The use and development of nuclear energy is an issue that has been debated for a long time. Despite being an important source of energy that is considered sustainable by reducing greenhouse gasses, and producing fewer wastes as compared to conventional energy, it has posed many health risks to humans and the environment as it is highly radioactive. This document, therefore, seeks to elucidate the ethics of nuclear energy, clearly explaining its pros and cons.
The ethical issues surrounding nuclear energy revolves around the comparison between the hazards and benefits of nuclear power. These issues tend to have great impacts on global health and thus have been individually discussed in the subsequent paragraphs
Impact on Environment
To begin with, nuclear energy is considered a sustainable source of energy as it does not emit any of the gasses considered to be greenhouse gasses, for example, methane, oxide, and carbon monoxide. Secondly, as compared to other conventional forms of energy, nuclear energy produces far fewer wastes making it more eco-friendly. Therefore, with the increased need and demand for affordable energy, and diminishing supply of fossil fuels, nuclear energy has risen to become a more preferred form of energy than solar and wind energies. On the contrary, nuclear energy is not as green as people think. A lot of refining and mining of radioactive materials is so rampant in extracting nuclear energy that it results in the disposal of radioactive wastes which pose health risks to people nearby, as well as damage to the environment (Hadjilambrinos, 186).
To date, most nuclear accidents that have happened have left permanent damages either to the people that were affected or to the environment. Some of the most notable and severe nuclear accidents are; the level 6; Kyshtym accident, level 7; Chernobyl accident, which is the most catastrophic accident up to date, level 5; Three miles accident, and level 7; Fukushima accident.
In the Chernobyl disaster that happened in 1986, relatively large amounts of gases and particles were released into the atmosphere and with time spread out through Europe. This was accompanied by numerous deaths of the people that were residing nearby, as well as mutations in animal's plants and human beings. The long-term consequence of the accident was prolonged log dose radiation that increased the risk of cancer among other diseases for the Europeans.
According to a report compiled by the World Health Organization, it was estimated that the disaster would result in 9000 more deaths due to cancer on the residents. However, that compiled by other organizations such as International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear Warfare shows far larger effects (Hadjilambrinos, 180).
On the other hand, the Fukushima disaster was a result of natural disasters that struck the region. For instance; the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the 10m high tsunami that occurred almost concurrently. This disaster was similar to the Chernobyl catastrophe and released a radioactive cloud that spread throughout the world while depositing over 100,000 tons of hazardous, harmful water into the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, similar to the Chernobyl disaster, the Fukushima disaster has brought about an impeccable crisis with heavy impacts on food safety, psychological effects, public health, and the environment.
Impact to the Residents
It is always important for full disclosure of all the potential risks associated with nuclear energy. Such information when promptly given helps reduce public panic and even save lives. In contrast, most governments tend to downplay such important information on potential risks or at times retain full facts regarding the form of energy to the public (Cotton, 135).
A good example is the Fukushima disaster in Tokyo where the Tokyo Electric Power company was accused of presenting false information and concealing safety precautions that placed the resident's lives at risk. The problems that lingered were neglected, and a cover-up was done to avoid the disruption of the operation. For this reason, the compliance of nuclear energy programs to strict safety regulations should be ranked as a matter of high priority as the violators of this regulation are dealt with (Bickerstaff, 2120).
With over 400 reactors worldwide, and most of these reactors being more than 20 years old, the regulators of nuclear energy, as well as the industry, should continuously strive to adopt new approaches that pose minimum risks to the safety of people. Also, the nuclear facilities need to be properly prepared for complicated and unexpected situations for instance; nuclear accidents induced by natural disasters. Nonetheless, nuclear accidents are unavoidable (Cotton, 145).
In conclusion, therefore, this paper discusses some of the ethical issues revolving around nuclear energy programs. While nuclear energy boasts some benefits such as the reduction of greenhouse gasses, it concurrently releases radioactive and toxic wastes that pose irreversible damages to the public and the environment. As such, in regards to the ethical values of beneficence, disclosure, justice, autonomy, and the system, the nuclear trade needs to employ more strict approaches on the existing nuclear plans and enhance security and risk management.
Bickerstaff, Karen. "Because we've got history here": Nuclear waste, cooperative siting, and the relational geography of a complex issue." Environment and Planning A 44.11 (2012): 2611-2628.
Cotton, Matthew. "Judging and Deciding." Ethics and Technology Assessment: A Participatory Approach. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2014. 129-160.
Hadjilambrinos, Constantine. "Toward a rational policy for the management of high-level radioactive waste: Integrating science and ethics." Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 19.3 (1999): 179-189.
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