Economics Assignment: Is Nuclear Reactor In Australia A Good Idea?
Task: Economics AssignmentInstructions: After viewing and reviewing articles, choose a newsworthy story and write an article suitable for publishing in the school newsletter, year book or community paper.Students use appropriate conventions, language and stylistic features to inform and entertain their audience.
AUKUS Defence Pact for Nuclear-Powered Submarines
As stated herein economics assignment, in September, the United States of America and Australia signed a defence agreement for the incorporation and funding of several latest and state-of-the-art, nuclear-powered submarines. The agreement has been signed to secure the international waters and buffer zones in the "Indo-Pacific". The submarines will be tasked with patrolling the waters around the region and preventing any breach of territorial waters. The defence deal has been named the "AUKUS" defence deal. Needless to say, the deal has caused a huge uproar and diplomatic nightmare for European powers. The announcement of the deal has again reignited the oversold argument between anti and pro-nuclear lobbies in the Australian continent. The deal is being termed illegal and unethical. Most believe that it is illegal to operate or build any nuclear reactor. However, the sole nuclear reactor existing in Australia is “ANSTO’s” “OPAL” reactor, currently being used for the sole purpose of creating “nuclear” medicine, thought by many to be a remarkable step towards finding a cure for cancer.
Uranium Mining and Enrichment
According to reports, a significant portion of the Uranium mined from the ground is certainly not fissile, incapable of achieving "nuclear" fission. They argue that Uranium is mined, its 2 main isotopes, Uranium 235 and Uranium 238 form 0.7% and almost 99.3% of the composition of the nuclear material. However, it is Uranium 235 which undergoes the proves of fission induced by neutrons. In regards to “traditional” nuclear reactors, Uranium 235 is enriched to reach a composition of almost 5%, falling under the category of “low-enriched” levels of Uranium, with the highly enriched one comprising of almost 20% of Uranium 235. The process of enriching the Uranium requires filtration of the Uranium 238 and making the whole Uranium “mixture”, slightly abundant in Uranium 235, rendering it fit for achieving nuclear fission. Uranium is being mined in large quantities in Australia, despite the nation having no “centrifuge technology” for enriching the Uranium. According to reports, even if Australia decides to pursue its nuclear ambitions more broadly, it will have to consider how will it provide the Uranium enrichment services and fabrication of fuel, being the acid test for the ambitious nation.
Storing and Disposing of Nuclear Junk
Nuclear junk or waste is one of the most dangerous and toxic kinds of waste generated. Nuclear power plants and reactors can generate dangerous radioactive wastes. Despite the lower quantities, the waste can be highly irradiated and can lead to fatal consequences. For example, according to reports, almost 88,000 tons of nuclear wastes generated by nuclear plants and reactors in the US can be fit into just one soccer field, making a stack 24 feet in height. However, the toxicity and radiation of the wastes can turn the entire country into a wasteland if leaked, apart from the human fatalities. The most potent problem faced by countries pursuing nuclear ambitions is storing the used fuel in containment centres from preventing leakages, affecting ecosystems and causing irreparable damage to the environment, until the “half-life” of the waste has been spent, which could take several seconds to a thousand years. As per reports, wastes having a shorter "half-life" are the most toxic and radioactive, but the simplest to process since the radiation level can drop swiftly. Handling such wastes requires cooling technology for keeping it cool, at almost cryogenic temperatures. Failure to do so can result in horrendous disasters like the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster of Japan that took place in the year.
Handling the Issue
According to reports, Australia should first address the problem of developing effective processes and strategies for handling nuclear wastes before it focuses on obtaining or developing technologies for enriching Uranium. The pro-nuclear lobby in Australia has been arguing for the AUKUS deal, citing that discussions with existing nuclear powers like the US, the UK, India and others, where several nuclear reactors and power plants exist can be consulted for getting an insight into the reasons for using nuclear power and how to deal with the wastes. For example, most nuclear reactors in the United Kingdom were set up in the 70s, therefore the idea of having nuclear power has been provided the time for the crystallisation of the consciousness of the general public and getting accepted. However, reports suggest that various "energy" costings do not consider integral limitations. For example, they argue that despite no significant angst against nuclear technology in Australia, there is angst among the certain elements of the state mechanism, primarily the economics of nuclear power, which is extremely expensive, in comparison to other methods of generating electric power. Moreover, handling nuclear waste can be equally expensive to deal with.
From the above analysis on economics assignment, it can be concluded that the Australian government should focus on the potential benefits of becoming a nuclear power in a true sense, with the AUKUS deal being a part of the larger picture. The government should however be cautious and considerate of other sources of power like solar energy, wind energy and others. Moreover, the government should also try to understand why several countries have consciously signed the CTBT, or the "Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty" for preventing the use of nuclear power for ordnance purposes, without being arm-twisted by NATO or the United Nations, simply put, by the United States of America. The country should also account for the severe risks posed by nuclear wastes and how it could turn the Aussie landscape into a barren and wasteland. The government should consider such risks and factors before taking another step towards Uranium enrichment and nuclear capabilities. Apart from the state mechanism, the scientific community of the country needs to take a proactive step regarding the issue and propose innovative solutions for fulfilling the power and defence needs of Australia, without jeopardising the interests of the country. If global powers like the US, the UK and others can openly flaunt their nuclear power, there is no reason for Australia to hold back. However, the intent should be welfare through generation of clean energy and not power-mongering or developing nuclear weaponry.