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Alternatives to Nuclear Energy

Alternatives to Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy has the potential to be one of the most efficient sources of energy, however the threat of its abuse has triggered a debate on its use for civil use. In the absence of nuclear power, the onus would be on finding alternatives to nuclear energy to sustain the development of human race.
ScienceStruck Staff
The earthquake, tsunami and radiations in Japan has once again ignited the debate on our dependence on nuclear energy. Critics have slammed the projections of government that nuclear energy is a safe energy source, and have stressed on the need to have suitable alternatives to nuclear energy. Proponents, on the other side, are of the view that nuclear energy has caused lesser damage as compared to other sources of energy like coal, which has caused two major accidents in the past. Nuclear energy was touted to be the future of energy, primarily because it produces a large amount of energy without producing too many wastes. However, there are several pros and cons of nuclear energy, and abandoning it can cause severe losses to nations. So, it is important that we have some safer alternatives to nuclear energy.

Safer Alternatives to Nuclear Energy

Solar Energy
Solar energy tops the list as far as the most effective alternative to solar energy is concerned. It virtually produces no pollution and is a renewable source of energy. Solar energy has been used since ancient times, but the modern use of solar energy focuses on its use on a large-scale. It works on the principle that sunlight is concentrated over an area, and then with the help of solar panels the energy from the sun is tapped. The heat produced as a result of this is then used to boil water, which produces steam. The steam is then used to run dynamos, producing electricity. There are some disadvantages though, as in cold countries, the generation of electricity can be seriously hampered due to inclement weather. Also, to use solar energy for household purposes, the initial cost of investment is high, so not everyone can afford it.

Geothermal Power Generation
This form of energy can be looked at as another alternative to nuclear energy. Geothermal energy is present in the earth's core and is tapped by drilling into it. This form of energy considerably lowers levels of greenhouse gases, and once the geothermal plant is constructed, the costs of producing electricity are considerably lower. The challenge in tapping this source of energy lies in the fact that the cost and effort in building a geothermal power plant is immense, and there are selected places where this form of energy is available.

Wind Energy
Wind energy can also prove to be one of the effective alternatives to nuclear energy. Wind energy relies on the use of windmills to generate electricity. The wind energy is used to turn the blades of the windmill which in turn are used to rotate dynamos, producing electricity. The use of wind energy has proved to be beneficial in various countries, but it is still an underutilized energy source. There are some challenges in setting up a wind energy power plant as it needs a large unobstructed area, and the turbines are vulnerable to damage through environmental factors, such as lightning or storms. Another problem that it poses is that the energy produced as a result of wind energy is not consistent due to the varying speeds of wind.

Hydroelectric Power
Hydroelectric power is one of the widely used sources of energy, and accounts for most of the power generated today. It works on the principle that potential energy of moving water is used to run the turbines, which in turn produces electricity. This form of energy has proven to be useful, but in places where there is scarcity of water, this energy option is not productive.

The alternatives to nuclear energy come with their own set of challenges. Researchers believe that nuclear energy has a tremendous potential, and if fully tapped, can put to rest all worries about depletion of non-renewable sources of energy. There has been emphasis on replacing Uranium with Thorium as a nuclear fuel, due to its comparatively safe use, but progress on this is in the initial stage. There is a wide consensus among researchers that nuclear energy cannot be wholly abandoned, and the onus should be to change the approach in which it is used. In the end, we would like to say that nuclear energy is indeed one of the most efficient sources of energy and it is the responsibility of the world leaders to ensure that it is used to its full potential for civilian purposes.