The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy
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Energy manufacturing is the highest pollution-producing sector around the globe. It releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, limiting Earth’s ability to regulate surface temperatures. As environmentalists search for a fossil fuel alternative, improving the energy industry’s sustainability, they look to nuclear as a potential solution.
What is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy derives from an atom’s core. The nucleus contains protons and neutrons, which power professionals divide to create electricity. The division of atoms is called fission, a common power production method around the globe.
Nuclear fission divides a nucleus into smaller nuclei, releasing energy in the process through heat and radiation. Technological systems at power plants capture the heat and convert it into accessible electricity. Environmentalists are using nuclear energy to replace fossil fuels because of their low-emission properties.
Nearly 84% of the global power supply comes from fossil fuels like oil and coal. Society’s dependence on emission-producing energy sources interferes with resource and ecosystem conservation efforts. Many researchers believe nuclear power can replace fossil fuels, improving global environmental sustainability.
Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy
Before individuals adopt nuclear power as a clean energy alternative, they must assess its advantages and disadvantages. While the electricity source may support consumers’ demands, sustainability limitations prevent its global acceptance. Exploring the limitations may help energy professionals find a place for nuclear power in the sector.
One significant disadvantage of nuclear energy is its non-renewability. Unlike wind or solar power, there is a set quantity of uranium on Earth, making it depletable. Nuclear power plants also use a rare variant of the energy source called U-235.
The power production process also creates radioactive waste, causing adverse ecological and human health effects. When individuals come in contact with the toxic waste, they may experience life-threatening burns. They also encounter an increased risk of cancer, bone density loss and various blood diseases.
Another disadvantage of nuclear energy is its steep upfront costs. Constructing power plants is expensive because of the vast material use and extensive safety regulations. Nuclear plants have one of the highest capital costs, minimizing their efficiencies.
Other alternative energy sources are more effective at replacing fossil fuels because of their low costs. Solar is the most cost-effective power source on the market, making it a beneficial alternative over nuclear. Another con of uranium-derived energy is its low safety rates.
Because uranium is an explosive material, it has safety limitations. At a nuclear power plant in Ukraine, one worker’s error led to a fatal incident. The explosion killed 30 individuals and left others injured.
Another safety challenge associated with nuclear occurred in Fukushima in 2011. After a tsunami swept through the region, it damaged a local power plant, filtering tons of radioactive elements into the environment. Though nuclear energy has some disadvantages, it may also benefit consumers and the planet.
The key benefit of using nuclear power over fossil fuels is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When individuals source energy from uranium, they reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Conserving natural environmental conditions reduces wildfires, habitat loss, ice melt and other adverse effects.
Nuclear energy releases zero direct carbon emissions, preserving natural atmospheric conditions. The power source is also more sustainable than other options on the market because it requires minimal land use. The plants use significantly less space compared to solar and wind farms.
One nuclear power facility using a square mile of land can generate 1,000 megawatts (MWs) of energy. Wind farms use 360 times more land to produce the same amount of electricity. Uranium energy plants can reduce land exploitation, protecting natural resources and habitats to support the global ecosystem.
Nuclear energy also has a high-efficiency rate, producing more electricity with fewer resources. It is a suitable source of baseload electricity, supporting local consumers’ minimum demand for power. Solar and wind power rely on inconsistent weather patterns, decreasing their competitiveness against nuclear efficiency levels.
Uranium-based power additionally benefits consumers because it is reliable. It is accessible and easy to produce, increasing its effectiveness as a global energy source. The power supply is also easier to store than other fossil fuel alternatives, enhancing its abundance.
Should Society Source its Power from Nuclear?
After evaluating the pros and cons of nuclear energy, individuals may question whether they should adopt the power source. While uranium-based energy is accessible, reliable and produces fewer emissions, it still produces adverse ecological effects. Society can access a portion of the global energy supply using nuclear power rather than replacing all power sources with the uranium-reliant alternative.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.