Supporters of nuclear power claim that mankind cannot do without this cheap source of energy. They argue that many countries couldn't afford to rely on costly oil, gas and coal. Besides, these traditional resources are already scarce and not generally available. Atomic energy, on the other hand, is abundant. It provides about one-fourth the world's energy and only four that reason would it be irrational to reject it.
There is no more strong argument for nuclear energy - it is clean in comparison with coal and oil, which pollute the natural environment by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. According to some estimates, the burning of fossil fuel may lead to profound climatic changes, including an ice-free Arctic.
Critics of nuclear power have equally convincing arguments. First of all, they don't agree that fission is a "clean" source of energy. On the contrary, they point out that thermal pollution and radiation are the principal environmental threats. In fact, nuclear power plants cast off more waste heat than any other heating plant. What is even worse, it is very difficult to deal with radioactive waste products which can last even thousands of years.
The opponents of nuclear power also strongly criticise the claim that fission is cheap. In general, it is very expensive since a single safety facility costs billions of dollars. It is also expensive in moral sense. After the Chernobyl catastrophe, no one had doubts that the total costs in terms of lives to be paid for atomic energy far overweighed the total benefits. According to many people, reliance on nuclear power is extremely risky. Acceptance of atomic energy inevitably leads to the spread of nuclear weapons and there is no guarantee that a nuclear bomb or other dangerous materials won't get into the hands of ignoramuses or terrorists.
The tragedy at Chernobyl has also demonstrated that an accident in a nuclear plant is a real possibly. The safety systems in many plants are old and equipment failure is very plausible. Governments, on the other hand, do everything to avoid expensive shutdowns. Some people believe that mankind should look for other forms of power, for example solar energy which is cheap and environmentally safe. However, solar power provides only 8% for of the world's energy and it is still too early to replace fission with this alternative.
It seems that in spite of many objections to nuclear power, mankind cannot renounce it altogether. Therefore, people should concentrate their efforts to assure its safety. The best way is international legislation requiring that all nuclear plants should be located in remote areas and the reactors sited deep enough underground so that even a worst-case accident wouldn't discharge radioactive substances into the atmosphere. Existing aboveground reactors should be protected by reliable containment structures and guarded by special squads. Only if these conditions are fulfilled, may people feel safe.