The use of hydropower, coal, oil and gas has helped to stimulate economic growth and raise the standards of living of people worldwide. All major forms of electricity generation, however, have some effect on the environment, frequently with starkly negative results. The burning of fossil fuels, scientists say, can contribute some 50 percent to the warming of the global atmosphere. Man’s harnessing of these resources involves risks to the environment, as well as to people involved in activities associated with energy technologies. The link between energy and the environment is undeniable.
The world must therefore carefully examine its energy alternatives, and alternatives must be found to reduce the influence of fossile fuels on the environment, in parallel with conservation efforts. Nuclear energy can claim to be a clean, economical option for the generation of electricity and as one when looking at ways to help relieve stress on the environment. Conclusions of the 14th Congress of the World Energy Conference in Montreal in late September, 1989 indicate that environmental effects of energy uses and the world’s growing demand for electricity are prime reasons warranting a renewed emphasis on nuclear power. Conservation is a significant, realistic, and necessary element in trying to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Conservation implies both a more efficient and more discriminating use of energy. But, as the former International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General Dr.
Hans Blix has said, current plans of developing countries foresee a sharp increase in the use of fossil fuels. This means that if we are to succeed in stabilizing and indeed diminishing the greenhouse effect, industrialized countries must make the major effort. Nuclear power can be one effective tool in this vital endeavour. Additionally, ways must be found to allow industrializing nations to play their part without jeopardizing their growth prospects.
* * * * * * * * * * * * Nuclear power’s role in environmental protectionThe world community is beginning to realize that no source of energy is risk-free and that environmental considerations must be taken into account. If the electric energy that was generated from nuclear power last year had instead been produced by coal-fired power plants, it would have given rise to additional emissions of CO2 of about 1600 million tons. This figure is not small compared with the 4000 million tons which the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere recommended as a target for reductions by 2005. The wastes resulting from the operation of all nuclear power plants last year gave rise to some 7000 tons of spent fuel, a small amount compared to other energy sources. If the electricity had been generated by the combustion of coal, it would have resulted in millions of tons of SO2 and NOX, in addition to the 1600 million tons of CO2, even with the best flue gas cleaning equipment available. Additionally, there would have been some 100,000 tons of poisonous heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and vanadium.
These remain poisonous forever and are not isolated from the biosphere. The Agency provides assistance to its Member States in nuclear power production and services to assure that nuclear power plants are safely managed and operated. For example: Radiation and nuclear safety standards For more than 30 years, the Agency has established international safety standards and guidance on radiation and nuclear safety and assisted Member States in their application nationally to promote the safe use of nuclear technologies in medicine, research, agriculture, industry and .