Large capacity Coal Fired Power plants are the backbone of the power grids in most of the countries. Coal firing is taking its toll on the environment in the form of pollution, CO2 emissions and global warming. The best alternative to this is Nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants can give very reliable and large capacity base loads. Misconceptions, fear and politics work against the installation of Nuclear power plants.
Two reasons why we should come out of this situation by going nuclear are discussed below.
“A Known Devil is Better Than an Unknown Angel”
Solid Waste disposal.
A 1000 MW coal fired power plant produces around 5 Million Tons of ash in 15 years. A nuclear plant produces 1500 T of low and intermediate level waste and 450 T of High level wastes in the same 15 years. Even a very high level containment area for the nuclear waste occupies only a fraction of the volume of the waste generated by a Coal Fired Plant.
Nuclear waste is known to be hazardous radioactive material, So all the precautions are taken so that nobody gets harmed. But ash disposals of coal yards are not given that kind of treatment and left to the vagaries of nature. This results in health hazards to people staying around disposal areas. Also the ash destroys vegetation and farmland corps in its vicinity. This results in a multi-fold damage to humans and environment. Also long term effects of radioactive elements in ash have yet to be quantified.
The emissions from the tall stacks of the Chimneys are dispersed over a large area. Even though these emissions are within the permissible limits of environmental regulations, this is still an emission. Even with permissible dust emissions in the range of 150 micro grams per m3, this works out to the tune of 500 tons in 15 years. This can still be deadly. A person who is exposed to such fine ash, PM10 or PM2.5 for large number of years can have disastrous health effects. Added to this is the known and unknown effects of Sulphur dioxide and NOx emmissions.
Such problems are avoided in Nuclear power plants.
’Opening The Pandora’s Box’
Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Global warming
A 1000 MW coal fired power plant produces 100 million Tons of CO2 in 15 years. To sequester this amount of CO2 will require almost 15000 Hectare of trees, assuming good mature trees with 0 % tree mortality.
Apart from the CO2 generated in the power plants, coal mining and logistics also contribute to global warming. A 1000 MW power plant requires around 42 Million Tons of Coal in 15 years. The stripping of the top surface for open cast mining destroys the trees and contributing to global warming. Transportation of this large amount of coal involves energy in other forms which also adds to global warming.
Nature has taken Millions of years to consolidate the carbon in the form fossil fuels, coal and oil and Natural Gas. Now in two centuries we have opened the Pandoras Box and let them out. Will it take another Millions of years to capture and consolidate them? Can life on earth withstand till such time?
Nuclear plants do not emit CO2 or other forms pollutants. By going Nuclear we can stop further destruction of the planet.