As the environment becomes increasingly worse due to the current energy sources we are using, our society is in desperate need of a new source of energy. Nuclear energy can be the answer to our country’s problems. In 1938, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman conducted an experiment in which they hurdled a neutron at extremely high speeds towards the element uranium. This caused the nucleus of the atom to split, and from there neutrons continued to split other neutrons in a process known as fission. A chain reaction of sustained energy release was created and nuclear energy was born.
After this discovery, from1938 onward, Americans have been able to develop and harness the power of nuclear energy and utilize it towards our society. The creation of nuclear energy has given Americans the ability to advance our society. Initially, the power of nuclear energy was intended for destruction. During World War 2, American scientists began the Manhattan Project in which they developed a nuclear reactor to produce atomic bombs. They are still used as lethal weapons used during times of war. The disaster resulted from these weapons inflict hesitance and fear for the regular use of nuclear energy.
However, as time progressed scientist discovered nuclear energy could be used for good and not harm. Nuclear energy is ecological, efficient, low in operating costs, profitable, and overall a great alternative energy source that 20% of Americans use. The most compelling attribute of nuclear energy is its environmentally friendly properties. It can replace fossil fuels, does not produce greenhouse gasses or air pollutants, and is a source of clean air and electricity. Operating a power plant is inexpensive, making it a great product to invest into.
Compared to other energy sources, nuclear power plants prove to be the most efficient. Unfortunately, nuclear energy does come with disadvantages and those negative aspects should not be ignored. The cost of power plants, along with the potential dangers of nuclear energy, tends to repel people from converting to the energy source. Constructing, equipping, engineering and providing labor for power plants can cost billions of dollars. The waste left behind from the energy is extremely hazardous and difficult to dispose of.
Although the possibility is very slim, there’s a chance for nuclear accidents to occur in the power plants. However, these problems have solutions and nuclear energy still poses a great alternative energy source that could benefit America. Nuclear energy is environmentally friendly and can act as a cleaner and safer alternative form of energy. Our world’s environment has suffered an increase in global warming and climate change due to the destructive effects of greenhouse gas and fossil fuels. Luckily, nuclear energy can solve this problem because of its ecological nature.
Nuclear energy produces no carbon dioxide, methane, or air pollutants, making it a significant source of clean air and electricity. According to Kukreja Rinkesh, as of 1998, “it has been calculated the emission of the greenhouse gas has reduced by nearly half due to the popularity in the use of nuclear power”(Rinkesh. ) As more people recognize the benefits of nuclear energy, they are consequently saving our society from the cruel effects of greenhouse gasses.
As demonstrated in the graph researched by www. world-nuclear. rg, we notice the staggering difference in the emission of greenhouse gas in nuclear energy compared to other energy sources used in America(see graph 1). The research conducted by the World Nuclear Association reveals that nuclear energy is the best eco-friendly choice, given it only emits 78 million tonnes of CO2 compared to the 2,654 tonnes of Co2 produced by lignite. In fact, compared to the other energy sources, nuclear energy had one of the lowest emitted tonnes overall. Nuclear energy can displace fossil fuels.
The amount of fuel needed to power plants is significantly less than the amount of fossil fuel needed for other energy sources. In addition to other advantages, “the energy released by nuclear fission is approximately ten million times greater than the amount of energy released by fossil fuel atom”(Nuclear Pros and Cons). Turning atomic heat into electricity is a much simpler process than turning fossil fuel into electricity. In a nuclear power plant, “the machinery is very similar to the machinery used in fossil fuel plants and has had most of the kinks worked out, so it is quite reliable.
Because the mass of material that has to run through the plant every day is several powers of ten smaller than similarly sized fossil fuel plants, fission plants can be far simpler, less dependent on external supply chains, and easier to operate”(Adams). The production of energy from fossil fuels is expected to increase, so substituting nuclear energy for fossil fuels will indubitably be better for our society. Those against nuclear energy usually highlight the amount of money that goes into nuclear plants as their biggest argument. As shown in figure 1, there are 104 power plants in the United States that can be seen In Figure 1.
Constructing, equipping, engineering and providing labor for the plant is relatively expensive ranging from 2 to 9 billion dollars per unit. World Nuclear Association explains, “Building a large-scale nuclear reactor takes thousands of workers, huge amounts of steel and concrete, thousands of components, and several systems to provide electricity, cooling, ventilation, information, control and communication” (The Economics of Nuclear Power). Purchasing all these necessities add up to a large price tag that results in billions of dollars.
Another money consuming aspect of nuclear energy is the cost to ensure the radioactive waste is handled properly. Assuring the toxic waste is constantly being contained, under observation, and doesn’t get into the wrong hands is vital and costly. (proof)? Often times nuclear plants get abandoned because the price is too much to continue funding. In fact, a local power plant on San Diego County coastline, San Onofre, was shut down leaving millions of pounds of waste behind. The large price tag makes investors question if the investment is worth the outcome.
Funding and constructing a nuclear plant is more financially costly than other energy sources, but once they are built, the result is worth the investment. Running a power plant is inexpensive because the amount of uranium needed to produce energy is low and only two percent of the final cost of electricity. Fission heat, the main component of nuclear energy, is also low in cost. In fact, Jon Adams reveals, “The average total production cost from a US nuclear power plant today is just 1. 86 cents per kilowatt-hour”(Adams). On top of this, a power plant will make $275 million in revenue above the cost of production.
Power plants can last up from 60-80 years making it a great investment, while wind and solar energy only last 25 years. According to the World Nuclear Association, “at 3% discount rate, nuclear was substantially cheaper than the alternatives in all countries, at 7% it was comparable with coal and still cheaper than CCGT, at 10% it was comparable with both. At low discount rates, it was much cheaper than wind and PV. ” Unlike other energy sources that need to be fueled by oil, which is expensive to find and mine, nuclear energy is fueled by uranium, which is easy to access and only needed in small quantities.
Another benefit to nuclear energy is its low fuel cost. The World Nuclear Association explains, “the total fuel costs of a nuclear power plant in the OECD are typically about one-third to one-half of those for a coal-fired plant and between one-quarter and one-fifth of those for a gas combined-cycle plant. The US Nuclear Energy Institute suggests that the cost of fuel for a coal-fired plant is 78% of total costs, for a gas-fired plant the figure is 87%, and for nuclear the uranium is about 14% (or 34% if all front end and waste management costs are included)”(The Economics of Nuclear Power).
Overall, the money spent to create nuclear power plants is worth the outcome. By far one of the biggest downsides of nuclear energy is the radioactive waste that results from nuclear energy. The nuclear fuel used in the reactors goes through nuclear reactions, which causes the fuel to transform into radioactive waste. According to Brian Merchant, there is approximately, “138 million pounds of nuclear waste piling up at power plants around the nation”(Merchant).
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was abandoned after some complications and will take up to 20 years to dispose of all the waste left behind. The toxicity of the waste is so incredible, it stays radioactive for thousands of years, and any unshielded person within a few meters would die immediately of acute radiation sickness when it first comes out of the reactors. Due to the hazard level of this waste, it is vital that it is transported and handled properly or else it can cause immense harm to our environment.
America planned to transport the majority of the countries nuclear waste underneath the Yucca Mountains in Nevada, but the project has been put on hold due to the dangers of transporting the toxic substance to one location. Transporting nuclear waste seems to be a difficult aspect of nuclear energy. Due to the high temperature and radiation levels, finding a container to safely hold this substance is difficult in itself. When this hazardous material is being transported it can be prone to accidents.