Owing to its various advantages, nuclear power has gained wide popularity as one of the most efficient alternative energy sources in the world. As of 2008, it constituted approximately 15 percent of the power production worldwide. In France and US, around 77 and 20 percent respectively of the total electricity is derived from Nuclear Energy.
Nuclear power is produced in controlled environment by heating water to such an extent that it becomes steam and rotates the turbines to produce power. Nuclear power plants are fueled by radioactive elements, such as enriched uranium, plutonium, or thorium. These elements are placed in the nuclear reactors, wherein each atom is allowed to split apart.
Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power
Like any other source of energy, even nuclear energy has its share of advantages and disadvantages. As it is not dependent on fossil fuels, the amount of pollution is relatively less, but at the same time, any damage or malfunctioning in the plant can trigger hazardous effects on the surroundings.
Not being dependent on fossil fuels is perhaps the biggest advantage of nuclear power. Power plants which burn coal are highly polluting, which makes them hazardous for the environment. More importantly, the fuel used is much more efficient and found in abundance. Large reserves of uranium are spread in many parts of the world.
Scientific estimates suggest that the rate at which fossil fuels are being used today, their reserves are bound to become empty by the end of this century. More importantly, new breeder reactors have the capacity of producing much more fuel than what they use.
Nuclear power is the best example of efficient power generation because the amount of fuel needed is very less and power generated is immense. Owing to this, threats such as natural calamities, strikes, etc., don't affect nuclear energy generation. Nuclear reactors are built taking various precautions in order to avoid the chances of any accidents.
Everything about nuclear energy is not very pleasant though. Most of its drawbacks are related to safety measures. Loss of coolant water in the reactor can lead to overheating and eventually trigger meltdown. This can lead to fuel seepage in the ground, thus triggering disastrous effect on the surroundings.
The byproducts of this process remain radioactive for thousands of years and cause radiation harmful for living beings. These harmful radiations can lead to disorders such as cancer, radiation sickness, and genetic mutation. Although the chances are rare, a possible nuclear power disaster can create a havoc in miles in area around the plant.
There have been examples of nuclear disasters in the history. The Chernobyl Tragedy and Three Mile Island incident are the examples of tragedy that can happen. These power plants also face a possible threat from terrorist activities. Other than these disadvantages, international relationships also play a major role in nuclear power generation.
Few More Interesting Facts
- A single ton of uranium produces more energy than a million tons of coal.
- Nuclear energy was discovered by French physicist, Henri Becquerel in 1896.
- There are 104 commercial nuclear power plants in the United States.
- An average individual in the United States absorbs 360 millirems of radiation every year.
- France exports this electricity for profit.
Though there are several benefits of nuclear power, we are definitely not in a position to experience another Chernobyl-like disaster. We need to take that into consideration before we come to any conclusion. It is important to deal with the safety issue, if we are to consider it as a replacement for fossil fuels.