Nuclear Energy – Its Advantages and Disadvantages

During a time of continuous discussion over climate change, scientists are actively searching for possible energy solutions to reduce our dependence on oil and coal. Alternative, renewable energy of all forms have come into focus, with nuclear energy being at the forefront. Tragic historical events which occurred during the past century have caused many to be fearful and critical of nuclear energy, creating the need for an improved understanding and awareness of nuclear power, along with its advantages and disadvantages.

Nuclear energy is made through the process of nuclear fission. This occurs when uranium and other materials are changed in a way that makes them decay at a faster rate. The result is high levels of energy released in the form of heat, which is used to heat water to steam. The steam is then used to turn turbines. When spinning from the steam, these turbines produce electricity. Nuclear fission must be balanced by speeding up and slowing down the decay process. Though very rare, a nuclear meltdown can occur if the fission process occurs out of control and overheats.

Advantages of Nuclear Energy

  • Nuclear energy production would reduce the current rate of emissions drastically, which has the potential to help in tackling the issue of climate change. Compared to the emissions of traditional power plans based on gas and coal, nuclear power plants make less than 1/100th of the carbon dioxide.
  • The source of nuclear power, uranium, is fairly cheap to mine and deliver to power plants around the world. When compared to current methods of producing energy, nuclear energy is quite inexpensive. While the cost of current forms of energy continue to rise, nuclear energy costs have actually dropped over the past 25 years.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

  • Many risks are associated with the production of nuclear energy. Critics cite the serious potential for safety hazards to occur in the process of nuclear fission, with fears of possible nuclear power plant meltdowns. Meltdown rates and other related accidents have been low, but the concern remains.
  • Problems related to the handling of uranium also exist. Research indicates that the mining of uranium leads to the locals developing different forms of cancer. Uranium may also be used in a devastating manner as a weapon of mass destruction.
  • Disposal of radioactive waste is also a concern. The uranium is highly toxic to life and must be stored in a large area deep in the ground.

If solutions are discovered that will help reduce the risk of nuclear energy production and eliminate the risk of nuclear waste, nuclear energy will become one of the most safest and efficient ways to produce energy for the entire planet.