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Advantages And Disadvantages Of Nuclear Energy Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2354 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Nuclear energy is a thriving global industry. Nowadays, there are a total of 435 nuclear power plants in the world. This source energy is not yet used in Malaysia. Nuclear energy can generate electricity by Fission process at the power plant. It’s also said that nuclear energy only used a little fuel of uranium only but it can produce high electricity output. In such way, it can benefit our country in term of produce electricity as the government must take precaution about the decreases of supply of non renewable energy that extensively used in Malaysia.

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Hydroelectric is a renewable energy in Malaysia that produce high power capacity. It produced electricity from the flow of lake or streams. It will give the kinetic energy as the water flows downward very fast. So the kinetic energy has been converted to mechanical by the turbine. From the turbine, it will produce electricity. Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) operates three hydroelectric in peninsular Malaysia which its sum generating power capacity is 1911 megawatts (MW) and operates with a total of 21 dams. The largest hydroelectric power system in Malaysia is at Bakun on the Balui River in Sarawak. It can generate power capacity as high as 2400 MW which is double of power capacity supply in peninsular Malaysia.

Coal is a fossil fuel created from plant trapped underground for millions of years without being in contact to air. Because of its nature of long term of produce, it is classified as a non-renewable energy source. Coal is mainly consists of carbon atoms that come from plant material from ancient swamp forests. There are many types of coal. Some contain dangerous material such as sulphur that pollutes the atmosphere further when they burn that will cause to acid rain. Anthracite, bituminous coal, lignite, and sub-bituminous coal are all different types of coal that are used nowadays. [1] In Malaysia, there are 5 generating coal power stations. Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Power station is the largest coal power station which its produce 2420 MW. In some research, It said that coal will last supply for the power energy at least for the next century.So our government must take precaution above this matter by bring in other energy sources in Malaysia.

Oil is our primary source nowadays. For the time being, the increase of oil price has become a big issue in Malaysia. This will affect the price of TNB tariff in the long term as many of the power station use oil to produce energy. This matter will become serious if the fuel price keeps increasing. Oil plants in Malaysia are widely used in Sabah as the total Oil plant around Malaysia is five. Most of the power plants in Sabah use diesel engines to running their system. Gelugor Power system is the only one oil plant in peninsular Malaysia. It can produce around 398MW of generating power.

In Malaysia, Gas energy Plant is widely used. Like oil and coal, gas is found underground, it from the million years of heat and pressure that being applied to the underground that can caused them to change to crude oil and natural gas. There is about 21 gas energy plant in Malaysia that can produce generating power from 100MW to 1500MW. Tuanku Jaafar Power system is the highest generating power system in Malaysia as it can produce 1500 MW of power Gas is a non renewable energy so the supply of gas maybe limited nowadays. It’s also said that gas contributes a large amount of carbon dioxide that can be harmful to greenhouse warming.

Biomass provides heat and energy. We can use many sources of biomass such plants, landfill fumes, agriculture, forest residues and also from the waste of industries and cities. In such ways, it not also minimizes the cost but it also reduces pollution to the environment. Biomass produce energy by basically burning organic matter to released its chemical energy. Using biomass energy contributes CO2 when burned but the carbon dioxide being recaptured and used by other plants. We can create electricity from biomass by direct fired, co firing, gasification and anaerobic digestion. There are nine biomass power plants in Malaysia. Likes Oil power plants, Biomass energy is widely used in Sabah. Many of biomass power plants empty fruit bunch as their fuel. Although biomass a renewable energy, it can only produce small power capacity.[1]



Malaysian government announced that Malaysia is considering having Nuclear power plant by 2021. As the coal power plant has the limit supply of coal, and the price fossil fuel keep increasing, this was the best way to generate power that meet our country energy demand. Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui said that our main renewable energy, which is hydroelectric also have a problem of limited land to building a dam for hydro power plant. So the drastic way to overcome this entire problem is to build a costly but efficient nuclear power plant. According to the minister, the safety of power plant would be the high priority on building this technology. [2]

How Nuclear Energy Works

Nuclear energy is produced naturally under a human control. A nuclear power plant uses steam to generate the power plant. Uranium is the main aspect to produce a steam. Nuclear reaction occurs when uranium atoms split into small particles that can produce large amount of heat during the chain reaction. It will release around 3 neutrons and can produce a large of energy during the fission. This chain reaction will continue until uranium is split. Figure 1 shows fission of Uranium 235. [3]

Figure 1 show Fission of Uranium 235

Fission process will occur in the fuel assemblies in the reactor core. Control rods are used to absorb neutrons to control the fission process. In order to keep the heat flowing efficiently, each power plant will have their coolant device that prevent the core becoming too hot and carries heat away. The piping of steam will run through the turbine in order to create electricity. Fission process can produce radioactive, It is important to have a barrier that can protect the release of radioactivity. Nuclear power plant is said to be under human control because it constantly monitored and controlled from a control room by highly trained engineered. It also has a backup system designed if the normal operation is disrupted. Figure 2 shows schematic figure of nuclear power plant. [4]

Figure 2 shows schematic of nuclear power plant


Environmental effect

Nuclear energy has the lowest effect on the environment, It’s because that the nuclear plants do not produce harmful gases. The water from the power plant also contains no harmful pollutants. Main aspect of Environmental safety of nuclear energy is it does not burn anything to produce electricity compared to other power plant such coil, oil and gas that can produce CO2 as it can increased concentration of greenhouse that responsible for climate change. For example, A 1000MW coal plant produce 44000 tonnes of sulphur oxides and 22000 tonnes of nitrous oxide and also 500 000 tonnes of solid waste that can be harmful to the atmosphere environment compared to the nuclear energy that doesn’t produce any noxious gases .Nuclear energy will reduce about 5-10% greenhouse gases reduction by the time of 10 years.


