Nuclear energy or power is the energy found in the nucleus/core of an atom. A single atom carries enormous power. This power can be used in the production of electricity when released from an atom. The power released heat water into steam, turning a turbine that generates usable electricity. This electricity has been used for more than 60 years in the US and many other parts of the world.
Nuclear power is perhaps among the most controversial sources of energy we have. Different people around the globe have given their opinions on nuclear power issues. Some say that this kind of power is underutilized for it has low carbon, is cheap to produce, and the government should encourage its production. The European Union (EU) is one of the international organizations that has adopted the Taxonomy Regulation concerning nuclear power, for now they see it as green energy. On the other hand, other people believe that nuclear power cause numerous threats, such as accidents, health risks and environmental degradation from the mining, processing and transportation of uranium.
To sum it all up, as with any other source of power, the use of nuclear power has its pros and cons.
Table of contents
Below are the benefits and drawbacks of this power source.
Pros of Nuclear Energy
The following are expounded advantages of nuclear power:
Cheap to Run
Although building a nuclear power plant is expensive, it is cheaper to run and maintain than gas and coal. Additionally, nuclear power does not experience price fluctuations like traditional fossil fuel sources. For this reason, it is easy to predict the price of nuclear power in the days to come.
Small Land Area
Comparing nuclear power plants and other clean power facilities, especially solar and wind power, nuclear power takes up less physical space by far. According to the energy department, a typical nuclear plant producing 1000 megawatts of electricity can take up a space of about one square mile. A solar farm generating the same power amount can take 75 times more space, while a wind plant can use 360 times more land area. This approximates to 3.13 million solar panels and 431 wind turbines.
Zero Carbon Emissions
Nuclear power reactors do not give rise to any direct carbon emissions. This is another main benefit of the energy type over other traditional power sources, such as fossil fuels which gives off vast amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and is the leading cause of the world’s climate change. Albeit, the mining, refining and preparing of uranium leads to the usage of power and nuclear waste, which poses an entirely different environmental problem.
High power Output
Nuclear power plants generate high power levels than any other power source, making them a great baseload electricity provider. Nuclear is a high-output baseload source because, since 1990, the power plant of nuclear have generated electricity for 20% of the United States. In addition, nuclear is the main candidate for replacing the present-day sources of baseload electricity, which in a great way contributes to the pollution of air, for instance, big coal plants.
Reliable power Source
This is another great advantage of using this power type. Nuclear power is constantly produced and easily accessible, making it a reliable renewable source of power, unlike wind power which requires wind and solar power, which requires the sun. This makes it one of the best power sources.
Promising Supply of Future Energy
Nuclear fusion is primarily used for harnessing power. The use of this atomic fusion could lead to the production of unlimited power. However, this generation of power method has serious challenges that should be looked into if it were to be used on a larger scale, but it is the ideal method that people should consider when thinking about future power generation.
The Cons of Nuclear Energy
The disadvantages of nuclear power include:
Uranium is non-renewable
Although nuclear power is considered a “clean” power source, it is not renewable. The current technology of nuclear depends on uranium ore as the fuel to produce power. However, there is only a limited amount of uranium ore on the earth’s crust. This means that the more we become dependent on nuclear energy and specifically uranium ore, the more the resources of the earth’s uranium will become depleted. This will, in turn, hike the cost of extracting the ore and increase the negative impacts on the environment from mining to processing it.
Expensive to build
Running a nuclear power plant is relatively cheap but building it is quite expensive. This is because nuclear reactors are very complex implements requiring a sundry of safety around them, which increases the cost of constructing new nuclear plants.
For example, South Africa dismissed the plans to add nuclear power of 9.6GW to its energy mix because of its cost, which was evaluated to be around $34-84bn.
Nuclear waste is known to be toxic, and this makes it a health and environmental catastrophe that will occur. The waste from nuclear power plants is a radioactive by-product that requires advanced technology and great care to handle appropriately. The estimated amount of nuclear waste produced globally is 34,000mᶾ annually, which takes many years to degrade. It is for this reason different governments spend a lot of money to package and ensure they safely get rid of the already used-up nuclear fuel, which is now nuclear waste.
Its Malfunctions can be Catastrophic
The biggest question some people might be asking is, what if something goes wrong during the generation of the nuclear power process? Despite the strict safety measures put in place, accidents or malfunctions may happen. A nuclear plant meltdown can be disastrous to the surrounding environment. This can go to the extent of making inhabitants run away from the affected areas.
Anti-nuclear campaigners cite three major nuclear meltdowns that happened some years back, Chernobyl in 1986, Three Mile Island in 1979 and Fukushima in 2011. The Chernobyl instance led to the deaths of thousands of people, which is estimated to be ranging from 4,000-6,000. Moreover, over two million people are, until now (30 years later), struggling with health issues related to this Chernobyl while access within the entire 19-mile zone is still limited. In spite of all the safety measures that had been put in place, several factors led to the meltdown of these nuclear plants.
Whilst no carbon emissions are released from nuclear power plants, they still considerably impact the surroundings, primarily through the mining and discharge of water. The uranium ore used in the production of nuclear energy must be mined. Any kind of mining is known to affect the environment negatively. In this case, uranium mining releases radon and arsenic, which negatively affect the people living around uranium mines.
Again, nuclear power plants cause ‘thermal pollution’. Most of these nuclear power plants are situated on water bodies like the ocean or lakes. The main reason for this is that lake or ocean water, known as cooling water, is used to condense the steam to water again. As a result, the cooling water increases temperature and is allowed back into the water body. The hot water, which is always about 100⁰F, changes the water temperature of the water body, making it unbearable to most aquatic animals.
To produce energy, nuclear power plants need large water bodies with a lot of water. According to research, the US used up 320bn water gallons to generate nuclear power. This is a lot of water compared to that used during coal processing. Due to climate change, water has become scarce; therefore, this large water consumption may possibly become unsustainable.
The European Union (EU) is one of the international organizations that has adopted the Taxonomy Regulation concerning nuclear power, for they now see it as green energy. Contact us, to prepare your business for the Taxonomy Regulation.