As our societies continue to advance, the need for energy becomes more and more prevalent. Every day, new homes, businesses, and factories are built that require energy to function. As a result, we now need to bring forth more advanced and environmentally friendly, energy sources to keep up with the demand.
To do this, we need to understand and weigh out the pros and cons of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy may be the future energy source we need to help us move into the future.But what exactly is nuclear energy? The word “nuclear” sometimes makes people feel uneasy. It sounds as though it is scientific, unstable, or highly expensive.
For those of you looking to understand more, we have laid out all the facts you need to know about nuclear energy in this article. Continue reading to learn about what nuclear energy is, how it works, what the need for it is, and most importantly, the pros and cons of nuclear energy.
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What Is Nuclear Energy?
Before we dive into the pros and cons of nuclear energy it’s essential to understand what this power source is. When we think of energy, we usually think of it in terms of environmental resources. We can get energy via fossil fuels, or more sustainably from solar panels, through wind turbines, or via geothermal energy.
Nuclear energy is another power source that can provide the same energy that these sources can create but uniquely. At its base, nuclear energy is produced by the separation of atoms. In a reactor, these atoms split hot water into steam. This process then turns a turbine that generates electricity. The process is simple and has helped to create nearly 20% of America’s power source.
Is There a Need for Nuclear Energy?
As mentioned earlier, our world is continuously developing. Every year, thousands of new structures are built across the globe, including homes, corporations, schools, hospitals, and skyscrapers. The land is continually being developed, so more energy is continuously needed to sustain our lifestyles.
All this development is not even including that technology is continuing to advance every day, leading to new equipment that requires energy to function.Based on this alone, energy is a necessary component of our society. That being said, we need to be conscious about the impact our continued search for energy creates.
Many fossil fuels are used to generate energy, which produces a substantial amount of carbon emissions into the air. These carbon emissions, in part, are a significant component behind our planet being in its current state of environmental degradation.
If we want to keep enjoying our planet and have a sustainable place to live and derive energy from, we need to turn to other alternatives. The need for these alternatives is where nuclear energy comes into play.While the pros and cons of nuclear energy may seem unclear to some people, the overall need for nuclear energy is pressing.
Nuclear energy can help provide a surplus of energy for countries around the world. It has already supplied large amounts of energy and by doing so, has allowed us to cut back on our carbon emission rates. Plus, the energy plants are built to operate 24/7. They are strong enough to withstand extreme weather and reliable enough to produce energy at all times of the day.
Nuclear energy is effective and can help to power medical equipment, space exploration, assist in cancer treatment, and so much more. The full capabilities of nuclear energy are just emerging, and with continued use and research we will uncover even more potential advantages of this energy source. Nuclear energy may not be at the point of fulfilling all of our energy needs today, but the future is bright.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy?
If there are so many positive effects of nuclear energy why are people not talking about it more? As with any new advancement, there are some downsides to this energy source. It is essential to understand both the pros and cons of nuclear energy.
While the disadvantages do not outweigh the advantages, they have some impact on the overall desirability of nuclear energy. Below we have constructed a list of the main components of nuclear energy and the advantages and disadvantages of each for you to consider.
Here are the pros and cons of nuclear energy separated into main categories:
One of the most important things to consider when looking at the pros and cons of nuclear energy is its costs. While we want to have alternative forms of energy available, we also do not want to pay an unreasonable amount of money for said energy. Thankfully, creating nuclear power is inexpensive.
The only slight disadvantage associated with costs is that the initial setup for a nuclear power plant may be high, but the long term cost to operate this facility is low.The nuclear reactors required to create the nuclear energy have an average lifespan of about 40 to 60 years.
The long lifespan means that, once the money has been invested, it will be a long time before future investments have to be made. Running the facility is also fairly cost effective as it does not require a ton of upkeep. The reactors can run and work around the clock, allowing continual energy to be created without the fear of losing business because of weather or time restraints.
On this list of pros and cons of nuclear energy, a considerable advantage is unlike some other energy sources out there; nuclear energy produces few greenhouse emissions. Since it doesn’t produce harmful gasses, like methane, it has a low impact on our planet. Some have even estimated that the amount of greenhouse gasses has diminished by nearly half since the use of nuclear energy.
The only time that any impact on land, water, or atmosphere is created is when some transportation is involved in the nuclear energy process. This transportation time is limited though and occurs only to transport uranium to the facilities, or to remove waste from the facilities. Not only can nuclear energy increase our energy production to keep up with the demands of technological advances, but it can help keep our planet healthy and livable for years to come.
Unlike solar or wind energy, nuclear energy is not dependent on nature. Weather plays no factor in the ability to produce nuclear energy, nor do other external factors. It has also been estimated that with our current rate of uranium consumption, we will have ample supplies available for at least another 70 years.
The substantial stock of uranium means that tons of energy can be produced without having to worry about depleting our resources for the foreseeable future.It should also be noted that nuclear power plants can run continuously for long periods. Once a plant produces, it can consistently produce energy for an entire year. The supply is persistent and easily accessible to many people.
This consistent supply ensures that we will be able to continuously produce energy when and where we need it rather than with things like fossil fuels where the amounts are likely to run out far sooner. Nuclear energy also poses an advantage to solar or wind as solar and wind energy production can’t be depended on 24/7 as nuclear energy can.
Perhaps one of the major highlighting features in this pros and cons of nuclear energy list is that nuclear energy is far more effective than other energy sources out there. Compared to fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy has a significantly higher energy density.
It has been approximated that the energy created through nuclear fission is nearly ten million times greater than that of a fossil fuel source. This higher energy production means we need to create energy at a nuclear power plant than at a fossil fuel energy plant.
