Nuclear Power is our saving grace
The power that emits from nuclear power plants is possible because of a process called nuclear fission. One atom is split into two and energy is released in the process.
Uranium-235 is one of the few elements that allows the process of induced fission, which nuclear power plants require. When a neutron is directed towards a U-235 nucleus, it absorbs the neutron and splits. This releases more stray neutrons, causing a chain reaction.
When U-235 decays, it releases approximately 200 MeV (million electron volts). A single atom decaying won't produce much energy, but in combination with the thousands of other U-235 atoms that will also decay simultaneously, the power that is generated is massive.
Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy
While not quite renewable, our current supply of uranium should keep humanity going for an estimated seventy to eighty years. While solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other types of renewable energy are overall safer and more easily replaced, they're also unreliable. "Nuclear power plants will continue operating uninterrupted for up to a year, while the above methods of alternate energy sources rely on the time of day, weather, ect." We can control induced fission, we can't control the weather.
Nuclear power is simply more efficient than fossil fuels or anything else this age has to offer. The amount of uranium required to fuel nuclear power plants is significantly less then fossil fuel powered plants, renewable energy based ones, ect. The gap will only grow bigger as humans require more power, which will naturally happen as we advance into the future.
Thankfully, we don't live in a world where gunshots are an everyday occurrence. However, we haven't quite reached a unanimous peace. Terrorists still roam the Earth and the power of nuclear weapons don't go unnoticed by them. Uranium enrichment is a process where the amount of fissionable atoms is increased. Reactor grade uranium-235 is at a healthy 3-4% compared to weapons grade uranium-238 clocking in at 90% enrichment. So if a terrorist group were to rob the uranium from a reactor, the power created with nuclear weapons from the stolen uranium would be drastically less powerful. But in another hypothetical situation, a terrorist group tampers with the reactor instead of taking its fuel. We could have another Chernobyl disaster on our hands.
Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)
Liquid fluoride thorium reactors should prove to be a more stable energy source then uranium-based ones, even if its not perfect. Since the cores of the reactors are not pressurized, meltdowns are near impossible to occur. Any increase in temperature results in a automatic loss of power. In addition, a salt plug in kept at the bottom of the tank in case of an emergency.
While LFTR's still produce waste, the amount is about 1000x less then uranium-based reactors. The danger of the amount of time nuclear waste takes to become safe is also taken care of. The waste that uranium produces takes thousands of years of storage before its harmless. Contrasty, 83% of LFTR waste is safe within a decade, the rest doing the same in 300 years. Additionally, "even though thorium is a radioactive element, it emits alpha particles, which are less biologically harmful than Uranium's gamma particles."
The Chernobyl incident is unique in that it is the only commercial nuclear power plant where radiation-induced deaths have occurred. This is largely due to the fact that the its design was flawed and unique from modern-day reactors. No conclusive facts about the safety of using nuclear power can be drawn due to this. However, the incident did help bring reform and change to the industry regarding safety before the Soviet Union fell. Likewise, former President Gorbachev said that "the Chernobyl accident was a more important factor in the fall of the Soviet Union than Perestrika - his program of liberal reform."
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