Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 22, 2019

Earth Concerns News

The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy by Sister Marguerite Edward Donovan, CSJ

by Sister Marguerite Edward Donovan, CSJ

Over the past year, the Home/Land Committee has, by means of a monthly article in CE, encouraged readers to see the universe, including our planet, as the precious creation of our Loving God, and in that awareness, has raised our consciousness about the impact that our use of energy sources has on the health of Earth. This month we look at nuclear energy. After researching several articles, I came upon one which said it all. The article below by Ana-Kristin Peterson and Jurg Rohrer is used with their permission.

As a result of the current discussion of how further global warming might be prevented or at least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in the mind of everybody (or at least in the mind of many politicians). It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of nuclear-power generation; its disadvantages are rarely mentioned. Hopefully, the following summary of arguments for and against nuclear power may fill this gap.
Advantages of nuclear-power generation
  • Nuclear power generation does emit relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide. The emissions of green-house gases and, therefore, the contribution of nuclear-power plants to global warming is relatively little.
  • This technology is readily available; it does not have to be developed first.
  • It is possible to generate a high amount of electrical energy in one single plant.
 Disadvantages of nuclear-power generation
  • The problem of radioactive waste is still an unsolved one. The waste from nuclear energy is extremely dangerous, and it has to be carefully observed for several thousand years (10,000 years according to United States Environmental Protection Agency standards).
  • There are high risks. Despite a generally high-security standard, accidents can still happen. It is technically impossible to build a plant with 100% security. A small probability of failure will always last. The consequences of an accident would be absolutely devastating both for human beings and for nature. The more nuclear-power plants (and nuclear-waste storage shelters) are built, the higher is the probability of a disastrous failure somewhere in the world.
  • Nuclear-power plants as well as nuclear waste could be preferred targets for terrorist attacks. No atomic-energy plant in the world could withstand an attack similar to the one on 9/11 in New York. Such a terrorist act would have catastrophic effects for the whole world.
  • During the operation of nuclear-power plants, radioactive waste is produced which, in turn, can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. In addition, the same know-how used to design nuclear-power plants can, to a certain extent, be used to build nuclear weapons (nuclear proliferation).
  • The energy source for nuclear energy is uranium. Uranium is a scarce resource; its supply is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years depending on the actual demand.
  • The time frame needed for formalities, planning and building of a new nuclear-power generation plant is in the range of 20 to 30 years in the Western democracies. In other words, it is an illusion that it is possible to build new nuclear-power plants in a short time.
Sustainability: Is nuclear energy sustainable?
For several reasons, nuclear power is neither "green" nor sustainable.
  • Both the nuclear waste as well as retired nuclear plants are a life-threatening legacy for hundreds of future generations. It flagrantly contradicts the thoughts of sustainability if future generations have to deal with dangerous waste generated by preceding generations.
  • Uranium, the source of energy for nuclear power, is available on Earth only in limited quantities. Uranium is being converted during the operation of the nuclear-power plant, so that it won't be available anymore for future generations. This process again contradicts the principle of sustainability.
Is nuclear power renewable energy? 


Nuclear energy uses uranium as fuel; it is a scarce resource. The supply of uranium is expected to last only for the next 30 to 60 years (depending on the actual demand). Therefore, nuclear energy is not a renewable energy.
From the pros and cons of nuclear-power plants mentioned above, it should be evident that nuclear energy cannot be a solution to any problem. Even worse, it is the source of many further problems.