Nuclear energy is a form of nuclear technology that entails nuclear fission use in controlled amount to discharge energy for purposes of electricity generation, heating as well as propulsion. A controlled nuclear chain reaction produces nuclear energy which generates heat (Brown, 2003). This heat could be applied in driving steam turbines, steam production as well as boiling water. Furthermore, the steam turbine is used in generation and production of electricity or in propelling other mechanical duties.
Radiation is a kind of energy whereby different waves and particles produce different energy amounts. Radioactive waste harms people and contaminates wildlife. This happens if it comes out of its safe container. Nuclear energy is a type of radiation. This type of energy is considered safe in comparison to other sources of energy. Three safety requirements must be considered when dealing with nuclear energy. To start with, the reaction rates must be controlled. If they are not, meltdown occurs as well as the seepage of radiation to the outer parts of the nuclear plant. Secondly, radioactive elements used in the nuclear power reactors must be well-managed. The third, safety precaution is that the security of the radioactive material must be upheld because if they happen to fall in the wrong hands it might trigger a nuclear war. The release of energy arising from the division of atoms is controlled and produced by a nuclear reactor (Harold, 1977). The release of electricity is utilized in heat production which further produces steam to result into the final product which is electricity. Curies are the units of measurement used to determine radiation amounts released to the environment whereas rems are the units of measurement administered to a person as a dose.
On the other hand, various regulations do exist with respect to nuclear energy. To begin with, the nuclear plant must bear a license from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition, the process of building the plant must be supervised throughout subject to final inspection upon completion of the nuclear reactor. The inspection is carried out to check up the plant's condition as well as to ascertain that laws are being followed. The second aspect of regulation has to do with the storage containers. This is because after a certain period of time, uranium will no longer be used due to its extremely radioactive nature, and hence it has to be stored in safe containers (Lanier-Graham, 1993). Transportation of radioactive elements by trucks, boats, trains or airplanes is the other safety regulation. Fire safety is the forth aspect of regulation. Detection of fires is so crucial such that systems for monitoring fires are so adequately put in place. It is a requirement that nuclear reactors possess a single control station which is fire proof whereby the plant can be shut down safely by the workers if the need arises. The last aspect of regulation is the issuance of reports. For instance, any occurrence that could adversely affect the reactor must be reported as well as any release of liquid radioactive elements to the nuclear regulatory commission if it is in excess of the predetermined amount.
Nuclear energy has produced electricity for commercial consumption for quite a long period of time. However, over the past twenty years, the growth of nuclear energy has faded due to availability of low cost alternatives such as natural gas. Nonetheless, some countries like Korean Republic, France and Japan have enthusiastically embraced the generation of nuclear energy. Consequently, 14 percent of the world's electricity is produced by nuclear power reactors. With reference to the International Energy Agency, this percentage is projected to decrease by 2030 to approximately 10 percent (Ogden & Williams, 1989). This will be as a result of the absence of aggressive and sustained support from the government. Market share increment efforts for nuclear energy are brought down by the electricity demand doubling as well as the urgency of removing from active service the worn out reactors. The increase in electricity demand triggered by improvement in the security for energy as well as mitigations towards climate change, have increased the desire by many countries to invest in nuclear technology. The achievement of nuclear energy expansion of this magnitude will prove to be difficult. This is because the current nuclear reactors industrial base has accommodated only ten reactors per annum over the past twenty years. Therefore, the scaling up of the capacity of the nuclear industry could take quite a while. In some instances, the un-priced emission of carbon dioxide implies that the construction of nuclear power plants will still be a bit expensive compared to natural gas, oil or coal.
As a rejoinder to mitigations concerning climate change, it will become clear for these nations that investing in nuclear power will not be a quicker solution in reference to decreasing the levels of carbon dioxide emitted nor it will be the least expensive. Unless nuclear energy is capable of processing heat or producing hydrogen or until the electrification of transport sectors, the potential of nuclear energy will be limited in contributing towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster swayed public confidence not only in Japan but also abroad (Black, 2011). The overwhelming tsunami and earthquake that killed a lot of people did away with backup and off site electricity of four out of six nuclear power reactors as well as their used fuel pools. Secondary controls were demolished by hydrogen explosions. This resulted into used fuel pools exposures as well as the meltdown of three nuclear power plants. The Japanese government immediately cleared off some of the population from the affected area.
The Fukushima clean up exercise will take place for quite some years with the cost incurred ranging in terms of billions of dollars. This incident triggered other countries operating nuclear reactors to declare safety reviews with some even halting the operation of the established reactors as well as those under construction. Moreover, many countries that might have been considering the establishment of nuclear energy plants could face a major hurdle of overcoming mistrust engrossed in the minds of the public.