Nuclear energy is very cost effective compared to the renewable energy such wind, hydro or solar. It uses Uranium as fuel. Main aspect is it use it can produce huge amount of energy in such a small amount of uranium. Uranium is highly concentrated source which is very cheap and easy transportable. For example, One kilogram Uranium will yield 20 000 times as much energy compare to the same amount of coal.[5]


Research said that Coal sufficient for some 300 years, natural gas for 60 years and oil for 40 years. The development of Nuclear power would be a drastic change for this problem. It was known that Uranium would last long for around 50 years, but recycling the plutonium from spent fuel would increase the potential of uses this technology as long as 3000 years at today’s level of use. As we know, the consumption of fuel (uranium) of uses this technology is very small but the electricity produce are very high which is the main advantage of this technology.[6]


Since the tragedy of Chernobyl and three miles island, the safety of nuclear power plant had been improved. All nuclear power plant needs to be at maximum safety avoid major accidents. Nowadays, the design of newest nuclear reactor has applied the concept of negative feedback loop. This new technology ensures that nuclear power become harder to squeeze. In such ways, nuclear chain reaction that can lead to a explosion almost impossible to happen. So this technology had overcome the safety problem that always been worried by people around the world.

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Environmental effect

Nuclear waste is the main disadvantage in nuclear power energy. After many years of research, the world still has no exact solution to safely dispose the nuclear waste. Nuclear waste nowadays is stored in a disposal site. The problem is Plutonium takes a hundred thousand of years to be no longer radioactive. So the storage site may be full before the plutonium become inactive. In instant, plutonium are very dangerous as it is highly toxic and also can be used to make bomb.[7]


Although the price of uranium is cheap, the cost to construct Nuclear power plant is very expensive compared to the other source of power plant. It uses highly expensive technologies. The total cost to use the nuclear technology include construction, safety, insurance and liability in case of accidents or being attack which is can cause to mass destruction and also the cost of nuclear waste

Nuclear Proliferation

As we know, nuclear technology used a lot of uranium that can be converted to weapons production. Nowadays, there are more than 40 countries used this technology have a big risk about nuclear proliferation. The hazard of nuclear power includes the risk of disaster like nuclear reactor disaster in Chernobyl which hotly debated in the internet. The other problem is also the risk of terrorism and sabotage which can cause mass destruction.


Hydropower and biomass are commonly used of renewable energy in Malaysia. After an increasing price of fuel, lack of supply of coal, environmental problem and limited land in building dam for a hydropower, it’s a sufficient way if Malaysia take a step to develop a new type of renewable energy such wind and solar. Renewable energy plays a big role in supplying electricity in Malaysia as it also reduces the issue of global warming. Since Malaysia is located in equatorial region which receiving average of 8 hours of sunshine, it’s better for Malaysia government to implement solar technology in Malaysia. Nowadays, solar technology in our country is only use in rural area. For instant, Malaysia actually has built their first solar power station in Tropical Village of Kampung Denai.[8] Many citizens nowadays also use solar photovoltaic application as their water heater in their home. This shows that solar technology is no longer a new technology in Malaysia. Its better if our government to take opportunity to build a mega solar power supply in our country to overcome the problem of environmental effect if using non renewable energy such coil and oil.



The main difference is renewable energy doesn’t have the tendency to create a military weapon the way the nuclear energy does. For instant, a sabotage of nuclear power plant would release a large amount of radioactive which is very harmful to human. There’s no type of renewable energy that can be used as weapon of mass destruction.


Renewable energies have very limitless source. It stated that nuclear energy can long last about 3000 years more because of the uranium supply is larger enough and also because of the ability of recycling plutonium. Both of this source energy has the long term of supply which would be the main factor of using this source.


Renewable energy is absolutely environmental friendly. Nuclear energy also doesn’t produce any noxious gas which can increase the concentration of greenhouse problem or global warming. But the problem of using nuclear energy is to deal with the nuclear waste. Nuclear waste radioactive remains for hundred thousand of years. Until now, any of the world government body doesn’t have the solution to solve this problem.


Nuclear power is more expensive compare with renewable energy. Even though we know that nuclear power plant only use little fuel (uranium) means little cost in term of supply but other cost like construction, safety, and waste are yet highly expensive. Solar energy is very affordable and very appropriate for our country as Malaysia gets a good sunlight each year. This could be the main advantage of using this technology.


Energy sources that are sustainable, environmental friendly and cost effective would be the main factor of choosing source energy. Renewable energy can achieve the sustainable we need. Renewable energy supplies 19% of energy and nuclear energy only supply 16% of world electricity.[9] Renewable energy not only have limitless source, it’s also easily organize and absolutely no risk to human and global. Nuclear energy maybe has its own advantage but the dangerous of nuclear waste has overcome all the benefit of nuclear energy. There’s still a big problem about the radioactive effect that can be harmful to human. So the investment on building nuclear power plant energy would be not a good option.


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