibilities to build more hydropower plants. But Hydropower plants generate environmental problems as well. In building the plants sometimes it is necessary to inundate a city completely, a community lost their homes their belongings, their affections in that place.
    The Itaipu hydroeletric power plant was the biggest in the world. We were overtaken by China. Itaipu was built on the Paraná River, dividing Brazil and Paraguay. The construction started in 1975, finished 1983.
    I agree with Tatiana: we can't fancy without electric power.
    Nick, I agree with you, we need to take care of the planet. All our actions will have consequences for good or for evil.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dear Nick,

    Thank you for your thoughtful article. You must agree that contrary to the common practice prevailing in BBC LE Blog, you've raised a sensitive subject to discuss which is already been widely debated by the politicians and the environmentalists across the globe. Before revealing which side I stand, I'd like to put down the benefits and threats of Nuclear energy:

    Benefits of Nuclear Energy:
    1. It's cheap and reliable (a typical nuclear power plant can easily last for 40 years which can further be extended for a decade or two)
    2. Nuclear fuel (Uranium, Thorium) are abundant in nature
    3. It's green (does not emit CO and other greenhouse gases)
    4. The nuclear waste which is already smaller compared to the fossil fuel burned power generator, can be confined and disposed of systematically without harming the nature, contrary to the latter.

    Drawbacks:
    1. It's very sensible to nearby environment in case of mishap (any leakage may have wide spread damage to the surrounding habitats and environment)
    2. Misuse - any country or individual may try to develop nuclear weapons under the disguise of developing power
    3. In case of natural calamities like earthquake, tsunami etc. and man made calamities like war, terrorism, technical failure etc., it may lead to catastrophe just as happened recently in Japan. However, probabilistic wise, technical failure has the least possible chances to occur, as such plants have to go under rigorous stress test.

    Everything has a price. To get a better source of energy, we've to pay by something, but that something should not destroy us. We should be extra careful not to repeat the disaster that happened in Fukushima, and the one in Tchernobyl, that you mentioned in your article. Germany has recently revealed their ambitious plan that by 2022 they'll get rid all of their nuclear power plants and will increase their other renewable source of energy to meet 80% of their power requirements. At the same time, countries like India and Belarus (as you mentioned in your article) are going nuclear. Recently India has opened the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant, despite prolonged protests by the environmentalists. In India, the govt. is in great dilemma, at one hand it needs abundant supply of energy to keep the nation advancing and on the other hand it needs to energy reaches the most of the population while making sure that people and environment are safe. It's already the 7th largest importer of crude oil and 70% of its energy demands are met by import. Even for hydro-power in India, the environmentalists are making a huge hue and cry making the life of the govt. unbearably horrible.

    Despite everything, I would vote for nuclear power provided all the safety measures are strictly adhered to. As we can't run a day without energy and the already available sources are now becoming scarce and are not a clean source, it's time for the world to move to nuclear and other form of renewable energy. Though many may disagree if nuclear energy is renewable or not, but there's no doubt that it is a cleaner source of energy compare to the fossil fuel run generators.

    Best Regards,
    Rajeeb

  • Comment number 6.

    *on the other hand, it needs to make sure that energy reaches....(sorry for the typo)

  • Comment number 7.

    I thought it's so worry to put this power in irresponsible covern , but that dosen't mean I gree with whole i dea but it is being a fact we should have handled it but dosen't allow to sepreat a round a world I saw my coleages have concentrated in concequent for it such as what was happend in japanes latley and i want say sorry but in my opinion acatastrophe start when a power fall inirresponsible grops as terrorist groups then we are going to go a real heal because they would have never mersy us so we must work and supply united nation and the agreement that prohibited ownership nuclear weapons such as that takeplace in Iran and koria .

  • Comment number 8.

    For the country , nuclear warheads are the mainstay of their defense. In Lithuania as you have mentioned, Local community should put their feet down to preserve and secure the natural habitat. Though the journey is long, affects will be positive.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Nick,
    I have found your post and the comments to it very interesting.
    I do not have a deep knowledge of the matter, so sorry for not beeing that accurate.
    Indeed I do have a couple of questions.
    I am not very sure nuclear power is that cheap as stated in some comments.
    We must consider weather or not our country has uranium.
    I have read that the time in wich the waste lost its radioactivity is valued in tousands of years.
    So supposing no earthquake or uman error, you must continuosly provide founds to take care and improve safty in these nuclear plants for lets say 40 years of operantional duty and for hundreds/thousend year after and this regardless who will win the election during this period; and for the next lets say 2000 year you must continuosly provide founds to take care of the place where you put the waste.
    Ofcourse this will not be a problem for us,
    I understand that we (industrial use mainly) may need even more energy however I am not sure we do not have means to rationalize the consumption of energy.

    I have read that Jappan has got 18 nuclear power plants for 51 nuclear reactor and with them it produces 30% of the national electricity production.
    I have read that Russia has got 10 nuclear power plants for 32 nuclear reactor and with them it produces 18% of the national electricity production.
    Been a little naif I had immagined that Jappan could have produce at least 80% of their
    total consuption with that number of nuclear plants.
    More over Jappan seems to be a nation with a low level of corruption in the public life and a great ability to react to disasters, wich is important expecially for this kind of topics .

