Fission is the splitting of atoms into two or more parts to release energy. Fusion is the fusing of two hydrogen atoms to make helium. There are pros and cons for both forms. From the environmental point of view, fusion seems to be the cleaner and safer alternative. The radioactive waste produced by fission remains highly radioactive for many thousands of years. The radioactive waste produced by fusion however, is capable of decaying and can do so completely within 100 years, leaving behind the same level of radioactivity as coal ash.
From a security point of view, if a malfunction of the moderator in nuclear fission reactors occurs, the results are complete core meltdown and the release of vast amounts of radioactive material in the environment. Fusion reactors are unable to sustain any type of chain reaction and, therefore, core meltdown is not a fear.
The management and disposal of nuclear waste is also a very important issue from an environmental, health and security point of view. Radioactive materials are discharged e.g. into the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic.
Transport of nuclear materials also raises concerns from an environmental and security point of view, mainly because of the risk of terrorist attacks and their consequences.
Nuclear plants based in the United Kingdom are, due to their position, an obvious target for possible terrorist attacks. With the announced building of 10 new plants, the risk of such an attack happening increases dramatically.
The Parliamentary Assembly therefore invites the governments of member states and observer states to carefully consider the issues described above, to encourage R&D in the field of environmental effects of nuclear energy.