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Nuclear Energy for Colombia

Environmental impact is where nuclear energy has enormous benefits over burning fossil fuels, electric power plants, and even solar panels. Nuclear energy is produced by a process of heating, creating atomic nuclear fusion, without producing carbon residue, which is the great villain of global warming.

 

While nobody really knows where the waste of burning fossil fuels goes, nuclear energy waste tracking is exhaustive and detailed. Fossil fuel waste from automobiles and thermoelectric power plants is sent to the air and handling of motor oil, and other elements are not at all clear.
 

In the case of nuclear power plants, the waste in the form of ceramic compounds does not dissolve in water or the atmosphere. This waste is stored in underground and surface deposits in countries such as Finland and Sweden. They are so highly controlled and shielded that people can visit these places without additional protection.
 

Nuclear energy production is permanent, it does not depend on solar light or wind. Modern nuclear power plants are highly efficient and have continued function.
 

One of the most interesting arguments in favor of nuclear energy is that it produces less radioactive pollution; although this seems surprising, it is good to know that human beings have a natural resistance to normal levels of radioactive elements such as Thorium and Radon which are also sent to the environment in carbon burning processes.  Carbon burning is so high that countries such as China are already taking measures to limit its excessive use.
 

For nuclear energy rejectionists, the most compelling argument is the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents in Ukraine and Japan respectively. Chernobyl has been the most disastrous incident in history with 29 direct deaths due to the radiation. Further research showed no long-term radiation consequences, and a recent study published in Science Magazine confirmed that “the children of people exposed to occupational or environmental radiation do not seem to experience high levels of novo type (DNM) mutations” [1].
 

The environmentalists that use these nuclear disaster arguments avoid mentioning that in August of 1975, the Baquiao in China dam catastrophe caused between 90,000 and 260,000 deaths, surpassing the Chernobyl disaster by far.
 

Another environmentalist argument is that countries such as Germany have decided to completely eliminate their dependency on nuclear energy. But the cost has been enormous for Germany as it depends on countries such as Russia and France to supply its energy demand and slowly has turned into one of the highest carbon footprint producers in Europe.
 

Currently, they are developing new generation, modular, and small nuclear reactors, easy to manage in faraway regions. Building and managing reactors are carried out by highly competent companies and security surpasses aviation standards in several aspects. Everything is done under the watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community.
 

Having a nuclear reactor in Colombia will require years of coordinated efforts from the national Government, as demanded by international paperwork and requirements. Besides serious publicity and appropriation efforts from the community. This is a great challenge as our administrations are often disconnected from the community and this could prove fatal for important projects like these.
 

But it is also important to know that the first steps are being taken. The Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Department of Physics, under the leadership of the Nuclear Physics Group, has been working for years in the training of use of nuclear reactors. As a University we have all the willingness and technical capability to participate in this important step for the country, that can no longer be postponed.
 

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
Marie Curie


Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911) Nobel Prize Laureate for her discoveries in radioactivity.


[1]science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/04/21/science.abg2365

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