Nuclear Energy: Advantages and Disadvantages
What is meaning of Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy, also called ‘nuclear power’, is the energy that is created by nuclear reactions. Nuclear energy is generated in equipment known as nuclear reactors.
Inside the nuclear reactor, energy is generated by means of a chain reaction involving uranium atoms. When the uranium atom is split into pieces, it releases heat and energy. Thus, by splitting uranium atoms inside the nuclear reactor, we can generate energy that we then turn into electricity.
In this way, nuclear energy can be used to provide cities with much of the electricity that they need. Though it is not possible to have a miniature nuclear reactor powering your car, it is possible to use nuclear power plants to power things like electrical grids.
10 Advantages of Nuclear Energy.
A single uranium atom can generate a whole lot of energy when it is split. So just think what happens when many atoms are split within the nuclear reactor!
- Clean energy.
When they are kept safe and secure, nuclear power plants are relatively clean sources of energy. They do not produce substantial CO2 emissions, for example.
- Providing jobs.
Nuclear power plants require workers to be constantly present in order to operate and maintain the equipment. So, introducing nuclear energy is a way of providing jobs for a community.
Unlike solar energy which is dependent on the weather, nuclear energy is a reliable source of energy which can be generated no matter what the weather.
- Reducing fossil fuel use.
Nuclear energy is a viable alternative, many argue, for fossil fuel use. It is important to find such an alternative, as stocks of fossil fuels may well run out before the end of this century.
Though nuclear power plants do cost a significant sum to build, once they are up and running they provide a cheap source of energy.
- Scientific innovation.
Nuclear energy showcases the way in which scientific innovation can be used to provide solutions to pressing issues faced by people around the world. In this case, scientific knowledge has helped communities to meet their energy needs.
The waste produced by nuclear power plants (depleted uranium) can be re-used. Reprocessing plants can turn this ‘waste’ into useful materials for use in things like aircraft production.
Nuclear energy has been calculated to be one of the safest energy sources. These official calculations are done by global bodies such as the UN, and they involve comparing the amount of energy generated by an energy source with the number of fatalities caused by that energy source.
- Potential for further peaceful uses.
There are further ways in which nuclear energy can be used in a peaceful manner. One key example is space travel.
10 Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy.
- Risk of spills.
If radioactive material spills from a nuclear power station, it can harm animals, human beings, and the environment for miles around.
- Installation costs.
The cost of installing a nuclear power station can run to several billions of dollars.
- Controversial uses of nuclear waste.
Nuclear waste is also sometimes used in munitions – this is opposed by people who believe that nuclear energy should be used only for peaceful purposes.
- Association with nuclear war.
When people hear the word ‘nuclear’, they often think of nuclear war instead of nuclear energy. The same scientific discovery – the splitting of the atom – is behind both.
- The problem of waste.
It is very important to dispose of radioactive nuclear waste safely. One way in which this is done is by burying nuclear waste deep under the sea in secure containers. This can be expensive, and time consuming.
- The cost of reprocessing.
If governments want to reprocess nuclear waste into useful materials, they need to purchase separate reprocessing plants and these can cost several billions of dollars in their own right.
- Sensitivity to temperature.
When temperatures get very hot outside, nuclear power plants can shut down. This means that the community will run out of power for a certain period of time.
- The issue of seawater.
Due to a shortage of fresh water currently, nuclear power plants are using seawater in their cooling systems. Seawater is, however, much more corrosive than fresh water which means that the cooling systems need replacing more often: this adds to the expense of using nuclear energy.
Creating nuclear power stations requires a lot of resources, for instance, concrete, metal, water and energy from other sources.
- Taking up space.
Nuclear power plants are considerably large facilities, and this means that they take up land that could be used for other things, such as agriculture, housing or reforestation.
When kept safe and secure, and when the waste is disposed of correctly, nuclear energy is a clean and abundant source of energy. Nuclear power is a popular option for people looking to replace fossil fuels.