Nuclear Energy Is Here To Stay

This source of power is a viable option for worldwide energy

WHAT IS NUCLEAR ENERGY?

Nuclear power is the form of energy in which the reactions that occur within the nucleus of an atom are utilized to create electricity. This process takes place in secure and often remote facilities with the necessary safety precautions put in place for emergencies. The specific form of nuclear energy used today is fission - the splitting of an atom's nucleus. The contrary form of gaining energy from nuclear power is fusion. This process fuses two small nuclei together, releasing energy while doing so. However, this requires extremely high temperatures and is more unpredictable/harder to control in comparison to fission. In a TIME magazine interview, when asked what scientific achievement he wanted to see in his lifetime, Steven Hawking answered ''I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming'' Fusion is expected to be a viable source of energy in the next 30-40 years.

THE SUSTAINABILITY OF NUCLEAR POWER

With the world on the verge of a major energy crisis, very few clean and safe energy alternatives can supply enough power for the planets consumption today, let alone the power for the future. Nuclear energy is a strong option in what we as a planet are going to have to replace fossil fuels with. One gram of uranium contains the same amount of energy as two to three million grams of coal and oil, resources we're quickly running out of. Unlike most clean power alternatives, nuclear energy can hold up to the extreme and growing demands for power worldwide while not destroying the environment with toxic pollutants. Although nuclear energy is considered clean by most standards, many disagree on whether or not this alternative is renewable. An energy source that is renewable by definition must have the quantity of energy that will last about five million years, the expected relationship between the earth and the sun. More simply put, renewable energy sources, won't run out like fossil fuels. Alternatives like wind, solar, and hydropower are all renewable. Whether or not nuclear energy could classify as renewable is debated by some. Although the amount of accessible uranium is technically limited and one day will run out, it should be noted that the human race is not expected to last more than another 900 years, and the obtained uranium we have now could last to this point. However, if we do live to the point in which the earth expires, one way to stretch the amount of current uranium supply is through breeder reactors. A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor in which more fissile material is produced than consumed. Bernard L. Cohen suggests that "... all the world's energy requirements for the remaining 5x10^9 yr of existence of life on Earth could be provided by breeder reactors without the cost of electricity rising as much as 1% due to fuel costs. This is consistent with the definition of a "renewable'' energy source in the sense in which that term is generally used."

OUR HISTORY WITH NUCLEAR ENERGY

The exploration of atomic energy began in the 1890s and into the early 1900s. By the time that the second world war had began, atomic energy had been developed far enough that bombs dropped from military planes could annihilate an entire city. This was first seen in the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Although the civilian casualty was large, the death toll would have been significantly higher if the United States had not dropped the atomic bomb on these two cities. The next major encounter that the world had with nuclear news was the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. A nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine had it's nuclear reactor explode, followed by heavy radiation being released into the surrounding area, killing overall 985,000 people, the leading cause of death being cancer. "Indeed, one scientist has noted that the estimated number of deaths that might have resulted from Chernobyl is no greater than the annual number of deaths in the United States caused by air pollution from coal-burning power plants. It has also been observed that accidents at other types of energy facilities, such as dams and gas pipelines, have been responsible for many more deaths than those immediately caused by the Chernobyl disaster," stated by Opposing Viewpoints.

LEARNING FROM PAST MISTAKES

BENEFITS OF NUCLEAR ALTERNATIVES

Switching from fossil fuels to nuclear energy has many benefits, and concerning consequences if we continue to use coal, oil, etc. For example, after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the support for nuclear energy plummeted. This led to many of not only Japan's, but many nuclear reactors worldwide to be shut down after public backlash and low budgets. However, continuing to shut down reactors would be a bad decision, at least for the Japanese. "According to the Japan Center of Economic Research, shutting down all of Japan's nuclear plants over the next year will cause a 1.2 percent annual loss of GDP, which equates to Y7.2 trillion ($94 billion) in annual losses. The Japanese government estimates that such an occurrence would result in a 10 percent power shortage and a 20 percent increase in electricity costs." Jack Spencer states. While it is true that nuclear power is considerably expensive, the repercussions of that loss would likely cause an economic crisis worldwide. Another major consequence of not using nuclear energy and sticking to fossil fuels is the environmental failure that we are already experiencing. The world renowned environmentalist Bruno Comby stated that "In burning fossil fuels, we inject 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year into the atmosphere - 730 tons per second". Other than major economic and environmental issues with removing nuclear alternatives, this power source holds major benefits. For example, nuclear energy does not contribute to pollution. If the entire world used nuclear energy instead of fossil fuels, anomalies in nature caused by pollution like acid rain would cease. Nuclear power is also significantly more sustainable than oil and coal. The amount of radioactive elements in the world today is substantially more than fossil fuels. This alternative to the power crisis of the 21st century is more than suitable in filling the role of coal and oil.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES FROM FOSSIL FUELS

WORKS CITED

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