Nuclear Power as Beneficial Source of Energy
Nuclear power has been around for more than a decade. We may be oblivious to its benefits because whenever we hear the word ‘nuclear, we only think of big explosions’ and mass destruction. Its existence, rather its use, has been debated virtually since the day it was first put to use. In the past, its use has been debated upon and fought over. But before completely closing our doors to nuclear energy, I believe that, we must first objectively take a step forward to understand it.
What is Nuclear Power?
Nuclear power is energy harnessed from the splitting of an atomic nucleus (either Plutonium or Uranium) through controlled nuclear reactions. The concept is really simple, and has been around since the invention of the steam engine. The nuclear reaction produces heat, then water is added. The reaction produces steam, and this is transformed into mechanical energy by the use of turbines. So, in other words, nuclear power is just a slightly advanced steam engine.
Nuclear Power does not necessarily mean an atomic bomb; its usual reputation of being destructive was brought about by the two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, destroying countless lives and property. Today, Nuclear energy is used more as source of energy rather than a weapon. As probably what Enrico Fermi, the first scientist who succeeded in discovering the phenomena’s intention was: to create energy for good use. Even Albert Einstein, who is popularly associated with the development of the atomic bomb, did not agree on using the technology for war and destruction.
My Position on Nuclear Power
The concept and use of Nuclear power can be very beneficial and productive. However there are risks with its use. The best example of its dangers is the accident in Chernobyl in Ukraine, when the nuclear power plant experienced the world’s first massive scale meltdown, causing both deaths and long term harm towards people from and around the town. But like many accidents, several factors could also have contributed to the disaster, such as negligence and irresponsibility, aside from the use of nuclear energy itself.
Above the dangers of the use of Nuclear Energy are its benefits, In terms of fuel efficiency, nuclear power is unmatched. Today, this is best shows by nuclear powered aircraft carriers, which are also among the largest vessels in the history of man. Because of the size of these ships, can you imagine how much oil an aircraft carrier would need to consume? But since they are nuclear powered, aircraft carriers and even some submarines do not have to refuel for around 50 years before running out of power.
Without other sources such nuclear power, we would be forced to use limited fuel sources such as fossil fuels, coal and natural gas. Aside from these sources being limited, they can pose threats and harmful effects to the environment. Electricity from nuclear power can sufficiently provide energy for many houses for a longer time.
Nuclear wastes are extremely dangerous. Which is why, it requires careful special processes for disposal. Wastes should be kept in secure containers and secure locations, that even if a leak occurs, the impact on the surrounding population and environment are minimal.
Benefits of Nuclear Power
Nuclear power is considered the cheapest and safest way in producing electricity. Although collecting nuclear power does not produce carbon emissions, the construction of the nuclear power plant and the enrichment of the raw material do. But this is miniscule compared to the ratio of energy produced per emitted carbon dioxide of other sources of energy. Nuclear power’s ratio is just 3.3 grams per KW-Hr, while natural gas and coal produce 400 and 700 grams per KW-Hr respectively. (Nuclearinfo.net The Benefits of Nuclear Power) Coal mining is more dangerous than Uranium mining, every year, an average of 200 people die each year in the United States from Coal mining related incidents. (Miller, Advantages of Nuclear Power, www. lewrockwell.com) There have not been any major incidents in the nuclear business since the Chernobyl meltdown back in 1986.
Nuclear power is cheap. It costs almost the same as coal. In the US, it only costs about 1.68 cents per KW-Hr. plus Uranium is readily available in the Earth’s crust. Uranium is 600 times more abundant than gold, fairly just as abundant as tin, and it’s cheap, considering the amount of energy that can be extracted from it. Estimates say that there is enough Uranium in the Earth’s crust to supply the increasing demand of the world for 50 years. The price of Uranium is about 165 dollars per kilogram. (Nuclearinfo.net The Benefits of Nuclear Power)
Reliability is always a concern when it comes to producing electrical energy. Every once in a while we hear massive black outs around the country. It’s either that plants are unable to sufficiently supply an area with enough power or the plant simply failed. In the year 2005, plants around the world recorded an average of only 0.6 per 7,000 hours of operation. (Nuclearinfo.net The Benefits of Nuclear Power)
The Other Side
Though there are many clear advantages of using nuclear power as a source of energy, there are still some disadvantages in using this reliable source. Though the government keeps an eye on radioactive waste, they can only contain it. It takes thousands of years for it to loose its radioactivity. Despite safety measures implemented on power plants, accidents can happen. Governments that have access to nuclear power are doing everything they can to secure nuclear facilities and nuclear wastes.
Sustainability has always bugged new technologies whenever they attempt to solve energy issues. Personally, I doubt if we could ever find one that produces the same amount of energy that nuclear power produces with such limited material. As of the moment, the use of nuclear energy requires further research to be effectively used as a continuous and sustainable energy source. As of the moment, technology can only allow it to be used as a temporary source of energy.
There are always pros and cons in every situation. Nothing is one sided. We have to weigh both and see if the benefits are worth the consequences or the other way around, whichever way you look at it.
Nuclear power, if used properly and ethically, can give man a lot of benefit. Despite the unfortunate and tragic events in the past, nuclear energy is still among man’s best and most efficient sources of energy. I hope that in the near future, technology and research can remove all the issues and concerns of its use and that it can be controlled for its benefits rather than its dangers.
Miller, Donald. “Advantages of Nuclear Power.” Lewrockwell.com 14 April 2004.
5 September 2008 < http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller13.html>
“The Benefits of Nuclear Power.” Nuclearinfo.net. 2008. 5 September 2008,