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nuclear power stations

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Nuclear power stations–Are they safe?

By Sophie Zhao 11N


In this report, I will attempt to find out if nuclear power stations are safe. Assuming people who read this report has no background knowledge on this topic, I will explain some basic facts about it. Then, I am going to write the arguments for and against nuclear energy, and the evidence behind it. The arguments will only backed up by safety issues. Before I start, I would like to remind the readers that the word safe is a relative term. No method of extracting energy is 100% safe. The only way to find out if Nuclear power stations are safe is to compare it with other types of power stations.


To fully understand the risks involved, it is vital to know how a nuclear power station works. Basically, they work by using nuclear fission to release energy to create electricity. When this nuclear chain reaction is controlled, the energy released can be used to heat water, produce steam that drives a turbine, generating electricity.[9]

How a nuclear power station work.


However, we must also take into account, the entire lifecycle of a nuclear power station and the fuels used



Yes, nuclear power is safe

Some argue that the only way we could satisfy our energy needs without damaging the environment is to use nuclear power. Fossil fuel power stations generate large amounts of CO2,

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Natural gas


Workers & public










*Basis: per million MWe operating for one year, not including plant construction . [6]

While increased exposure to high radiation increases the chance of getting cancer, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get it. [2] Therefore, it’s hard to accurately calculate the number of death caused by ionising radiation released by a major nuclear disaster like Chernobyl.

The media often exaggerate events to gain viewers/buyers, bad news always sell.

image03.pngthe graph above shows that Coal, the fuel used in many power stations kills 110.4% more people than nuclear power!

No, nuclear power is not safe.

Nuclear reactors contain very large amounts of radioactive isotopes. If this radioactivity were to escape the reactor, it would have serious effects. This is because the radiation often carries a large amount of energy, which breaks up the molecules that absorb it into smaller bits called ions by changing the difference between the number of protons and electrons. The process, called ionisation can damage or kill living cells. The effects of exposure to high levels of ionising radiation include increased rates of cancer, this happens when the cell’s DNA is damaged, and the cell develops out of control. The ionising radiation also causes genetic defects and even death when irradiation is extreme, as the radiation can kill the cell.  [1]

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Nuclear power can be the answer to the growing gap in our energy supply. If the stations are designed and managed well, the risks of something going wrong are very small. But I don’t believe we should use nuclear power as the main source of our energy need because the risks outweigh the benefits. The consequence of a major disaster is something that is hard to deal with. Radioactive contamination does not respect national boarders, as shown by the Chernobyl disaster. Mostly importantly, the problem with radioactive waste nuclear power stations produce cannot be ignored. The problem doesn’t just affect us; it will affect many more generation. But because our civilisation is dependent on electricity, I think it is acceptable to use nuclear power for the moment while we adapt to smaller energy consumptions and invest in alternatives.


  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  1. 21st century science: GCSE science higher

3) http://www.iea.org/dbtw-wpd/Textbase/nppdf/free/2006/key2006.pdf

4) http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/logos20-1/passive01.htm


6) http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html

  1. http://www.uic.com.au/ne6.htm
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#Long_term_management_of_waste
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power
  1. http://srs.dl.ac.uk/Annual_Reports/AnRep01_02/radioactive-waste-fig2.jpg
  1. http://transitionculture.org/wp-content/uploads/B23_051004waste.jpg
  1. The Agesta nuclear power station.

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