We want to inform you about issues, but we don't want to tell you what to think. This article aims to give you facts, but at the end, we will leave it up to you, the dear reader, to form your own educated opinion about the issue.
Many New Zealanders feel proud of this status, that we are "Nuclear Free New Zealand"; some of the first things we think of when we hear this status is that New Zealand is a safe, clean and environmentally friendly place. However, the use of nuclear power as an energy source has been a controversial topic in New Zealand for a long time due to both the benefits and flaws in its use.
Nuclear energy is produced in power plants to generate energy using “fission”. This is the splitting of atoms to produce heat energy. This heat energy is then used to produce steam which turns a turbine to generate electricity. This method of producing energy is highly efficient as it can produce 1 million times as much energy as fossil fuels per atom, hence easily being able to cater for the energy needs of a nation. Nuclear energy also does not release greenhouse gases as a byproduct. In New Zealand, climate change is a concerning problem due to the excessive greenhouse gases emitted by sheep and cattle farming. As the burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, the continuous use of fossil fuels threatens to accelerate the effects of climate change. Therefore, nuclear energy, which is more efficient and emits no greenhouse gas, is considered to be an ideal substitutes for fossil fuels.
However, nuclear power would have become the most common source of energy in the world if only it did not have some fatal risks. Due to the nature of its energy production, it is inevitable that nuclear power will produce radioactive waste products that are harmful to humans, living organisms, and the environment. Radioactive waste can interfere with the genes of living organisms causing genetic alterations such as cancers. Radioactive waste produced also have very long half-lives, meaning that it will take a very long time for it to decay. As a result, these hazardous products will stay dangerous for a long period of time. This is why much caution must be taken in the disposal of the radioactive waste. However, due to inevitable accidents and natural disasters which can result in the leaking of radioactive substances, risks must be taken for the use of nuclear energy.
At the moment, New Zealand is still maintaining the “nuclear-free zone” act which prohibits all forms of nuclear and radioactive substances. What do you think?
For more information on radioactive decay- click here
For a glimpse into nuclear waste as told by John Oliver (Last Week Tonight)- click here
For a window into the horrific Chernobyl disaster- click here
For information on the massive UN talks about nuclear weaponry- click here
Written by Regina Lee