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Canadian Nuclear Industry of Today

Essay by   •  December 4, 2011  •  Case Study  •  10,273 Words (42 Pages)  •  1,476 Views

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Introduction

The point of views on the nuclear industry have always been conflicting. While many see it as an infinite source of power, others believe it to be a path of eventual destruction. The positive beliefs have been expressed by many brilliant minds such as Albert Einstein, who said,

"The discovery of nuclear chain reactions need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than did the discovery of matches. We only must do everything in our power to safeguard against its abuse" (Nuclear Quotes., n.d).

While the condescending outlooks have been conveyed by some including Colin Powell,

"Today I can declare my hope and declare it from the bottom of my heart that we will eventually see the time when that number of nuclear weapons is down to zero and the world is a much better place" (Nuclear Quotes., n.d).

Therefore, the question presents itself: can the nuclear industry positively contribute to all stakeholders? By applying ethical principles and considering value judgments as well as moral standards there is no doubt that the nuclear industry can fulfill their economical obligations while satisfying the social and environmental expectations of all stakeholders. Throughout the history of the nuclear industry there has been significant improvements, however, some of these improvements have only taken place after major nuclear accidents. Furthermore, while many argue that the Canadian nuclear industry is more ethical in nature, there is still much work needed on its current infrastructure. Only after in-depth research and comprehensive analysis' of the nuclear industry can its environmental, social, and economical aspects be truly understood and evaluated.

PART 1: History, Structure, and Politics of the Industry

Global History, Development, and Value Chain of the Overall Industry:

Nuclear power has become one of the most important sources of electricity in some countries around the world. The progress of nuclear power has been filled with many successful ideas and others that have come up short of making an impact. The development of nuclear fission, atomic radiation, and atomic change occurred during a 50 year period, which was between 1895 and 1945. After that 50 year period, the focus had shifted to harnessing this energy in a controlled fashion for naval propulsion and generating electricity (U.S. Department of Energy, 1994). Since 1956, the main focal point has been the technological evolution of reliable nuclear power plants. During the 1960's nuclear power had proven itself to be technically proven and a commercially viable energy source. Throughout the 70's power plants were being constructed on some 25 to 30 nuclear units per year. By the 1980's there were over 250 plants operating around the world (World Nuclear Association, 2010).

A special session of the United Nations General Assembly gathered to discuss and achieve sustainable development in June of 1997. Five years later at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 180 countries implemented Agenda 21 calling for global collaboration that would "halt and reverse the negative impact of human behaviour on the physical environment and promote environmentally sustainable economic development in all countries" (International Atomic Energy Agency). Agenda 21 was developed to control the atmospheric emissions and gases being released into the environment. The energy sources needed to find ways to produce energy efficiently, but also at the same time they need to respect the environment and human health. Energy has played a pivotal role in promoting economic growth and improved human well being. It will continue to make the world a better place as long as there is a balance between producing the energy required to ensure the continuation of social and economic progress as well as the environmental requirements that fall with it (International Atomic Energy Agency).

The nuclear power industry plays a very important role in satisfying energy demands. It is becoming more common to use environmentally friendly sources of energy due to the world's outlook on global warming. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the world commercial nuclear gross capacity could increase their 2005 levels by 35 percent in 2015 and by 2030 those levels may reach up to as high as 70 percent (U.S. Department of Energy, 1994). In 1970, nuclear reactors were only generating 5 percent of the world's electricity. By 2004, the world's electricity was depending on nearly 16 percent of nuclear energy. The other main forms of electricity that the world depends on are hydro, gas, coal, and oil.

The nuclear industry has three main sectors: the front-end fuel market, the broader reactor sector, and the back-end of the fuel cycle. The front-end fuel market deals with the mining of Uranium which is then converted and enriched for fuel fabrication. The reactor sector deals with the nuclear power plant itself, where energy is created and stored for the world's use. The back-end of the fuel cycle consists of the waste from the energy created in the previous cycle and is reprocessed or disposed of due to its radioactive nature (Sliverio, 2008). The world is going to become more dependent on this type of energy source because of the amount of third world countries such as China and India that need energy. The plants don't emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which makes it more appealing to use this type of energy production method.

History, Structure and Impact of the Military Nuclear Industry:

In 1934, a Hungarian Physicist named Leo Szilard got in touch with the British admiralty about a possible use of atomic fission in the military. In 1939, a group of scientists, including Albert Einstein, got in contact with President Roosevelt and told him about their efforts in purifying uranium-235, which could be used to build an atomic bomb. It was only after a short while that the United States Government undertook what is known as the 'Manhattan Project'. The purpose of the project was to expedite research to come up with a viable atomic bomb (Gere, 2009). It took nearly over three years and an unlimited budget, which ended up costing over 2 billion dollars, to not only develop atomic weapons, but also comprehend the future of nuclear energy. On July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb was tested in New Mexico and all that remained after the blast were fragments of jade green radioactive glass. The atomic bomb was only used twice in warfare, once in Hiroshima and the other Nagasaki (Berris).

With these new technology developments, it was more important to take all the precautions to prevent any catastrophic event from

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