Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: 12 Top Pros & Cons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy: Nuclear energy is the energy emitted by a chain reaction, primarily by the nuclear fission cycle or reactor fusion cycle. The source of fuel used to produce nuclear power is uranium extracted and refined (enriched uranium), which is used for steam generation and electricity production.
How does it generate electricity from a nuclear reactor? A nuclear reactor produces energy much as other power plants do. The energy is generated by chain reaction.
The energy converts water into vapor. The steam extinguishes water. The pressure from the steam is directed to transform a turbine coupled to a generator. The turning turbine activates electricity generation to the generator.
The principal difference is how the heat is created. Power plants fueled by fossil fuels generate heat by burning oil, coal , or natural gas.
Heat generation in a nuclear power plant comes from the splitting of atoms, a mechanism known as nuclear fission. Nuclear fission is the process of splitting a nucleus into two. Millions of uranium nuclei are present inside every pellet of uranium fuel.
A large amount of energy is released as the splitting of these nuclei happens. A small percentage of the energy emanates from radiation, but the largest percentage emanates from kinetic energy. This type of energy is the one used for generating heat inside the reactor.
What Is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy is created by splitting atoms — specifically, uranium atoms. As the atom is separated it transforms into two smaller, lighter atoms. Since energy is not just gone, the “lost” mass is converted into heat, which is used to generate electricity. Nuclear power plants simply provide a controlled environment for the occurrence of these reactions.
Nuclear energy has many Advantages and Disadvantages, and it’s important to understand both sides to get an understanding of what that energy resource is capable of. Knowing the pros and cons of nuclear power will help you decide for yourself whether this energy resource is a good choice for our future energy needs and for the earth as well.
1. Low Cost of Operation
Atomic power has the advantage of being one of the most cost-effective energy solutions available after the initial construction costs. The cost of producing electricity from nuclear energy is much lower than the cost of generating energy from gas , coal, or oil unless those resources are located near the power plant they are supplying.
Nuclear energy also has the added advantage of posing relatively low-cost inflation threats – unlike conventional fossil fuels that fluctuate in price on a regular basis.
2. Reliable Source of Energy
While some sources of energy rely on weather conditions, such as solar and wind power, these restrictions do not extend to nuclear energy. If the wind is not blowing, or the day is gloomy, it does not matter.
Nuclear power plants are largely unaffected by external climate conditions and produce reliable, stable energy production. A full-swing nuclear power plant can produce non-stop energy for a whole year, allowing for a good return on investment because there is no delay in generating energy.
Nuclear power plants are also efficient, and for the next 70-80 years we have enough uranium on the earth to produce electricity. Although this may not sound like a long time, it is longer than several fossil fuels are expected to last, and the nuclear power plants are pursuing other sources of nuclear energy.
3. Stable Base Load Energy
You may not know that, but nuclear power is commonly used in the United States. It actually accounts for around 20 per cent of all electricity produced in the United States.
That powerful source of energy comes from the 98 nuclear power plants in the U.S. that scattered over 30 different states. Stable power generation created by nuclear power plants makes it ideally suitable for use in conjunction with other forms of renewable energy.
For starters, wind turbines generate large amounts of power — when the wind blows. Atomic power plants can change energy output to be lower when the wind is blowing. Conversely, when the wind is not blowing and greater energy is needed, nuclear energy can be adjusted to compensate for the lack of wind (or solar) generated power.
4. Produces Low Pollution
When it comes to emissions, it’s obvious there are pros and cons to nuclear energy, and don’t worry, in a moment we ‘re going to touch on the topic to nuclear waste. But average emissions generation from a nuclear power plant is very small compared to fossil-fuel energy production.
Current nuclear energy consumption already eliminates more than 555 million metric tons of pollution per year. This reduction of greenhouse gases is a strong example of how switching to nuclear power will help reduce our long-term effects on global climate change.
5. Sufficient Fuel Availability
The uranium used for the construction of nuclear power plants, like fossil fuels, is in short supply. However, it is estimated that our uranium reserves last another 80 years, whereas fossil fuels have a much more limited lifespan. After the Industrial Revolution, our fossil-fuel stocks have been steadily and rapidly exhausted.
We are estimated to run out of oil by 2052, gas by 2060, and coal by 2088 if we continue to consume fossil fuels and keep increasing our consumption as the world population grows.
Of course, there are more discoveries of fossil fuel that we have yet to produce, but there are less and farther between them than ever and they will inevitably run out. Switching to uranium could give us the extra time we need to find better and cleaner renewables.
