Below are some of the main advantages of nuclear energy and the disadvantages currently facing the industry today.
The world’s opinion of nuclear energy as a source of power has been sharply divided ever since the first nuclear plant began operating in the 1950s. While it is a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, this type of power is also associated with some of the world’s most dangerous and deadliest weapons, not to mention nuclear disasters.
As with any energy source, renewable or non-renewable, there are pros and cons to using nuclear energy. We will go over some of these key advantages and disadvantages to consider when contrasting nuclear energy with other energy sources.
Advantages of Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy has many benefits, especially when compared to coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. In the end, nuclear energy is cheaper, more effective, and cleaner. How useful this energy source is can be seen by taking a closer look.
More Efficient Than Fossil Fuels
Nuclear fission, a primitive and largely self-sustaining process, is the foundation of nuclear power. When uranium is used to fuel a plant, energy production lasts for 18 to 24 months before more fuel is needed. Additionally, the fuel rods can last for up to six years.
In the meantime, the demand for gas, oil, and coal is inevitably increased as a result of the continuous fuel supply needed by fossil fuel-based power plants. In addition, they require more fuel to produce the same amount of energy than nuclear plants do. As a result, nuclear power is more effective and reliable than fossil fuels.
Doesn’t Release Greenhouse Gases
The fact that nuclear energy doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases is one of its greatest benefits. Instead, clouds of safe water vapor are released from nuclear power plants, which is much better for both people and the environment.
74% of all GHG emissions and 92% of anthropogenic carbon emissions in the United States are currently attributed to the combustion of fossil fuels. In contrast to fossil fuels and the myriad of pollutants they produce, nuclear energy offers a clean alternative.
Reliable Energy Source
Finally, due to its consistent production and availability, nuclear energy is a trustworthy renewable energy source. More frequently than any other energy source (93% of the time), nuclear power plants operate at full capacity, and because of this constant reliability, nuclear energy is a great source of reliable baseload electricity for the grid.
Low Operating Costs
Nuclear power plants are especially affordable to run, especially when compared to ones that rely on fossil fuels. That means nuclear energy is more affordable to produce and use, making it a sensible choice for anyone willing to make the initial investment. As disposal and decommissioning costs are included in operating costs, nuclear power is relatively simple to include in government spending budgets.
Nearly 500,000 jobs and $60 billion in economic output are supported by the nuclear industry in the US. gross domestic product each year. Up to 700 employees at nuclear power plants in the United States can earn salaries that are 30% higher than the national average. Additionally, they provide local economies with billions of dollars each year in federal and state tax revenues.
Supports National Security
The U.S. needs a robust civil nuclear sector. national security and energy diplomacy. To influence the peaceful use of nuclear technologies, the United States must continue to exercise global leadership in this field. The U.S. government works with countries in this capacity to build relationships and develop new opportunities for the nation’s nuclear technologies.
Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy
Investing in and relying on nuclear energy has a few disadvantages despite its many benefits. Do the drawbacks outweigh the benefits? Depending on whom you ask and whether they would prefer to support long-term economic growth or the environment,
Expensive to Build
Although nuclear power plant construction is extremely expensive, operating costs may be low. Because radioactive uranium or thorium is the fuel for nuclear fission, the building’s design must adhere to strict safety requirements.
Recent rule and regulation changes have increased building costs and made plants safer, but even standardized designs don’t help. As a result, in terms of initial investment, both renewable and fossil fuels are more affordable.
Limited Fuel Supply
Eleven years ago, experts surmised that the world’s uranium supply would last 80 more years at the then-current rate of consumption. Nuclear energy is, at best, a temporary fix because uranium production has generally increased since that time.
Humans will be forced to give up nuclear power and completely switch to renewable energy unless inventors can develop nuclear fusion or breeder reactors before the uranium supply runs out.
Produces Radioactive Waste
Nuclear plants do produce some radioactive waste, even though their overall pollution output is minimal. The reactor rods are dangerously radioactive for an additional 10,000 years after they run out of fuel, and they remain physically hot for about 10 years after that.
In order to reduce the likelihood of environmental contamination, many nations bury the rods deeply underground. However, accidents do happen, and holding tanks have in the past leaked or evaporated radioactive waste.
Uranium is Non-renewable
Although nuclear energy is a “clean” source of power, it is technically not renewable. Current nuclear technology relies on uranium ore for fuel, which exists in limited amounts in the earth’s crust.
The more we rely on nuclear energy (and uranium ore in particular), the more the earth’s uranium resources will be depleted, which will increase the cost of extracting it as well as the adverse effects of mining and processing the uranium.
Malfunctions Can Be Catastrophic
When the heat produced by a nuclear reactor exceeds the heat being dissipated by the cooling systems, the system goes beyond its melting point and has a nuclear meltdown.
If this happens, hot radioactive vapors can escape, which can cause nuclear plants to fully melt down and combust, while also releasing harmful radioactive materials into the environment. Nuclear power plants are outfitted with a variety of safety measures to guard against meltdowns, so this is a worst-case scenario that is incredibly unlikely.
What is Nuclear Energy?
The energy source found in the nucleus, or core, of an atom is known as nuclear energy. After being extracted, this energy can be converted into electrical energy by inducing nuclear fission in a reactor through either nuclear fusion or nuclear fission, two different types of atomic reactions. Atoms split into two or more nuclei during the second process, which uses uranium as fuel.
The heat produced by the fission energy causes a cooling agent, typically water, to boil. The steam deriving from boiling or pressurized water is then channeled to spin turbines to generate electricity. To produce nuclear fission, reactors make use of uranium as fuel.
Fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and petroleum allowed for the industrialization of economies around the world for centuries, and it wasn’t until recently that nations began to accept renewable energy alternatives like solar and wind power.
Early commercial nuclear power plants began operating in the 1950s, giving many nations around the world a substitute for their reliance on oil and gas imports and a significantly cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. More and more nations made the decision to start nuclear power programs in the wake of the energy crisis of the 1970s and the resulting sharp rise in oil prices.
The majority of reactors were actually constructed globally between 1970 and 1985. With 439 nuclear plants currently in operation across 32 countries and about 55 more under construction, nuclear energy now provides about 10% of the world’s energy needs. The US, China, and France dominated the nuclear energy market in 2020, with 13 nations producing at least 25% of their total electricity from this source.
Conclusion: Securing a Sustainable Future
With numerous nations planning to erect dozens of plants over the next few years, the global nuclear energy landscape is constantly changing. Nuclear power will be extremely important in the switch to renewable energy because of its effectiveness, eco-friendliness, and affordability.
Even so, plants do not offer a long-term solution to the world’s energy needs or the climate crisis because they are expensive to construct, produce toxic waste, and eventually run out of fuel.
There is a multitude of advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy and the debate on whether to keep this technology or find other alternatives is destined to continue in the years to come. Nuclear power can be a highly destructive weapon, but the risks of a nuclear catastrophe are relatively low.