The world's population has been on the increase without a corresponding increase in sources of energy. It has become a challenge to meet the energy which is required. Therefore, nuclear power is an excellent option to fill the gap that is already being felt. The problems come with ethical issues which are surrounding nuclear power. Members of the public are finding it hard to accept it considering the accidents which it has caused in some countries. An example of a highly impactful accident was the one of Fukushima in Japan. While exploring the ethical issues of nuclear power, its benefits and hazards should be considered. The paper will give an insight into the impact of nuclear power on the environment and residents. The paper will further show the catastrophic nature of nuclear accidents, fact disclosure, and also explore safety regulations and violations.
Impact on the Environment
When considering the environment, there are benefits and also hazards. One advantage is that nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide emissions, unlike power plants that use fossils (Taebi et al., 2012). On the negative, the process of mining and also refining uranium requires high energy. Radioactive raw materials are used and also released as waste. The cooling water which is used in the plant is discharged into the sea and hence polluting water. The main environmental concern is the production of radioactive waste.
Impact on Residents
Exposure to low-level radiation can be harmful to the people living near the power plant. The health effects are not immediate but happen after a long time. Some of the risk associated with the radiation is getting cancer. There are several effects on the human body as a result of exposure to radioactive elements over a long time.
If the radiations are at a level of 200 rems or higher, one may lose hair. The reproductive tract can also be affected by radiation at a 200 level. The blood system is also affected, and it can take a period of even ten years before the effects are felt. Emissions as low as 100 rems leads to a reduction of lymphocyte cell count (Taebi et al., 2012). The small number of cells usually leads to some infections. Most people typically stay for a long time unnoticed unless a blood count is done. The effects can lead to leukemia and lymphoma.
Catastrophic Impact of Nuclear Accidents
There are some devastating accidents in nuclear plants which effects had a significant impact on the lives of people. One is of Fukushima Japan, which happened after the Japan earthquake. An earthquake cut external powers to the reactors. The level of the quake was high more than the plant could withstand (Biggs & Humber, 2011). Radiation releases after the reactor building was damaged spread to a wide area, and hence there was the evacuation of a lot of people.
Chernobyl in Ukraine disaster, which happened April 26th, 1986, is considered one of the worst nuclear disasters (Greenpeace, 2006 ). There was an explosion and fire which destroyed one unit. As a result, a lot of radiation came out and spread in Europe and the western Soviet Union. More than 220 000 people were relocated from their homes due to the disaster. The fires which broke out are the ones that led to the radioactive release.
In the United States, the most impactful nuclear disaster happened in Three Mile Island in March 28th 1978 ( Collins, 2011). There was a partial meltdown, which led to some small radioactive elements that were released to the environment. The impact of the accident was not understood immediately. The effects were felt later.
Many nuclear disasters have happened around the world. The effects have been on all living creatures, be it human beings, animals, and even plants. Some other consequences which are most impactful, happen after a long time. There may be cases of children born with a disability and also cancer among the people who lived near the power plant. Public health is greatly affected by such disasters, and that is why the public finds it hard to accept the project. Fighting an invisible enemy is hard; the radioactive waste is feared since deaths from the emission comes a long time after the disaster. The deaths are mostly as a result of cancer. Food security is also affected.
It is necessary to give members of the public the correct information about the nuclear power plant. It is ethical as people understand the risk level and what they should do to protect themselves. A person can also decide whether he/she is safe working in the plant or residing in the surroundings. Some people, according to their health conditions, have more risk factors of contracting some diseases than others. Most of the time industries and also the government hides some facts from people. Giving people accurate information enables them to be prepared in case an accident happens. Training is done to help people avoid panic in case an accident occurs.
Safety Regulations and Violations
There are many regulations that are supposed to guide and regulate how nuclear power plants are supposed to be built and maintained. The information is relevant to plant operators and all the engineers involved from planning to operating the power plant. It is an ethical issue, and the people who are tasked with all the responsibilities in a power plant should ensure that they follow or the guidelines to the letter. Setting the necessary precautions ensures that the life of the workers and other people living in the surroundings is protected.
During the planning phase, the designers should minimize the likelihood of an accident and, if any, the consequences should not be high. There have been many nuclear plant accidents, with the main ones being in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Initially, there were no regulations which were guiding the operation of the plants. Today, with all the precautions in place, it can be described as a safe means to generate electricity. The risks which were there are declining.
