Nuclear Power Plant Isar, Germany

Spent nuclear fuel pool

Turbine of a nuclear plant

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

Disadvantages of nuclear energy

At the moment of analyzing the disadvantages of nuclear energy in the first place, it is necessary to consider the different areas in which nuclear energy is used. The main use of nuclear energy is the generation of electricity. Although electricity production is the most controversial nuclear application, nuclear technology is also used in the military, medical or environmental fields, among others.

One of the advantages of nuclear energy is that it reduces the dependence on thermal power plants and, therefore, the consumption of fossil fuels. However, the main source of greenhouse gas generation comes from road transport. That is, the use of thermal engines (diesel or gasoline) for mechanical traction. The savings in fossil fuels in the generation of electric power is proportionally low.

One of the main disadvantages of nuclear energy is the difficulty in maintaining this technology in a safe environment. The main concern of society is the safety of nuclear power plants. At present, the sophistication of the security systems of nuclear power plants is extraordinarily high, but in spite of this there is always a human component that can always have some repercussion. In the event of an unforeseen event or in the management of a nuclear accident, it can not be guaranteed that the decisions taken by those responsible will always be the most appropriate. We have two good examples in Chernobyl and in Fukushima.

The Chernobyl nuclear accident is, for the moment, the worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear energy. A succession of wrong decisions by the personnel that of the power station ended up causing a strong nuclear explosion. In the case of Chernobyl, the disadvantage of the little historical experience in nuclear power plants and a complicated political and social context in the USSR came together.

In the case of the Fukushima nuclear accident, once the accident occurred, the performance of the personnel in charge of managing it was very questioned. After the Chernobyl accident, the Fukushima nuclear accident was the second worst in history. The Fukushimapower plant had the most modern security systems, however a succession of unforeseen events caused the catastrophe anyway.

A drawback of nuclear power lies in the very nature of nuclear reactors. Currently all nuclear production reactors generate nuclear fission reactions. In this type of reactor the fission reactions are generated in chain, so that if the control systems fail the reactor generates more and more reactions, with what the situation tends to worsen.

In another sense, but also related to security is the possibility that nuclear reactors suffer attacks. Nuclear power plants are targets for terrorist organizations.

Difficulty Managing Nuclear Waste

Since the beginning of the use of nuclear energy, a major disadvantage has been the difficult management of nuclear waste generated. Nuclear waste takes many years to lose its radioactivity and danger.

There are centers for the management of these resources. In these centers the waste is confined for years waiting for its radioactivity to be reduced. The drawback of these centers is that a contaminated area remains practically forever whose management will have to be inherited for generations.

Limitation of the Useful Life of Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear power reactors, once built, have an expiration date. After this date, they must be dismantled. Due precisely to the fact that nuclear power plants have a limited life.

The investment for the construction of a nuclear plant is very high and it has to be recovered in a very short time, so this increases the cost of the generated electric power. In other words, one of the disadvantages of nuclear power is the difficulty in recovering the initial investment. The energy generated is cheap compared to the costs of nuclear fuel, but having to amortize the construction of the nuclear plant makes it significantly more expensive.

Disadvantages in Energy Independence

The use of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity generates dependency on the outside. Few countries have uranium mines and not all countries have uranium enrichment plants or nuclear technology to build nuclear power plants, so they have to contract both overseas.

Military Use

Probably the most alarming disadvantage is the use that can be given to nuclear energy in the military industry. The first use that was given to nuclear energy was to build two nuclear bombs that were launched on Japan during the Second World War. This was the first and last time that nuclear energy was used in a military attack.

Although, several countries signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but the risk that nuclear weapons will be used in the future will always exist.


Published: May 31, 2019
Last review: May 31, 2019