5 Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy Explained

Disadvantages of nuclear energy are; high capital cost, environmental impact, safety risk, national security risk, and technical demands.

This article discusses the disadvantages of nuclear energy as follows;





1). High Capital Cost (as one of the Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy)

Nuclear energy is more expensive than many alternatives due to the cost of constructing and commissioning nuclear power plants.

Capital cost requirements raise the levelized cost of nuclear energy (LCOE) to above $100/MWh [2].

Currently, nuclear reactors are too expensive to be used widely, with their cost per energy output amounting to several times that of renewable energy technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.

The actual operation and maintenance of nuclear energy systems is fairly inexpensive, which is one of the advantages of nuclear energy.

However, extremely-high capital costs make nuclear energy a less-competitive option in terms of cost-benefit analogy; so that it becomes difficult to place it much higher than fossil fuels on a scale of feasibility, sustainability and preference.




2). Technical Demands

Nuclear energy utilization can be challenging as a result of the technical demands in terms of system performance and personnel skill/knowledge.

In order to become a nuclear technician, an individual must undergo intensive training in the field or workstation, in addition to academic qualification and knowledge.

The technical requirements for nuclear energy development can be assessed based on careers in nuclear energy; which include nuclear engineering, electrical engineering, nuclear technology, field service engineering, nuclear chemistry, power plant operation, and mechanical engineering, among others.

Skills needed for nuclear engineering include analytical, problem-solving, communication and logical thinking skills.

To effectively utilize these skills, nuclear knowledge management is usually required.

Nuclear knowledge management is the act and process of accumulating, preserving, improving and sharing information or knowledge that is required in order to develop and implement skills required for effective nuclear energy operations [5].

Technical requirements also extend to the specifications of design and use of nuclear technological systems. These specifications are often complex and must be adhered in order for nuclear energy development to be economical, practical, sustainable and safe [3].

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: Technical Demands (Credit: Idaho National Laboratory 2012 .CC BY 2.0.)
Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: Technical Demands (Credit: Idaho National Laboratory 2012 .CC BY 2.0.)




3). Safety Risk (as one of the Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy)

Safety concerns of nuclear energy revolve around the fact that exposure to radioactive materials used as nuclear fuel, can be harmful to the biotic components of the ecosystem.

These safety concerns imply that nuclear energy is associated with significant risk, which comes from nuclear operations, facilities, fuel and waste.

Risks of nuclear energy utilization include environmental degradation, resource depletion, economic meltdown, and human health problems like cancer and cardiovascular disease [4].

Nuclear accidents can occur as a result of poor management of facilities, and this poses further risk to the surroundings of such facilities, in addition to that which comes from the mere presence of radioactive materials.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: Safety Risk (Credit: Ruslan Krivobok / Руслан Кривобок 2006 .CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: Safety Risk (Credit: Ruslan Krivobok / Руслан Кривобок 2006 .CC BY-SA 3.0.)




4). Potential Environmental Impact

In spite of its position as a major low-emission, low-impact energy resource, nuclear energy is not totally environment-friendly.

The onset and end-point of the working principle of nuclear energy are marked by potential effects on the environment.

At the point of extraction and processing, nuclear fuel can be linked to greenhouse emissions and possible air pollution [1], since several of the equipment used are powered by unsustainable energy resources like fossil fuels.

After energy has been released through radioactive breakdown of the fuel, the waste products from these fuels pose yet another risk of environmental pollution.

Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste which is bad for the environment because it can continuously emit harmful radiation if exposed, which can contaminate soil, water and air, causing major health problems and damage of living systems.

Radioactive pollution is one of the most prominent risks of nuclear energy development, and also one of the most difficult to mitigate.

Extra measures taken to protect the environment from harmful impacts of nuclear energy add to the overall cost of harnessing this type of energy, thereby making it comparable to fossil fuels that require carbon capture and other measures to mitigate their environmental impacts.




5). National Security Risk (as one of the Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy)

In addition to being an energy resource, nuclear fuel is a major component of weapons like the atomic bomb [6].

This implies that nuclear energy has national security implications in any country in which it is harnessed, and these implications could be positive or negative.

Nuclear energy supports national security when it is protected and developed ethically as a means of military equipment for national defense.

Security threats at nuclear power plants arise from the chances of attacks on these plants in the event of conflict; takeover and unethical use by unlawful groups; and breach of classified information concerning the development of nuclear technology.

The last threat mentioned above is linked to malicious activities of software hackers, which may cause the accessing of information that could jeopardize national security.

Nuclear cyber security is the combination of tools, techniques, operations and expertise for preventing the breach of security protocols designed to protect important nuclear data resources.

Although such security measures are available, their effectiveness depends on regular modification and careful maintenance as well as monitoring.

Nuclear national security risks constitute a major disadvantage due to the enormous destructive potential of nuclear energy.






Disadvantages of nuclear energy are;

1. High Capital Cost

2. Technical Demands

3. Safety Risks

4. Potential Environmental Impact

5. National Security Risk





1). Beerten, J.; Laes, E.; Meskens, G.; D'haeseleer, W.; Leuven, K. U. (2009). "Greenhouse gas emissions in the nuclear fuel cycle: A balanced appraisal." Energy Policy 37(12):5056-5068. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2009.06.073. (Accessed 15 January 2023).

2). Bellini, E. (2020). "‘Nuclear power is now the most expensive form of generation, except for gas peaking plants’." Available at: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/09/24/nuclear-power-is-now-the-most-expensive-form-of-generation-except-for-gas-peaking-plants/. (Accessed 13 January 2023).

3). Kessler, G. (2002). "Requirements for nuclear energy in the 21st century - Nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source." Progress in Nuclear Energy 40(3-4):309-325. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0149-1970(02)00024-0. (Accessed 13 January 2023).

4). Little, M. P. (2003). "Risks associated with ionizing radiation: Environmental pollution and health." British Medical Bulletin, Volume 68, Issue 1, Pages 259–275. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldg031. (Accessed 15 January 2023).

5). Yanev, Y. L. (2009). "Nuclear knowledge management." International Journal of Nuclear Knowledge Management 3(2). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJNKM.2009.026559. (Accessed 15 January 2023)..

6). Zhu, J. (2020). "The ‘neglected’ chemistry: Fuels and materials preparation in China’s ‘two bombs and one satellite’ project." Cultures of Science 3(6):209660832096023. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/2096608320960237. (Accessed 15 January 2023).

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