The effectiveness of nuclear energy alone has encouraged several nations to look into nuclear energy. Since so much less fuel is required, and none of that fuel is affected by fluctuating oil prices, nuclear power is far more cost-efficient and effective in providing a large amount of energy with a limited amount of resources.
Countries are also happy to know they can continue to use energy where they need to, rather than trying to cut back, because nuclear power does not impact the environment with harmful emissions.
Something more out of the box in terms of the pros and cons of nuclear energy is that these facilities create jobs. Each of the facilities will need people to build the site, transport the materials, run the site and the reactors, mine uranium, and export the energy to necessary locations. All this work creates hundreds of jobs for each specific area.
People are more eager than ever to get out there and work for a company that not only produces a great product but can help keep our environment greener. These are all highly desirable jobs that potentially thousands of works can and have gained.
While these jobs are great on a personal level, for those needing to support their families and livelihoods, it is also great on a grander scale. By allowing more people to work, there is more money being put into the pockets of people.
More money in the hands of the people means more people will spend money on other goods, products, and services. This spending ability helps boost our economy into something more successful and profitable for everyone involved.
While one of the negative aspects of nuclear energy is that it is not a renewable resource, it can help create other elements that can then be reused to make energy later on. This process is achieved by using both fusion and breeder reactors. These machines can create fissionable elements such as plutonium.
If further research is conducted and processes are perfected, another potential renewable resource may come out of nuclear energy creation. Once we learn how to accurately control atomic fusion, which is a reaction process that fuels our sun, we can achieve a potentially unlimited energy supply.
Advancements in atomic fusion can only be reached through continued usage, development, and experiments in similar processes of nuclear energy creation.
An Edge in Technology Leadership
As a nation, America has always tried to prove itself to be a leader in technological advancements, and nuclear energy is no different. The United States helped to pioneer nuclear energy for the rest of the world, which will help create sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives for countries around the globe.
This continued leadership in technology can help to increase energy resources, scientific advancements, and clean energy alternatives.
While the thought of using uranium is ideal, the amount of uranium on the planet is finite. The finite availability of this resource means that once all of it is used up, there will be no more left to use. One disadvantage of nuclear energy is that uranium cannot be made by scientists in a lab and will eventually run out.
Miners have also not perfected their refining techniques, which sometimes leads to excessive radioactive waste, which can be difficult to dispose of. That being said, as mentioned earlier, the processes used to create nuclear energy can also help create other potential resources, like plutonium, that can be used in the future.
Another con on the list of pros and cons of nuclear energy is that the process of creating nuclear energy creates a great deal of nuclear waste. This waste is radioactive and cannot be dumped into surrounding landfills. The waste must be properly disposed of, but for it to decay to safe levels of radiation, it will have to sit for hundreds of years.
The parts of this waste that have low radioactive levels gets turned into transmitted parts and supplies. However, a large amount of this waste still has to be stored in waste facilities for some time.
Another unfortunate downside to nuclear energy is the sheer power it holds. As mentioned earlier, this energy is ten million times more potent than standard fossil fuel energy. While this can be a pro as far as energy production goes, this energy has also been often used to create powerful weapons.
For those seeking to develop massively destructive weapons of their own, this energy is highly desirable, which makes nuclear power plants easy targets.In the wrong hands, the power and weapons this energy can create could be devastating.
One small breach in security could mean the complete annihilation of a country. Adequately protecting these facilities will become unbelievably vital as they could become prime targets for terrorist attacks, both domestically and internationally.
This danger is real, however, for many types of energy out there. The only main difference is the level of power nuclear energy has over those created naturally or through fossil fuels.In the wrong hands, the power and weapons this energy can create could be devastating.
One small breach in security could mean the complete annihilation of In the wrong hands, the power and weapons this energy can create could be devastating. One small breach in security could mean the complete annihilation of a country.
Adequately protecting these facilities will become unbelievably vital as they could become prime targets for terrorist attacks, both domestically and internationally.
This danger is real, however, for many types of energy out there. The only main difference is the level of power nuclear energy has over those created naturally or through fossil fuels.
Potential for Accidents
No matter what type of job, career, company, or life you lead, there is always the potential for accidents. However, when dealing with radioactive waste, the risk of potential accidents suddenly increases. The waste created through the nuclear energy process when not properly cared for can cause a great deal of damage to the people and the environment.
The impact of such accidents, which have unfortunately happened at plants in Ukraine and Japan in the past, can have decade far-reaching impacts on the surrounding ecology. Not to mention the potential health effects it can have on humans and animals.
While this is a scary thought to think about, it should be noted that these disasters are few and far between. Mostly, waste is appropriately cared for, and catastrophic accidents do not occur.
Through proper training, general upkeep, and precise work methods, most of these accidents can be prevented. The danger is there, but the likelihood of them occur is not as common as you may come to believe.
Conclusion - Pros And Cons Of Nuclear Energy
Weighing out the pros and cons of nuclear energy is a difficult task. On the one hand, nuclear energy has a lot to offer. Its creation process does not produce harmful gasses, like methane or carbon dioxide, meaning it is far safer for the environment than fossil fuel alternatives.
The source is also reliable as it does not rely on weather, environmental factors, or a supply source that fluctuates in price. Creating additional nuclear power plants will also create job opportunities, cut back on energy costs, and help keep our economy flourishing.
When looking at the pros and cons of nuclear energy, we have to consider the negative aspects. These disadvantages include things like uranium’s accessibility, the potential for dangerous accidents, the potential for power plants to become targets, and the disposal of radioactive wastes.
Most of these cons, however, are hypothetical. They predict the threat of danger but have not been proven to be a real downside for aspiring new nuclear power plants that outweigh the advantages.
These points are important to consider but are not guaranteed to occur. Moving forward is always a difficult task, but with brave choices and decisions, we can alter the way our society runs.