Tuesday, 22 March 2011

“Nuclear energy presents nothing more than a short term fix to the UK’s energy mix problems and the impacts of reaching peak oil” To what extent do you agree with this statement? [15 marks]

More and more money is being invested into nuclear energy and with 10 new nuclear reactors being commisioned, in the UK, in the near future nuclear energy is going to provide an increasing proportion of the energy we both produce and consume.
Personally, I think that; although nuclear energy is a much greener option than using some of the other fossil fuels, it can hold no more than a short term fix to the UK’s energy mix problems as the uranium used is also a finite resource. This means that in the future we are going to have to look for other, more renewable, alternatives to nuclear energy for the generation of electricity as someday the reserves of uranium will also run out. This is one of the main reasons as to why I agree with the above statement as, how can something that is not going to last forever provide a long term fix to problems provoked by our reliance on a dwindling energy source.
Another reason as to why I agree with the statement is that nuclear energy will not be able to remedy all of the problems that will be exposed when we reach peak oil and beyond. Although, using nuclear energy will mean that our electricity generation will be much greener, you cannot simply replace oil with uranium because of the wide range of uses oil has. Oil is used in so many of our everyday items from clothing to modes of transport and plays an important role in food production as it is not only used to power machinery but to make fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides as well.  So uranium alone will not be able to fill the gap that will be left when the global oil reserves run out. This is why I think it is important that people recognise that nuclear energy simply cannot be a long term answer to the problems we are going to face and that, although in the short term nuclear energy maybe the best way to go, is it really wise to totally scrap ideas, like the Severn Barrage, to instead give support to projects that aim to develop an energy source that, unlike tidal energy, is not going to exist for ever.
However, in the near future, I think that nuclear energy is going to play a very important role in electricity generation worldwide – especially in the developed countries. The production of nuclear energy has a very low output of greenhouse gases and so, in the short term, is a good alternative for the use of fossil fuels and can be used to reduce our global dependency on oil and coal. Many developed countries, in an attempt to boost their environmental credentials, are likely to turn to nuclear energy as the reserves of fossil fuels run out and more pressure it put on countries to become greener. Also, the supply of uranium is more reliable than the supply of oil as Australia holds the largest proportion (31%) of uranium reserves in the world. Australia is, by far, a much more politically and socially stable country than those in the Middle East who own a large percentage of the world’s oil reserves. Despite how attractive nuclear energy may look to some, I think that we need to remember what is one of the prime causes of the situation we are going to face in the near future and to learn from the mistakes, in terms of our exploitation of energy sources, that have been made. Globally, we are too dependent on oil and so the rate at which reserves are depleting has been accelerated and our reluctancy to invest in alternatives has been escalated. Nuclear energy is becoming an increasingly favourable alternative for many developed countries but it is important that countries to do not become too reliant on nuclear energy as a method of generating electricity as one day uranium reserves will run out.
Overall, I agree with what the statement is saying as how can nuclear energy offer a long term fix to our energy mix problems when, in the future, reserves of uranium will run out. Also, uranium alone, due to the numerous uses of oil, cannot fill the gap that will be left when oil reserves run out. Although I don’t believe that nuclear energy can offer a long term solution to the problems we will face; I think that it will play an important role in electricity generation in the near future. However, I believe it is important that we don’t let history repeat itself and become too dependent on nuclear energy and so I think that, in conjunction with the development of nuclear energy, we should develop our renewable energy sources so that we will not face similar problems in the distant future and so that nuclear energy can be a contributor to the UK’s energy mix in the long term.
Millie's comments: In my second paragraph (why does it seem that I always need to improve my second paragraph?), she said that I needed to define what peak oil is, which seems like an obvious thing to do seeing as the questions refers to it (why can't I do the simple things right!), and also to mention the issue with transport as, in developing countries, oil is primarily used in transport and nuclear power cannot meet this demand. Millie also commented that I need to refrain from posing further questions and, in response, I am going to blame this bad habitat that I have acquired on the writing of this blog as I have got in to the habitat of presented questions when I shouln't - a bit of a bad excuse, I know.
Another point, that will be relevant to any question that asks you to what extent do you agree with this statement, is that I should write in 3rd person but I don't know about any of you, but I find it extremely hard to to say 'I think that.......' or 'I agree.......' in essays like this one. However, this is clearly something that I need to work on.
In the penultimate paragraph, Millie felt that I needed to include the fact that the carbon involved in th construction of nuclear power plants, despite the fact that they have a very low output of greenhouse gases, means that they can never be carbon neutral.
My comments: There are clearly lots of things that could be done to improve this essay but, fortunatley, most of these are things that can easily be included in my future work. I must admit, whilst looking back at this essay, I was impressed at how sort, in comparision to some of the others I have written, it is. However, I still have a long way to go before my work is suffiently succint.

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