All energy sources that are used to power our electrical power plants use the heat derived from exothermic reactions. Such a reaction is always accompanied with a net output of energy. Conventional energy sources are based on exothermic reactions like the combustion of gasoline, wood and coal. The phenomenon which can generate a net output of energy which is million times the energy generated through conventional sources is nuclear fission.
Rearrangement in the placing of electrons, that are part of a molecular structure result into the generation of heat through combustion, while nuclear fission is based on the rearrangement of the inner structure of the atomic nucleus. This phenomenon unlocks the deep reservoir of energy that is contained within a radioactive nucleus.
In the wake of the twinfold disasters in the form of earthquake and tsunami disrupting the nuclear reactors in Japan, which resulted in dispersion of nuclear waste, people are asking whether nuclear power is really worth the investment. Through this Buzzle article, I have expounded the advantages of nuclear fission as an energy source, to argue in favor of nuclear power plant installation. The disaster which struck Japan, has sent a message to nuclear power plant architects to bolster safety arrangements of these installations. There is no reason to condemn the use of nuclear fission as an energy source. Hopefully, you will see my point, by the end of this article.
What is Nuclear Fission?
Nuclear fission is the phenomenon whereby a bombarded neutron on a heavy radioactive nucleus, causes it to split into two component radioactive nuclei, releasing a tremendous of energy in the process. The difference in the mass of the daughter nuclei and parent nucleus in converted into pure energy. Neutrons are also released through such a fission reaction which further collide with more fissile nuclei to create a chain of fission reactions, that release a tremendous amount of power in totality.
When such a reaction is allowed to continue in an uncontrolled fashion, what results is an atomic bomb. The same reaction when controlled in a nuclear reactor, can be used to heat water and generate steam to drive turbines, ultimately leading to generation of electricity. One radioactive element that is typically used in such a reaction is Uranium-235. That is nuclear fission for you in a nutshell.
Benefits of Nuclear Fission
Why have countries like USA and European countries invested so heavily in nuclear power? The reasons lie in the inherent advantages provided by the phenomenon of nuclear fission, which are as follows.
Million Fold Energy Output
Compared to the energy output of conventional fuels like coal, the energy derived from nuclear fission is million fold. Today, approximately 15% of the world's electricity is supplied by nuclear power plants. France and Japan largely rely on nuclear energy as their prime energy resource, which reduced their dependence on crude oil and coal. Because of the large energy output, the initial costs of setting up a nuclear power plant are well worth it.
No Emission of Polluting Greenhouse Gases
Another reason for choosing nuclear power over conventional fuels is the absence of polluting gases like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to greenhouse effect causing global warming. This makes it a comparatively cleaner power generation mechanism, compared to conventional sources. Of course, there is a problem of radioactive waste which needs to be dealt with through proper disposal mechanisms.
If adequate safeguards are put in place and a proper procedure for nuclear waste disposal be created, nuclear fission based power plants can be the cleanest and most efficient energy sources. The immense power locked inside the radioactive atom can be harnessed through a controlled nuclear fission based chain reaction.