The regulation focuses on safety, which is the preventive measures that are put in place to avoid radiological releases (Taebi et al., 2012). The primary consideration is the internal factors that can lead to hazards. The security regulation is involved with preventing the misuse of nuclear or any other radioactive elements by terrorists to harm people. It is a dangerous weapon if non-state elements can access it. There is also safeguard to ensure that rogue governments do not use nuclear energy to form weapons. Nuclear weapons are not allowed even in war as they are likely to cause harm to people over an extended period.
One of the standardization that engineers ought to know about is the defense in depth. There is a combination of safety systems that supplement the reactor core. Some specific approaches are used, which include the use of high-quality design and construction. The equipment should be the one with the ability to prevent human errors to develop into significant problems. There should be regular monitoring of the plant to detect a problem in an earlier stage before a catastrophe. The other control measure through designing is the use of a system that can prevent a big radioactive release in case of an accident. Any problem which can occur should be confined in the plant itself.
Utilitarianism in Nuclear Power
Utilitarianism is an influential moral theory that is based on the consequences. An action is morally right or wrong by considering the effects which it brings to the people. If the outcome is correct, then the action is said to be ethically correct. In this case of nuclear power, many governments have said that it is a sustainable project. The project is maximizing the well-being of most people by providing a clean source of energy. The government and organizations argue that the source of power is safe.
Those who support nuclear energy say that the accidents which have happened is not enough reason to suppose that nuclear power is evil. They continue supporting nuclear power by saying that it is the media and the public in general who overreacted portraying a bad image of a good source of energy. The safety precautions are used to support the projects saying that in cases where there were accidents, the plant was not designed in suitable standards. The blame is, therefore, to the engineers and not the entire plant. They argue with the current design, there is a low probability of an accident. Even if an accident happens, there will be no radioactive released into the environment since it is contained within the plant.
According to utilitarian theory, the action of producing nuclear power is ethical as the results benefit people. The moral codes are not considered. In the case of nuclear energy, the deaths which can be caused by the radioactive elements is not considered. The theory focuses on increasing the good things in life, like the power generated by the power plant.
Kantian Ethics in Nuclear Power
The Kantian theory is the opposite of utilitarianism. Before doing something, the action must be promoting the goals of human beings. It is not the result that determines something if it is morally right. The considerations should be before the action is done. According to Kant, there is a supreme principle of morality.
According to this theory, nuclear power is not ethical because of the effects it causes on human beings. Cancer that people get as a result of the radiation emissions from the nuclear power plant is one factor that is considered. The opposers to atomic power use this theory to explain their stand. Even if the results are for the good of the people, the process itself is in question. There are many health hazards in which the people who are living nearby are exposed. Human life is supreme, and ethics dictate that it should be considered above everything else. The source of energy is good, but it does not guarantee unethical behavior because of the results.Here, the end does not justify the means. The effects which are caused by the production of power using nuclear plant are large and cannot be reversed. When a person gets cancer or a child is born without some parts, it is done. Waste, which is released today, can remain radioactive for many years. It, therefore, shows that in case an accident happens, millions of people, even in the future generation, can be affected. Nuclear energy is not a clean and safe source of power, as many explain it.
According to nonmaleficence ethical principle, there is a moral obligation not to harm others. The government therefore, or any other international organization should understand the ethical policy before investing in any project. In the nuclear power plant, there is a significant likelihood that it will be harmful to the lives of human beings. Therefore, however, good a project might be, as long as it harming a group of people, then it cannot be considered as ethical. One rule of the principle is, do not kill. The conditions which people get as a result of radiation lead to death. The other rule is, do not cause pain and suffering. The accidents which have happened caused people to be evacuated. The other rule of the principle is that do not incapacitate, and the fourth one is, do not cause offense (Taebi et al., 2012). Nuclear plants have been seen not to follow any of these rules.
Professional Code of Ethics
There are guidelines that regulate the ethical behaviors of each profession. In the Nuclear plant, most of the people who work there are engineers. There are standard behaviors that are expected to be shown by people of certain professions. Various professionals may have their code of ethics elaborated differently, but there are some standard features of mult...
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