Nuclear weapons are still regarded as a profound currency of security and politics despite the revision of many countries' nuclear weaponry programs after the end of the Second World War (Hanes, 2009). While states producing nuclear weapons have laid down commitments that are legally binding as far as nuclear disarmament is concerned, there is heavy reliance on these nuclear weapons in the enhancement of security services. In addition, these countries are still modernizing and investing in nuclear weaponry. The efforts towards disarmament of nuclear weapons comprises of various paths consisting of various approaches (Thomas, 2009). For example, nuclear weapons' de-legitimization is one of these approaches by way of diminishing their legitimacy. The international court of justice stipulated that the use of nuclear weapons is generally in negation of rules of international law applicable to any situation of armed conflict. Moreover, the use of these weapons persecutes humanitarian principles and rules. The broad use of nuclear weapons is open to discussion because their use is alleged to be unlawful.
For instance, different reasons abound as to the surrendering of Japan in 1945. As such, it's believed that the two atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima forced Japanese leaders to end the Second World War. There is some aspect of plausibility in this interpretation because a short while after the bombing, Japan indicated its readiness to surrender. However, a critical review of the causative facts indicates some falsehood in this interpretation.
The international court of justice declaration of nuclear weaponry as contrary to international law rules is centered on the fact that the nature of nuclear weapons is indiscriminate. This is to mean that they do not differentiate between combatants and non-combatants. Therefore, a nuclear assault is incapacitated in sparing civilians. This is because the consequences of using nuclear weapons are devastating as well as radiations from nuclear explosions results to generic illnesses and defects in future generations. Moreover, the effects of nuclear weaponry cannot be restricted in terms of time and space. Consequently, there is no guarantee that the states neighboring the attack will not be affected. Thus, neutral countries should be sheltered from the destructions arising from warfare. Rules stipulated by The Hague and Geneva conventions concerned with upholding customs and laws regarding conflict and war should be applicable to nuclear weaponry. In addition, the destructive nature of nuclear weapons is taken to be similar to that of chemical and biological weapons.
Currently, it is greatly agreed upon that there is little or rather virtually no utility of using nuclear weapons as warfare instruments. First of all, they cannot be used in territory acquisition due to their long standing damage on the environment. Furthermore, they are no longer applicable in the present day warfare whereby individual countries' armies do not fight on the front line. Majority of the present day conflicts are fought to a greater extent amongst and by civilians, hence making it difficult for the aiming of weapons targeting a particular military. Moreover, the weapons are useless in the fight against terrorism because most terror organizations are not located in a particular site that could be singled out as a target area. Furthermore, terrorist groups cannot be classified as combatants because they do not differentiate themselves from ordinary civilians. The major use of nuclear weaponry in the present day is their preventive character, that is to say nuclear weapon possession prevents attacks from other agents so long as it is a nuclear weaponry country. Therefore, nuclear prevention is today's mechanism for desisting states from launching attacks on other countries as well as for upholding international stability.
How It Works
Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy
The use of nuclear energy for peaceful reasons is categorized into five major areas namely: nuclear raw materials processing and mining; enriched uranium production; nuclear fuel materials fabrication; nuclear reactors operation, construction and design; and the reprocessing of fuel. Other than the use of nuclear energy in the generation of electricity, it is widely used in biology, agriculture, industry, hydrology and medicine.
Nuclear Technology: International Relations and Globalization
Any form of knowledge available, irrespective of where it comes from, usually finds itself in the hands of very many people. Technological advancement is acquired by organizations for the purpose of coming up with new processes and products for commercial motives. In addition, nations require these technologies mostly for techno-economic advancement. The philosophies of idealism, liberalism as well as realism explain the reason as to why nations desire to acquire the well-guarded, dangerous and expensive nuclear technology. To begin with, nuclear technology acquisition in light of realism is basically for offensive or defensive military purposes (Wallin et al, 1991). For instance, a nation readies itself for defense in an atmosphere prone to conflicts through the development of efficient offensive strategies capable of dissuading the eminent enemies from carrying out an attack. This motive of self-preservation by nations in the acquisition of nuclear technology is often available where the technology is meant for military reasons.
