Energy is one of the basic commodity that is required by the modern civilization to run on. The industrial revolution and the rapid growth of the economy has led to increased demand for more energy. There is an increased demand for energy in various sectors of the economy such as automobile, large industries, and other manufacturing industries (Bodansky¸2007). After the end the Second World War, the technical and scientific minds in the world turned to nuclear energy as a source of power. The energy demands in the United States for instance has increased been increasing for the last few decades. In order to prevent any kind of shortage of energy, there is need to create develop long term and clean energy solutions to meet the demands of the society. As result, nuclear energy has been recommended to provide a significant solution for the energy crisis.
How nuclear energy
Nuclear energy is produced when nuclear plants similar to those that burn oil, coal, and natural gas are used in production of electricity by use of boiling water into steam. Consequently, the steam is used to turn the turbines that are used for the production of electricity (Silveria, 2008). One of the difference noticed is that nuclear plants do not have the ability to burn anything but instead, uranium is used as fuel. Uranium comprises solid ceramic pellets and use a production process known as fission for the production of electricity. The heat in nuclear power plants is required to produce the steam by a physical process. The fission process involves an activity that entails the splitting of uranium into atoms inside a nuclear reactor. The uranium fuel comprises small, and hard ceramic pellets which are packed into vertical and long tubes. The bundles of the uranium fuel are then inserted into a nuclear reactor.
Production of nuclear energy involves use of two types of uranium. The nuclear fuel comprises of U-238 and U-235. However, the large part of the nuclear fuel comprises of U-238. On the other hand, U-235 or fissions splits easily. The nucleus of the atoms of U-235, which is made up of neutrons and protons is mostly unstable. During the process of nuclei breakup, neutrons are released. After the uranium atoms are hit by the neutrons, splitting takes place on those atoms, consequently releasing their own neutrons together with heat (Cohen, 1999). The atoms are stroked by these neutrons, resulting in splitting among them. Other neutrons are triggered by one of the fission which also causes more to get triggered until a chain reaction takes place. When the process takes place, fission becomes a self-sustaining activity. In addition, nuclear power plants for instance in the United States are of two types, either pressurized water reactors or boiling water reactors. Ordinary water is used for cooling both pressurized and boiling water reactors. The main link involved in the process of converting fission energy to electrical energy uses water.
Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy
Several developed countries have embraced the use of nuclear energy to provide energy for their large industries or even for domestic use (Loewen, 2001). Countries such as the United States, France, China, and Japan have embrace the use of nuclear energy as part of their energy grid to sustain the enormous energy needs in societies. Even though nuclear energy has received equal criticism, it is considered to be one of the clean sources of energy.
One of the advantage of nuclear energy is that it emits low levels of Greenhouse Gases. The popularity of nuclear energy has helped in the reduction of greenhouse gas by almost half according to the reports released in 1998 (McLeish, 2007). By far, nuclear energy has the lowest effect on the environment because gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that pollute the environment and are responsible for the greenhouse effect are not released. In addition, nuclear energy does not have adverse effects on land, water, and any human or animal habitat. Secondly, nuclear energy is known to be powerful and efficient for use than other energy alternatives (Bodansky, 2007). Various advancement in production technologies have made nuclear energy a more viable energy option than others. Third, nuclear energy is reliable because it does not depend on wind or solar for the production of electricity. Nuclear power plants can operate even during drought periods. The disadvantages of nuclear energy is its high construction costs because of complex structures required to contain radiation and procedures required to produce energy. There are also several unknown risks and they can also be targets for terrorists.
Important economic, social, and technological obstacles that must be overcome to allow the resource to be widely used.
Even though nuclear energy is considered to be one of the most reliable sources of energy, some countries especially the third world countries do not have the capacity or resources for the production of nuclear energy. Such countries lack the economic muscle, and technological availability to produce nuclear energy hence hindering the wide use of nuclear energy in the world. Production of nuclear energy requires advanced technology and large capital to finance the projects. Socially, some countries have not been entrusted to produce nuclear energy for use because they have been doubted to use nuclear plants for the production of atomic bombs. Countries such as North Korea has been at loggerheads with the world for its nuclear program that is suspected to produce nuclear weapons.
- Bodansky, D. (2007). Nuclear Energy: Principles, Practices, and Prospects. Springer Science & Business Media
- Cohen, B. (1999). The Nuclear Energy Option: An Alternative for the 90s. Perseus Books Group
- Loewen, E. (2001). Nuclear Power Can Help Solve Energy Crisis . Retrieved 10 April, 2015 from http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2001/August/Pages/Nuclear_Power4218.aspx
- McLeish, E. (2007). The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power. The Rosen Publishing Group
- Silveria, J. (2008). Our energy crisis. Retrieved 10 April, 2015 from http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/silveira114.html