Nuclear Share of Electricity Generation

Subject: Sciences
Pages: 3
Words: 842
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

Different opinions surrounded the topic of nuclear power usage for the last 50 years. While some people strongly suggest that nuclear power is dangerous, other people state that nuclear power is far more progressive and cleaner than coal and oil sourced energy. This paper will uncover the basic physical principles used in nuclear power systems and the advantages and disadvantages of the system in order to form an opinion on the subject.

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To understand the purpose and the core concept of nuclear power, one should understand the basic physics used in nuclear energy principles. There are not many sources of energy in nature, as there are only three types of fundamental forces: gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear (Murray and Holbert 3). After the tragic aftermath of the use of atomic powers in war, it was decided that nuclear power would be further used for peaceful purposes. The basic principle used in the simple light water reactor is that heavy elements, like uranium, are bombarded with neutrons; the neutron gets absorbed, and the element splits into lighter elements. The energy, or the radiation, released from the process of elements splitting in the core of the reactor heats the surrounding water; next, steam from the water moves turbine that eventually generates power. Although the process sounds complicated, the general use of nuclear energy is simple yet powerful water heating. The model of light water reactor is widely used now, but the widespread concern is that this model is too simple to the point of being not safe.

The historical incidents in Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, Chernobyl, and Fukushima prove the issues of unsafety of nuclear power plants with light water reactor. While the most attention to the benefits of nuclear power took place in the late 80s, the motives have gradually downgraded from that time, and for the most part, the industry faced stagnation in development. In addition to the stagnation of the industry, the energy demand grows continuously. As most of the existing nuclear power plants are built in the 80s, the safety issue in light water type reactors is still presented. Furthermore, there are no precise alternatives as the new types of reactors are not tested enough yet, and the upgrade from old equipment to modern is expensive. However, some countries such as France, Slovakia, and Ukraine function with more than half of the power sources coming from nuclear power plants despite the safety concerns (“International Atomic Energy Agency”). Although the consequences of mistakes in the nuclear power industry could be dreadful, nuclear energy’s environmental and monetary benefits could be why the counties resort to nuclear energy.

The use of nuclear energy is considered the future energy because of its possibilities to be cost-efficient and clean. Nuclear fission produces several million times more energy than any chemical reaction. The amount of fuel used in nuclear power plants is significantly smaller than the amount of coal or oil needed for the same amount of energy. As the light water reactors keep the fuel in the core of the reactor and only steam from the water is produced to the surrounding air, nuclear energy is more superior in CO2 release. The waste from nuclear energy use cold be stored and does not get in the air like the toxic waste of fossil fuels. As the nuclear energy process does not produce CO2, the benefits include preventing the plant house effect and climate change. Comparing the nuclear power plants to other low-carbon sources of energy like wind and solar emphasizes the nuclear power plant’s ability to work in conditions where there is no wind or sun. In replacement of coal resources, a balance between low-carbon sources and nuclear energy could be the answer.

On the other hand, the cost efficiency aspect of building more effective nuclear power plants is not as positive. The average cost of building a nuclear power plant requires around 10 billion dollars of investments and ten years of building. While the main goal nowadays is to provide a stable and safe way to use nuclear energy, the focus is on exploring how to upgrade current constructions of reactors and nuclear fission methods. The studies point out the possible use of the new and undiscovered form of nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the same process that makes the sun and the stars radiate energy. While the fusion method is not yet discovered, it could be the future of nuclear power as the benefits include smaller amounts of fuel, short-lived radiation, and the absence of runaway reactions.

In conclusion, the knowledge of basic principles used in nuclear power systems and the aspects of safety, environmental benefits, and cost-efficiency of the subject are crucial in forming an opinion. The right answer, in this case, could be the acceptance of nuclear energy as the cleaner static alternative to coal and oil-sourced energy. Although nuclear power plants are expensive compared to low-carbon sources of energy such as solar panels and wind power plants, the goal is to balance constant energy from nuclear sources and low-carbon sources.

Works Cited

Murray, Raymond, and Keith Holbert. Nuclear Energy: An Introduction to the Concepts, Systems, and Applications of Nuclear Processes. Elsevier Science, 2019.

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International Atomic Energy Agency: Nuclear Share of Electricity Generation in 2019. Power Reactor Information System, 2020, Web.