Nuclear Energy – Pros, Cons and Facts

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Nuclear Energy Pros, cons and facts
Nuclear Energy

 What is Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy is the energy that is released at the time of nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. The energy is released from atoms and this energy can then be used in electricity generation. Nuclear fission is controlled by a series of machines known as nuclear reactors.
 
There are thousands of nuclear power plants operating around the world. The United States has around 60 nuclear power plants that are installed commercially and are producing almost 20% of the electricity in the world.
 

Nuclear Energy Facts

  • There are 430 power plants around the world, but this number is always fluctuating.
  • Approximately 14% of the world’s electricity is produced by nuclear energy.
  • Three significant disasters of nuclear power plant occurred in 1979, 1986 and 2011.
  • The first major nuclear disaster took 14 years to clean up.
  • The 2011’s nuclear disaster took place in Okuma. Since that disaster, many of the nuclear power plants shut down.
  • After 2011’s nuclear disaster some countries have shut down nuclear projects till 2025
  • Global nuclear power generation is around 2,500TWH.
  • There are 99 operable nuclear reactors are alone in the United States
  • The number of planned nuclear reactors is 41 which is proposed by China
  • Certain diseases can use the radiation produced from these nuclear reactions as treatment.
  • The rare earth metal ‘Uranium’ is commonly used for the production of nuclear energy.
  • The biggest nuclear energy producer is located in the United States of America. In 2017, the United States produced 805 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. That is enough to supply power to 73 million homes.
  • The world’s largest operator of a nuclear reactor is a French utility company named Electric de France.
  • Greenhouse gases are not produced while generating electricity by the nuclear power plant.
  • At the current rate of consumption, the reactors that produce nuclear energy can run for more than 200 years.
  • Nuclear fuel that the U.S produced over the last 60 years can fit on a football field with the depth of fewer than 10 yards. This fuel is extremely dense.

Nuclear Energy Pros and Cons

Pros of Nuclear Energy:

Low Costs

One of the biggest advantages of nuclear energy is that it costs significantly less than other means such as fossil fuels. By using nuclear power plants, we can generate almost double the amount of energy that can serve the need of a countries energy demands.
 
In contrast to it, the energy generated through other means is more expensive as more resources are used to generate an equal amount of energy as produced by a nuclear power plant. The usage of extra resources increases the costs of generating electricity. So, due to the low costs of production, nuclear energy is the most recommended method for electricity generation.
Nuclear energy pollution
Pollution Over City

Less Pollution

Energy produced by nuclear fission reduces pollution when we compare it to other methods of production. The major drawback from energy produced by fossil fuels is the harmful greenhouse gases emitted. This leads to negative effects on the environment and our health. On the other hand, there is less pollution involved in nuclear fission which makes it a recommended method for electricity production. However, nuclear waste produced during this process is potentially harmful to people as well as the environment.

Less Emission of Greenhouse Gases

As the earth is continuously being affected through the consequences of global warming and increased level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, it has become critically important to control the emission of greenhouse gasses and use those methods which are safe for the environment.
 
The layer of Ozone in our atmosphere gives us protection from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun by preventing them. However, the same layer of Ozone is being decreased due to increased emission of carbon dioxide. It is then needed to move to those methods of energy production which are environmentally safe and are not as dangerous.
 
The energy produced through nuclear fission results in fewer emissions of greenhouse gases. In this way, nuclear energy becomes less threatening and contributes less to global warming as compared to other methods.

Cons of Nuclear Energy:

Although there are many advantages to using nuclear energy, it does not mean that there are no disadvantages. Just like other methods, it also has some drawbacks which are as follows as:

 High Construction Costs

The initial cost of installing a nuclear power plant is quite expensive. Installing a nuclear power plant requires a high investment to build and maintain. Planning permission and safety requirements can be a long and expensive process. Often times people in the surrounding areas will dispute the construction of the plant. This can add unexpected costs as campaigning becomes necessary.
Nuclear Energy Waste
Nuclear Energy Waste

Radioactive Waste

Although there is less of an environmental impact on nuclear energy, it does come with its own cons. The biggest concern for nuclear energy is the use of Uranium as a fuel source. The waste is a by-product of nuclear fission and cannot be avoided. Government agencies are required to regulate this hazardous waste to protect human health and the environment. Waste from nuclear reactors is so radioactive that if you were close enough it could kill you within minutes.
 
Many people are concerned with how this waste is stored. It is estimated that we are producing around 12,000 metric tonnes of nuclear waste every year. One of the waste disposal methods is to excavate a large tunnel underground and store it there. As time goes on, more and more of these tunnels will be needed which is a problem.
 
A long term suggestion is to launch the waste into space with rockets. A problem with this is that it is expensive right now and rather dangerous. The potential for failure of a rocket launch would spread radioactive waste into the atmosphere.
Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

 Accidents May Occur

Nuclear power plants are actually quite safe. While experts of the nuclear industry aren’t concerned about accidents occurring, members of the public are. Safety is the most important aspect of nuclear energy. Accidents in these plants are extremely rare. However, they still do happen and the outcome can be horrific.
 
The most recent accident in modern times is the Fukushima incident in Japan in 2011. If anything, it set a reminder around the globe on how dangerous an accident can be.
 
Perhaps the most famous accident is from Chernobyl which occurred in 1986. The area surrounding the power plant is still extremely radioactive to this day.
 
Modern power plants have many safety measurements in place and the likelihood of such an event occurring again is minuscule. However, there will always be a shadow of doubt in the mind of the public.

 Health Risks

It goes without saying that the health risks involved with nuclear energy if an accident occurs are detrimental. The radiation the comes with nuclear waste is the strongest level of radiation on earth. It is also known as High-level radiation (HLR). Exposure to this radiation can cause cancer among other issues associated with the heart and respiratory system.
 
Radiation directly kills cells or cause mutations to DNA. Within the first two months of an accident, radioactive iodine is present. This can cause thyroid cancer and children especially are at risk of this.
People who are exposed to radiation may not see any effects for years to come as some illnesses can take a while to develop.
 
Countries with nuclear power plants have taken extraordinary measures to control such accidents. Otherwise, heavy fines are being charged in case of any little act of negligence or so.
 
Furthermore, the people who live around or work in nuclear power plants are recommended to go through their proper medical checkups at a periodic basis. This is to ensure if they are safe or whether the hazardous waste produced by such plants is impacting their lives in any way.

Summary

Overall, nuclear energy is a safe and efficient source of energy. The main concerns with it are waste disposal and health risks but these are constantly being improved upon. It will be more common to see nuclear energy in the near future as it is cost-effective and it will only get better.

If you would like to read more about energy you can so here.

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