nuclear_power_energy_inside.jpgWhat exactly are nuclear energy and nuclear power? Why are people so wary about it? Should we share their concerns? The issues that arose from the destruction of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Facility have once again raised fears over nuclear power and energy.

But what is nuclear power, really? Is it the clean source of energy its proponents insist it is? And will there be any significant positive changes should we start using it instead of more traditional methods of generating power? Read on to find out.


1. WHAT ARE NUCLEAR ENERGY AND NUCLEAR POWER?

Nuclear energy is produced under controlled environments where atoms—which store this energy in their cores (nuclei)—undergo fission (the splitting of the atom) to release the energy. Uranium and plutonium are the two most commonly used elements whose atoms are used to create nuclear energy. During nuclear fission, tremendous amounts of heat are released.  

Nuclear power comes from the splitting of the atom. Atoms are split inside chambers called nuclear reactors. During the process of fission, atoms are able to release large amounts of heat and this is used to heat water and turn it into steam, which in turn is used to power turbines that create electricity.


2. HOW DO WE BENEFIT FROM NUCLEAR POWER?

Nuclear power is often touted to be a cleaner form of power generation. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Nuclear power has been presented as providing net environmental benefits.  Specifically, nuclear power makes no contribution to global warming through the emission of carbon dioxide.” Nuclear power plants generate electricity the same way typical coal-burning power plants do, but “when nuclear power is produced, nothing is burned in a conventional sense.”


3.  WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF NUCLEAR POWER?

Nuclear power plants produce nuclear waste. Low-level waste is found in tools, clothing, and other disposable items that may get contaminated inside a nuclear power plant. High-level waste is found in materials that have been used inside the nuclear reactors themselves. And while these levels of radiation dissipate over time through a natural process called radioactive decay, materials whose levels of radiation take a longer time to reach safe levels before they can be handled need to be stored before disposal.


4. HOW DOES NUCLEAR POWER COMPARE TO ENERGY FROM FOSSIL FUELS?

In an article on ScienceDaily, it said that “nuclear energy production must increase by more than 10 percent each year from 2010 to 2050 to meet all future energy demands and replace fossil fuels, but this is an unsustainable prospect.” It mentioned that the energy and resources used to mine uranium ore is not equal to the amount of power it will need to generate. Moreover, the creation of nuclear power creates heat, and this heat affects the earth. The study also said that “if nuclear power were taken as the major option over the next forty years or so, we would be in no better a position in terms of emissions and reliance on a single major source of energy than we are today given the enormous growth nuclear required over that timescale.”


Read this article for information about the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant:
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(Photo source: Wikimedia Commons)


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