Nuclear energy or power comes from the fission of Uranium atoms. The fission process takes place at the power plant where it creates heat. With the energy produced, nuclear power plants contribute as much as 6% of the world’s energy which is also equivalent to at least 13% of electricity worldwide. While the tides use force and the wind uses its velocity to produce energy, nuclear power relies on units of mass to be converted into units of energy. A couple of the popular countries generating nuclear power and supplying electricity are the United States and France. However, there is a debate going about the disadvantages that nuclear power is presenting. Either way, let us check on the advantages, disadvantages and the factors that will make it a green energy.
The discovery of the radioactive elements, such as radium which produces energy has gone a long way back in the early twentieth century. This discovery was based on the mass-energy equivalence principle which states that the mass of the body is a measure of its energy content. According to Einstein, the radioactive material such as radium is a test of theory. It also included the fact that a large amount of energy is released due to the half-life or the length of time when a substance undergo decay to decrease by half. As per a radium atom, there is great energy released and because of its half-life only a small fraction decays over the experimentally measurable time. The discovery of the nucleus was made after. This resulted to the discovery that from the mass difference, the binding energy can be calculated. The mass equivalence formula is stated as the total mass of protons and neutron’s separate weights subtracted from the atomic nuclei mass, the value derived is the atomic nucleus’ available binding energy. This is the same formula used to compute the energy released in a nuclear reaction, which is the difference of the total nuclei‘s mass that enter and exit the whole reaction.
Though experimenter were able to come up with the idea of energy harnessed from radioactive elements, the whole concept was deemed to be impractical. This led to the discontinuation of the whole development. There had been many studies after the cessation of the project. There had been many great minds that went into its study and some took advantage of such research and experimentation for the purpose of war. In fact, the idea of the atomic bomb was taken from this whole concept. After World War II, it took a turn where it was discussed that the “atomic energy” can be used to benefit people.
It is worth-noting that it took years before electricity was produced using nuclear power. It was in the late 1940’s and 1950’s when electricity was first produced through a nuclear reactor. It was the work of the cooperation amidst the countries of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and USSR that made this possible. Nuclear power was successfully put into good use and the rich history behind it made it possible for such to be harnessed into electricity. The nuclear power will not produce electricity on its own. There is a need for a systematic processes and a well-built nuclear power plant.
The main chain of process is made up of five phases. The first one is nuclear fission. A nuclear power plant is built in the same way as the fossil fuel plants. The difference lies on the nuclear reactor where the chain reaction happens. The reactors have Uranium rods to fuel the procedure. The process includes the smashing of neutrons into the nucleus of the Uranium atoms. This results to the splitting or fission of the Uranium atoms. After the first phase, the nuclear reactors produce heat. The heat then is harvested by having water or carbon dioxide pumped through the reactor. The heat is used to heat the water to make steam, this is the second phase. When the steam is already available, the third phase happens; it turns the turbines connected to the generator. The fourth phase is when the turbines power the generators which result to the production of electricity, the final phase.
Electricity, from nuclear power is a big part of daily living, whether at home or at work. It is also considered to be under the category of green energy. It can be compared to charcoal when it comes to costs. A great amount of energy can be produced with just a small amount of Uranium. But unlike the coal, it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. A nuclear power plant does not produce smoke, carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gas. Nuclear power is also a reliable source of energy plus the fact that it produces only little waste.
Given these advantages, there are those who are debating that it is a threat to people and the environment. Nuclear energy is indeed a source of green energy for it produces great energy but does not produce greenhouse gas emissions. The cost alone in producing electricity using nuclear power is almost the same with those fossil-fueled power plants. The need for imported fuel to produce electricity is displaced.
However, the opposition states that although there is only little waste produced by nuclear power plants, these waste materials are very dangerous considering the levels of radioactivity. In an answer to this, nuclear power plants are required to strictly follow environmental guidelines on radioactive waste materials. The nuclear waste must be buried for a long time to allow the radioactivity to decease. Aside from this, the nuclear power plant managers also make sure that the buried waste is kept safe from disasters such as typhoons, floods, earthquakes and even terrorists. These guidelines were articulated to make sure that the environment is safe for people.
Another concern mentioned by the debaters is that it is not sustainable, contrary to the idea of green energy. As an answer to this, there is a breeder reactor which is a type of a nuclear reactor which creates more fissile materials in the fuel than what is consumed. A fissile material has the capability of sustaining a chain reaction of nuclear fission. There are two types of breeder reactors; these are the fast breeder and thermal breeder.
The fast breeder reactor requires only natural or depleted uranium feedstock as fuel after the in initial plutonium fuel charge. This type of breeder reactor is capable of producing great amounts of energy while producing short-lived radioactive waste. On the other hand, the thermal breeder reactor is initially charged with enriched uranium, plutonium or mixed oxide fuel. After which, it only needs thorium as its input to the fuel cycle. The idea of the breeder reactors has made the conversion of uranium into other fuels which can produce energy as well.
The nuclear power is green energy waiting to be converted into electricity for daily use. Because it is uses radioactive elements to produce electricity, there will always be the advantages and disadvantages. As a summary, nuclear power is considered green energy because of it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect and it sustainable. The by-product of the whole process, on the other hand is being questioned. It takes great responsibility for a nuclear power plant to ensure the people’s health and the environment. Technology is what brought the world the nuclear power and technology will also be the key to discover answers for nuclear power concerns presented by many.