Q) Should the World get rid of all Forms of Nuclear Energy? Critically Comment.(1200 words)
Superb Model Answer:
One of my favorite mythical stories, since my childhood, has been "Ali Baba and 40 Thieves" from Arabian Nights. In the story the treasure looted by thieves that Ali finds becomes the reason for doom of his elder brother whereas the same treasure becomes as reason for prosperity and happiness of Ali and the community.
The story gives us a lesson that with honest attitude and capability it is possible to successfully use and exploit a risky treasure for the betterment of the society for treasures themselves are value neutral. One such “treasure”, the testimony to human ingenuity, is Nuclear energy. Though it has the record of inflicting greatest cruelty and destruction to human race but simultaneously it holds great potential to solving needs of human civilization. So the billion-dollar question arises what should be our approach to this "treasure"? Should it be abandoned for the harm it has done or it may do which may even, in the worst case, wipe out the human race completely or should it be used to solve impending problems that we face which are likely to get worse in future?
Nuclear energy may be, on the basis of use it is put to, categorized in military and civilian form of nuclear energy. Military form of energy, currently, includes weapon such as bombs, missiles, nuclear powered submarines etc. For civilians it is largely used as a source of power, currently viable in generating electricity on large scale.
Let us consider military use of nuclear energy. It has been argued that nuclear weapons have put the world in greatest danger ever known to human civilization. Any nuclear war between countries in possession of such weapons is likely to be the last war in human history and will lead to extinction of the species.
Second threat comes from anti-social organizations that if they come to posses such weapons the catastrophe is going to be unimaginable. Both threats are legitimate and serious.
But the solution that the nuclear weapons, leave aside nuclear energy altogether, be given up due to such threats is practically impossible and in-fact sub optimal. It is not easy to comprehend that a third world war may have been avoided because of nuclear weapons itself for they form a deterrent to big wars among the nuclear states because a nuclear war is a no win war for any country.
Secondly the possession of nuclear weapons is irreversible. The reason being that the pay offs for a cheater in-case the world decides to get rid of all nuclear weapons are so high that cooperation at global level cannot work. It is only a competitive solution, which is maintaining sufficient deterrent that can provides equilibrium. In other words, world is better off in competing for nuclear weapons than cooperating in their destruction. Further critics who argue that world is always at war and in such scenario having nuclear weapons would be fueling the fire need to understand that one major reason of such wars is the strategic importance of oil and gas in global economy. Diversification of sources of energy is likely to reduce the importance of such resources and associated tensions thus aiding in world peace.
The only argument that holds merit, against nuclear energy in this form, is minimizing investments in such deterrents. It is so because the world has better avenues where the returns on investments are higher both socially and economically such as in poverty alleviation, provision of basic needs, growth and development. And it is these sectors which should be the focus and not piling up of the stocks of nuclear weapons.
This brings us to the second form of nuclear energy which is in civilian sector in the form of electric power and fuel. Incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima has always armed nuclear energy critics with justifiable position that nuclear energy be completely done away with. They also argue that with the availability of multiple sources of energy both conventional and renewable the need for nuclear energy is redundant in benefits but abundant in risks as it is prone to disasters and also to misuse by diversion of the enriched fuel for military weapons.
The sufficiency of availability of power cannot be assessed from supply side alone but is determined by interplay of both supply and demand. About 85% of population of the world lives in developing or even poorer countries. Their present per capita consumption is a fraction of what developed country is consuming. According to one estimate if all the population of the world were to consume per capita power as is being currently consumed in US we would require 5 times the current power generating capacity of the world! Add to this the fact that the population of the world continue to rise and may increase by 50% by the end of the century. Moreover, the conventional sources such as coal, oil, natural gas are limited and may get exhausted in next 50 to 60 years. Neither do they help the cause of environment protection that has become so urgent for sustainable development that is inclusive and equitable.
Given this context it becomes absolutely clear that it is imperative to generate energy from all available resources so that such huge demand is timely met and process of sustainable development is not affected. The criticism that nuclear power is expensive also does not hold ground if a comprehensive cost benefit analysis including the environment and opportunity costs are taken into consideration. Also the processed fuel from power generation needs further enrichment before it may be used is making weapons. Such enrichment plants are traceable and international agreement is already working in regulating the process.
What, on the other hand, is required is that investments be made in research that further encourages and diversifies the use of nuclear energy as a substitute of fuel in motor transport, robotics, space and other possible sectors. It is nobody’s cases that threat of nuclear incidents is not real. Appropriate solution to the problem is stronger and scientific safety standards regulating use of nuclear fuel. This has already been taken up in many countries including India.
We must be proud of that we as humans have believed in our capacities and have repeatedly achieved the “impossible”. Nuclear energy is a treasure which holds great potential. We may exploit it to our benefit especially when its needs are now more than ever or be cowards and discard it altogether. I, for one, would definitely say as Ali would have said “Khulja Sim Sim”.