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Advanced technological solutions to the negative perceptions of nuclear power plants
Worldwide a movement is underway to replace the burning of limited fossil fuel reserves for power generation with a cleaner, more efficient, yet still reliable and cost-effective method. Even though renewable technologies are often among the most common proposed, they are still limited by factors such as cost when considering large scale generation. Further requirements for replacing fossil fuel generation methods include the need to provide a continuous and reliable output for base load requirements, which is difficult to guarantee when making use of renewables alone. The proposed alternative is nuclear energy, as it is a reliable and cleaner method of power generation as compared to fossil fuels, capable of providing cost effective energy in the long run. The downside to nuclear energy, however, is the negative perception and general dislike of this method of generation, especially among the public who have been around this technology since its early days of implementation. The aim of this study is, therefore, to inform and prove that nuclear technology has evolved and come a long way since its early days, by making use of advanced technological solutions to address the fears associated with this technology from many years ago. The study further aims to prove that technologies such as advanced safety systems, new generations of reactors, advanced containment structures for both reactors and waste containment, as well as new waste disposal methods, have evolved nuclear energy into a safer and cleaner alternative method of power generation. This is achieved by first considering the origin of the negative perceptions surrounding the technology, and the nuclear accidents of the past, which have greatly influenced opinions about nuclear technology even up until today. After identifying the concerns and fears surrounding nuclear energy, research was conducted concerning how the latest technologies and innovations in safety systems are used to address these concerns, and ultimately eliminate the threats where possible. With the biggest concern identified, namely a core meltdown event leading to the release of radioactive material into the environment, two simulations were conducted to illustrate the unlikelihood of such an event occurring. The purpose of these simulations was, moreover, to illustrate the complexity and reliability of the various safety systems incorporated into the design of a nuclear power plant, preventing such a feared release of radioactivity from occurring. The research also importantly revealed that the dangers and possible threats posed by nuclear technology are often grossly overestimated, as under normal operating conditions a coal power plant, in fact, releases more radiation into the environment than a nuclear power plant. Further research reveals that the feared nuclear waste, produced by the nuclear industry yet regulated and disposed of properly, is only a small fraction of the highly hazardous waste produced on an annual basis worldwide. It is also revealed that in terms of fatalities, fossil fuel generation, on average, is responsible for more deaths annually than the biggest nuclear disasters that have ever occurred. Addressing the fears and concerns surrounding nuclear technology is therefore important, as this valuable resource may otherwise remain under-appreciated and under-utilised because of the misperceptions which currently exist amongst the public. This furthermore results in the unnecessary exhaustion of fossil fuel reserves, and concomitant pollution of the environment – all due to antiquated fears surrounding nuclear power plants.
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