On the other hand, the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes lies within the liberalism doctrine whereby the production of nuclear energy is the major example safe for its other numerous applications. Nowadays, all nuclear countries subscribe to this view of liberal economy whereby states are free in the utilization of the available resources for purposes of economic development. In the next place, idealism as means of nuclear technology development by a country can be viewed in two scenarios. First is the feeling of pride by a state in the achievement of quality progress in scientific research as well as the prestige that comes with the acquisition of nuclear technology. Second, nuclear prowess may be used by nations in acquiring political persuasion in both international and regional issues (May et al, 2003). This is whereby leaders use their nuclear muscles in regional affairs as well as a form of leverage in local politics. The economic and military possession of nuclear technology by a nation earns it influence and stature in international issues. The newest nations such as Israel, India, Pakistan and China endowed with civilian and military nuclear capabilities, portray economic as well as stature impetus for the deployment and growth of their nuclear technology in tandem with the idealism, liberalism and realism doctrines.
These reasons and motivations heighten the urge by nations in the acquisition of nuclear technology. However, the supply of nuclear technology has not been openly and freely available without the approval of the government. In the deficiency of this approval, nations acquire the technology either through espionage or piracy. These aspects are readily demonstrated by the increased nuclear technology transfer in the period after the Second World War. Nuclear technology transfer to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the United States arose from an instance of piracy conducted by a British physicist. Therefore, the acquisition of nuclear technology has been rampant more so with nuclear options reconsideration by Japan following the recent North Korea nuclear threats. Many nations acquire nuclear materials and technology under the guise of their use for peaceful purposes.
However, the gap between military and peaceful nuclear technology uses is quite small. This is because most of the nuclear nations possess accessibility to fissile elements as well as a pool of experienced engineers and scientists who adequately enhance these materials into bombs. This point is well illustrated by the case of North Korea as well as that of Iran. For instance, nuclear technology was obtained by Iran from the United States for peaceful purposes based on the close economic and political relations that existed between the two. This saw the building of two nuclear power plants with technology transfer from German's Siemens Company as well as with the German government approval.
It has come to the lime light of intelligence communities and international scholars that there has been open and secret collaboration between Iran and North Korea in enhancement of nuclear technology in exchange of trade ties. These trade relations usually consist of oil exports abundantly found in Iran as it is rated the third biggest oil producer in the world. Allegations abound that there has been acquisition of nuclear elements which are sophisticated by Iran as well as the know-how of operating these materials from Pakistan. On the other hand, North Korea offered missile ballistic technology capacity of carrying nuclear war heads.
The recent Iran's firing test of missiles must have been assisted by this know-how sourced from North Korea. This was in exchange for financial support to the North Korean government in the development of its own missile program. Similar training and technical aid specifically in uranium large scale conversion and mining appears to have been sourced from China. With the assistance and information of these advancements Iran is still carrying on with the enrichment of weapons grade nuclear technology. In addition, the recent Iranian government missile test sheds light on their capability of launching a nuclear warhead as well. On the contrary, Iran consistently denies involvement in any nuclear weapon development intention. However, the most crucial fact is left unquestioned and unchallenged. That is, irrespective of all the international community's non-proliferation efforts, just like North Korea, Iran, has acquired insightful nuclear technology, materials and training from different closed and open sources for the purpose of developing extensive nuclear capabilities. These cases of North Korea and Iran add insignificantly to the attempt of containing nuclear technology. This is because of the two states being backed by very strong nuclear nations namely: Russia, China and Pakistan, for their individual political and economic reasons. Each of these accomplices is supposed to have supplied wholly if not partially nuclear technology to both North Korea and Iran.
China purchases Iranian oil for fueling its rampant economic growth. On the other hand, Iran and Russia are trading partners as well as bordering nations. Moreover, Iran and Pakistan enjoy good techno-economic ties and common boundaries as well as the collaboration and transfer of nuclear technology (O'Connell & Batchelor, 2002). In the next place, North Korea is politically aligned with China and Russia as a strategy aimed towards the containment of American economic and military persuasion in the Pacific and Asian region with support from South Korea and Japan. Consequently, there has been development of strong nuclear collaborations and techno-economic relations between Pakistan and China.
Following the discussion above, it would be logical for the international community to divert its focus on non-proliferation of nuclear technology to nuclear countries and deliberate on stopping the fall of nuclear technology in the hands of groups and individuals. This is not achievable through the current non-proliferation mechanisms and structures. Technological advancements witnessed over past years evidently show no sense in efforts and time wastage aimed at preventing nations enthusiastic about the acquisition of nuclear technologies in this era of globalization. The only sound solution would be to require such nations to pledge their prevention of nuclear technology being acquired by non-state agents. Moreover, these nations should be required not to launch nuclear weapons against other countries unless that other state attacks it using a nuclear device.
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