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Hazards of Power Production-A comparative study

G. Vaidyanathan


Nuclear energy has played a major role in reducing the world's use of oil for electricity generation over the past decades. Current estimates are that uranium resources will last some 400 to 500 years at the present rate of use. This resource base could, furthermore, last some 50 times longer if breeder reactors are introduced. Of the main energy sources, namely coal, hydro and nuclear, nuclear can be even considered as a renewable source. A 1000 MW(e) coal plant annually disperses some 44,000t of Sulphur oxides, 22,000t of nitrous oxides into the atmosphere, besides significant quantities of solid waste in the form of fly ash. A 1000 MW(e) nuclear-power plant does not release noxious gases or other pollutants. The direct emissions of CO2 from nuclear power generation are very low. However, it releases some CO2 if indirect processes are considered. Life cycle carbon dioxide emissions are very low for nuclear plants, ~ 2.7% of that of coal-fired power generation. The amount of waste generated by nuclear power plants is very small compared to the waste generated by electricity generation systems. Managing nuclear-power waste has distinct advantages as the quantities are remarkably small. All energy sources represent some risks: these are highly dependent on the different countries' culture and economics. These risks must be assessed and minimized and should be part of an integrated view on the risks in the society. This paper is a review of the impact of energy sources on the environment and makes a case for nuclear energy.

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