Solar power generation is a better way to meet the needs of a greener planet over nuclear power generation. Let me support my case by pointing out at the very outset that the solar energy is an abundant resource and even a tiny percentage of the sun rays that touch the earth are enough to meet the power and energy needs of the human population across the globe more than 8,500 times over. Also added to this is the fact that sun energy will reach our planet whether we want it or not and so it is in our advantage to exploit and harness this completely free and inexhaustible energy source.
I further build my case by drawing attention to the one major issue that confronts our collective conscious and that is our environment. The consequences of global warming, meltdown of our glaciers are well documented. The widening hole in the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, the disappearance of our plant species and the disturbance in our ecological balance are some grave factors that are the direct or the indirect results of using fossil fuel based sources of energy including nuclear power to meet our energy and power demands.
Solar energy, in the light of this, is a welcome relief that not only addresses our energy requirements but is also conducive to solving our environmental concerns. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal endorses the growing popularity of solar energy. It says that “California is pushing ahead with up to 80 large-scale solar-power projects as part of its push to use more renewable energy” (How Big Should Solar Get? ). According to Ken Zweibel and Pritpal Singh, “It has been estimated that the potential pv market, with new prgrams coming in, could be as great as 1,600 MW by 2010 (Harnessing Solar Power: The Photovoltaics Challenge).
Let me reiterate the fact that there is no dangerous and unsafe waste involved in solar power. Solar energy is more or less pollution free in terms of noise, air and water pollution. Now compare this to nuclear power as an alternate source to meet our energy requirements. Let us consider the cost of setting up a nuclear which is extremely high. Though there are people who feel that better technologies developed in the near future will help lessen the cost of mining plutonium, even then the cost of producing solar energy using photovoltaic cells is minimal.
Apart from the supervision of trained professionals, nuclear plants have added expenditures for heavy security to deter acts of destruction against a nuclear power plant. So we also have to take in to account costs for armed officers, containment towers, surveillance cameras, sensor alarms, and much more. On the other hand, the production of solar energy involves the photovoltaic power technology which uses semiconductor cells, several square centimeters in size that convert the sunlight into direct current electricity.
Unlike nuclear reactors that require huge expenditure in infrastructure, the pv installation is static, does not require tall towers or any need of cooling. Solar panel manufacturing and the efficiency of the panels are more economically feasible than nuclear power manufacturing. The advantages of solar energy are many. “The lead time to design, install and start up a new plant is very short. The power output matches extremely well with peak load demands” (Mukund R. Patel, 17). The production of solar energy does not involve noise, again a factor that goes in favour of protecting our environment.
The fact that the structure is static implies that maintenance requirement is almost zero. Solar panel manufacturing and the efficiency of the panels are more economically feasible than nuclear power manufacturing. Steven Novack of the Idaho National Laboratories has helped develop a new type of solar panel that is up to 80% efficient using nanotechnology. Solar panels are now being manufactured for around $1 per watt which is cheaper than coal. Then again, solar energy can be used for low-power purposes as well as larger ones.
We can use solar energy to power a battery or calculators, solar powered garden lights, air conditioning, cars, and satellites. In fact the abundant supply of sunlight and the simplicity of the resources required to harness it gives rise to another benefit. In small and remote areas, sometimes it is the only realistic way of supplying energy and power; this is something that is not possible with nuclear power. Nuclear power plants need to be set up at safe distance from human habitation and even if this is done there is no guarantee that people would be safe if a disaster does occur.
Nuclear energy is created by a controlled nuclear chain reaction that boils water, produces steam, and powers steam turbines. The process is not as simple as it sounds. Apart from setting up nuclear reactors there are additional costs that add to the expenditure, given the fact that any minor lapse can trigger reactions whose effects can spell disaster for humans and animals and leave its marks on generations to come. Then again, the cost of daily maintenance requires approximately 0. 14 per kWh, which is very expensive.
Coupled with this is the fact that any minor error, machine or human can prove to be extremely fatal more so for the people who are working within the premises. Yet the danger is not limited to the people within the immediate vicinity of the plant. The radiations from the plant can affect people living within many kilometres of radius depending on the intensity of the accident. One of the biggest disadvantages of nuclear energy is the waste. And even today there is no method to get rid of the radioactivity of the waste or speed up the rate of decay or any suitable locations that provide a permanent storage site for nuclear waste.
Who can forget the Chernobyl power plant accident in 1986 that turned into ghost towns the many villages that felt the impact of the escaping nuclear gas? So great was the intensity of the blast that radiation released spread over much of Europe. Thirty-one people died in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Hundreds of thousands of residents were moved from the area and a similar number are believed to have suffered from the effects of radiation exposure. The horror stories are too traumatic to recount. I rest my case by saying let us work towards a safe environment by using safe source of energy, by using solar energy.