However, some countries such as India, China, and Russia are now seeking to use the greener, more available thorium to power nuclear reactors. If we turn to thorium we will have usable fuel or even longer than 80 years.
However, if scientists can make nuclear fusion a reality, potentially we would never run out of electricity again. Turning nuclear energy into sustainable energy requires the use of breeder reactors and nuclear fusion to sustain us for the foreseeable future.
6. It Has High Energy Density
Nuclear fission (the process used to generate nuclear power) releases much more energy than simply burning fossil fuels such as gas , oil, or coal. How much more effective? At producing energy, nuclear fission is nearly 8,000 times more powerful than traditional fossil fuels.
That is a significant amount of energy density. Since nuclear energy is more efficient, less fuel is needed to power the plant and thus also less waste is produced.
Nuclear Energy Cons
We’ve covered what makes nuclear power a great option for the future of our electricity needs on our list of nuclear pros and cons. However, when considering whether this power source is the best form of environmentally friendly energy for our future there are disadvantages of nuclear energy to keep in mind. Here are some of the nuclear energy’s major drawbacks.
1. Expensive to Build
Despite being relatively inexpensive to run, the construction of nuclear power plants is incredibly expensive – and the cost continues to rise. From 2002 to 2008, the projected cost of building a nuclear plant rose from $2-$4 billion to $9 billion, and power plants often surpassed their projections of costs during construction.
In addition to building a power plant, nuclear plants also need to allocate funds to protect the waste they generate and maintain it in cooled facilities with safety procedures in place. These all make nuclear power very costly.
One of the first things that most people think of when they hear about a nuclear power plant is the Chernobyl disaster. Although we don’t know exactly how many people died as a result of the Chernobyl incident, it’s estimated there were as many as 10,000 deaths from the region’s long-term radiation effects.
The 2011 Fukushima power plant crisis showed that accidents can and do happen no matter how secure nuclear power plants are planned to be.
3. Produces Radioactive Waste
Although nuclear power generation produces no emissions, it produces radioactive waste that must be stored securely so that it does not pollute the environment.
While radiation may sound appalling, we are constantly exposed to small amounts of cosmic rays or radon radioactivity in the air we breathe. Radiation is not hazardous in limited quantities-but the radioactive waste from the processing of nuclear energy is extremely dangerous.
Radioactive waste storage represents a major challenge facing nuclear power plants. Because nuclear waste can’t be destroyed, the current solution is to securely seal it in containers and store it deep underground where it can’t contaminate the environment. As technology improves, we will hopefully find better ways of storing radioactive waste in the future.
4. Impact on the Environment
Nuclear power plants have a bigger environmental impact than just the waste they produce. Uranium mining and enrichment aren’t environmentally friendly processes. Open-pit uranium mining is healthy for miners but leaves radioactive particles behind, causes erosion, and even pollutes nearby water sources.
Underground mining is not much better and exposes miners to high amounts of radiation during extraction and processing while producing radioactive waste rock.
5. Security Threat
Nuclear power is a serious threat to our national security since it is powered by nuclear power. Terrorists may attack nuclear power plants with a view to causing a catastrophe, and if they end up in the wrong hands, the uranium used to generate the fuel can be converted into nuclear weapons. For these reasons, the safety of nuclear materials and nuclear power plants is vitally important.
6. Limited Fuel Supply
While there may be some major pros and cons of nuclear energy, one of the most important considerations to keep in mind is that nuclear energy is dependent on uranium and thorium for energy production.
Unless we can find a way to create nuclear fusion or develop breeder reactors until our supply dries up, with the nuclear power plants that we have planned for the future, we will not be able to produce electricity. In the end, nuclear power is only a temporary solution with an incredibly high price tag.
There are definitely certain Advantages and Disadvantages that need to be considered when using nuclear energy. When they occur, the risks of exposure to radiation and environmental harm are expensive.
Some people would say we were fortunate to experience only a handful of severe incidents that cost a lot of lives and created zones for exclusion. At this technology, too, the problem of nuclear weapons is one to remember.
At the same time, nuclear power is one of the most powerful methods of generating electricity we have today. It has a better cost profile than most other options, and this alternative reduces the number of greenhouse gasses we release each year into the atmosphere.There is a risk-reward equation for the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy. If we are willing to be proactive in the ways we protect society from a dangerous incident then there is a powerful method of generating electricity that will safely take our societies into the future.