What are the pros and cons of nuclear energy?
The energy from nuclear reactions is used to form electricity through nuclear power. This energy is extracted from nuclear fusion, nuclear fission and nuclear decay. Most nuclear energy today is obtained in nuclear power plants through nuclear fission of plutonium and uranium. For specific purposes such as electric generators in spacecraft, scientists obtain nuclear power from nuclear decay. Using nuclear power as a way to generate electricity is a significant focus of international scientific research, as the world prepares to use alternative energy sources. At the moment, nuclear energy accounts for the production of around 15% of global electricity, with around 449 power plants in operation around the world. The world’s first nuclear power plants were constructed back in the 1960s, and scientific efforts have zoned in on nuclear power ever since. Russia is currently the biggest nuclear energy source globally, with around 8500 warheads in its arsenal. But what are the pros and cons of nuclear energy? Read on to find out.
Pros of nuclear energy
Reliable electricity source
Some energy sources such as wind and solar power depend on certain weather conditions, whereas nuclear power can be produced year-round and is not affected by weather conditions. Nuclear power output is predictable and consistent, with no delay in production and a near constant supply of electricity.
Better for the environment
Nuclear energy is far less polluting than other sources of energy such as coal, oil and gas. There is obviously the problem of nuclear waste to deal with, but when compared to fossil fuels, using nuclear power as a source of energy helps to greatly reduce the negative impact of producing energy on global climate change.
Cost-effective energy source
The expenditure involved in producing electricity from nuclear power is much less than the cost of obtaining energy from fossil fuels. Also, inflation is less of a problem when using nuclear energy, as unlike fossil fuels, the cost of nuclear power does not change in price often. There is a strong supply of uranium, which means we have enough nuclear power to keep generating electricity for a good 80 or so years. In comparison, fossil fuels are predicted to run out much sooner than that.
Highly efficient source of energy
Nuclear energy processes such as nuclear fission are extremely efficient. Nuclear fission releases a huge amount of energy in comparison to burning fossil fuels. It is estimated that the process of nuclear fission is around 8000 times better at releasing energy when compared with fossil fuels, which means that far less energy is needed to run nuclear power plants, creating much less waste to deal with.
Cons of nuclear energy
Nuclear waste production
The decrease in greenhouse gases does come at a cost when using nuclear power as an energy source. Nuclear reactions produce nuclear waste, which has to be stored securely in order to prevent further pollution to the environment. Radioactive waste is extremely hazardous to humans and therefore must be kept away from them at all times. Storing nuclear waste is a difficult feat for nuclear power plants, and because it cannot be destroyed, it has to be stored underground to prevent it from contaminating the environment or coming into contact with people or animals.
Accidents at nuclear power plants can be devastating and very dangerous to workers. Think about the Chernobyl crisis, where 237 people suffered from radiation sickness (with 31 of these dying in the first three months) due to exposure to harmful radiation.
Expensive to construct and staff
Nuclear power plants may be cost-effective in terms of operation, but they are very expensive to build and staff. Building a nuclear power plant requires not only a lot of money to construct, but also funds set aside to deal with radioactive waste and cooling procedures, security procedures and the payment of highly qualified staff members such as scientists and engineers.
International and national security risks
Nuclear energy is also a threat to both national and international security because nuclear power can be so dangerous. Terrorist groups or certain countries could potentially attack power plants to create a nuclear disaster event, and uranium can be used as a nuclear weapon. This is why security is very important in a nuclear power plant and all staff members with access to nuclear energy must be securely vetted and approved.
Negative environmental impacts
Nuclear power may provide a better alternative to fossil fuels, however, it is still not an entirely environmentally friendly process. Mining uranium leaves radioactive particles behind, pollutes water sources and causes erosion. It can also expose workers to harmful radiation and create radioactive waste during extraction.
Non-renewable energy source
Unfortunately, nuclear energy is a non-renewable energy source. This means that it is only a temporary fuel source until we run out of uranium (in an estimated 80 years time). It could potentially be better to spend the money used to make nuclear power plants on improving and developing renewable energy sources. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the current fossil fuels mainly being used to give us energy are estimated to be in much shorter supply than nuclear energy, so it may be useful as a short-term fix.
Nuclear energy has its pros and cons, just like other sources of energy. With fossil fuels running out, it’s important that experts look into new ways to create energy. Protecting the environment is of significant importance today, as too much polluhttps://www.thelessen.com/sustainability/biodiversity-three-levels/tion is contributing heavily to global climate change. Weighing up the pros and cons of the different energy sources available is an important task in order to find new, more sustainable methods of producing reliable and efficient energy for the world.