    So by for now
    Corinna from Italy

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Shujaat, thanks for your comment!

    You`re absolutely right that alternative (to oil/gas) energy sources are important thing to have, but not to forget some drawbacks.

    I`d love that we`ve switched to sustainable sources like solar/wind power, but it looks that nuclear power is [one of] the cheapest these days.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Tatiana and thanks for your reasonable comment!

    Yes, that`s a pity that we could not power our cities with sustainable energy sources. Still, there are still concerns about its safety.

    You`re absolutely right about negligence, that seems to be one of the main fears. We have not enough qualified professionals to run it (yet) and (to my mind), not enough settled pros to asess all the safety precautions needed, in that terms we have to rely on constructors, while carelessness still remains one of the "features" of our people - that`s why worries double.

    You`re also correct about our nations - I`m sure that Russians are very welcome in Belarus and I`ve always felt like home in Russia (and we have a "Union State" also and no borders). Let`s hope that the mutual nuclear project will be a success, benificial to the both sides.

    What regards conflicts - yes, I wish they`d happen less frequently and not affect people :)

    Best wishes from Minsk!

  • Comment number 12.

    Good Morning Nick,

    Nuclear Power is cheap today to overcome energy crises, though, it is being utilized in military purpose; more, rather than civil purpose.

    Solar/Wind power are sustainable, and environment friendly as well. These technologies can easily be deployed; even on your rooftop.

    We Knew that, In 2010, World has faced worst incident of BP Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, crippled the local economy and made behavioral changes to those who were exposed to that spill; But, that was men mistake not a natural disaster.

    Species, perish because of these types of incidents. what should we do to avoid this?

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi, nick.

    Do you remember us? We are students from Korea.

    Honestly, We don't understand your article completely.
    But, 'Nuclear power' is interesting subject matter.

    We learned disaster of Tchernobyl before.
    It is an awful accident.

    In Korea we do have so many unuclear plants everywhere but so many people do not aware of how dangerous they are and how they are different in power produciton system. Where we can find relevant information on this matter?

  • Comment number 14.

    Dear Nick

    I must tell you that this topic is outside my comfort zone. So I learnt a lot from your essay and the others’ comments.
    The village where I live is located 35 kms away the one and only nuclear power plant in Hungary. We have been living here for seven years and I have not experienced any harmful effect until now.
    Everywhere in the world the prices of energy are getting higher and higher. If all of our energy-requirements come from other countries can mean quite strong dependence of suppliers. The consequences of a nuclear catastrophe might be very serious as history shows hence we have to do every possible protective measures as we can.
    The problem is that man in our present life wants everything: cheap energy with no risk at all. We must accept the fact that some centuries ago a banal virus or bacterial infection could be regarded as a life-threatening event which is now curable out of danger. But those days were safety in point of nuclear power.

    I hope that our politicians and experts are clearly aware of their responsibilities and they try to do their best.

    Best regards from Hungary

    Krisztina

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi,

    You brought up very important issue. Personally I'm oppose an atom power station, but I don't think that anyone will take account of my opinion at the potential construction plans.... The nature should be the most important, unfortunately isn't.... I wonder how critical situation must be to occur before we something understand, before will not be too late... On the other side continuous progress demanding of the permanent energy resources, as a matter of fact there's no beneficial solution...., so better to enjoy life (for the time being we have (I'm from Poland) the most beautiful season of the year)..., I'm a little bit selfish....., but I don't save the world...

    The smile of the sun,
    Maja

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Nick,

    In my point of view, nuclear power is a very powerful power source but it also very dangerous. For example, the situation in the Japan has shown the side effect of using the nuclear energy. Penetration of the radioactive ray can change the genetic information. Everyone will become monster liked human.

    I am a student from Malaysia. Nowday, our government has planned to build a factory which refine rare earth and make them into something else. The factory is done by the way but haven't started to work. The wastes of the product are very radioactive. Therefore, please help us to stop this company, Lynas. We care about our next generation. We care bout them. We need more support from you guys to stop the Lynas.

    Nick too XD

  • Comment number 17.

    As far as I know, the subject of the nuclear plants have aroused much attention of the public. This is because the safety of the nuclear power is doubtful. It is true that the expenditure of generating power is less than any other one. However, it is also the most dangerous way to create the power. Although the government always say that the nuclear plants is really secure, there are still many potential dangers.
    No matter what the way we produce the power, nevertheless, it must have some contamination.
    In my opinion, building the nuclear plants may be inevitable. In spite of the fact that we can't reject to build the nuclear plants, we can boycott it. In order to influence the policy, we should show our suggestion to the authorities. At least, we are able to supervise the administration, facilitating relative safety measures.
    All in all, the goal of the government is to improve the society, and it is the condition we are pleasant to see. While we sometimes aren't satisfactory for what the administration does, we shouldn't just sit there complaining it. It is time that we put our effect into the policies.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hello Nick
    The nuclear power always be a big problem.
    Any type of generating electricity will cost the ecology.
    The oil and coal not just use in generating electricity, and natural resources are finite.
    Now we have so many nuclear power plants, because it is clear and harmless if every thing is under control.
    In fact, we know it is very danger if happen some accidents such as Chernobyl.
    The best way we can do just reducing the possible about accident, and upgrating solar efficency.
    I believe we will use solar to replace other way.

 

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