Energy is used throughout today’s society to power nearly every appliance. Currently, the most dominant source of energy is from fossil fuels. These fuels are commonly used in the transportation industry where they supply energy to cars, trains, etc. However, these fuel sources are environmentally damaging and nonrenewable. An alternate source for energy besides fossil fuels comes in the form of nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy was first used in the Shippingport Pennsylvania power plant. This nuclear electricity-generating plant reached its full design power in 1957. There are many unique variations of nuclear reactors that can be utilized by different countries. These include a Pressure Water Reactor, a Boiling Water Reactor, a Reactor of Natural Uranium, Gas, and Graphite, a Advanced Gas Reactor, a High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor, a Heavy Water Nuclear Reactor, and a Fast Breeder Reactor. Each of these reactors has its own benefits and detriments that have to be considered when deciding on which one to use. The nuclear plant at Shippingport Pennsylvania utilized the Boiling Water Reactor as it used ordinary water to cool the reactor core during the chain reaction.
Nuclear energy is essentially made by capturing the energy that originates from splitting uranium atoms. This process is called fission. The energy is captured through the heat that is released from the reaction. As expected, the reaction would release an immense amount of heat which is captured by producing steam from the heat. This heat is then used by a turbine generator to generate electricity. The magnitude of the heat released from the reaction allows for high energy production. The US’s 98 operating nuclear power reactors produce up to 807 TWh per year, accounting for 20% of the total electricity generated.
Fossil fuel would be an optimal energy source if it were not for one issue. Fossil fuels emit an incredible amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn contribute massively to the issue of climate change. Each year, the world releases approximately 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels. With the need to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, nations have turned to alternative energy sources such as nuclear energy. An advantage nuclear energy has over fossil fuels is that nuclear energy does not release any greenhouse gases. Since the energy of nuclear power is derived from the conversion of steam into energy, there are no emissions of greenhouse gases.
Furthermore, nuclear plants have low operating costs. Nuclear power has the capability of producing very inexpensive energy due to the low cost of uranium. Additionally, nuclear plants are very reliable. Nuclear power plants are able to run uninterrupted for extended periods of time.
Finally, nuclear energy is more efficient than fossil fuels. Nuclear energy is a source of very high-density energy. The amount of fuel used for nuclear power is less than that of other power plants.
However, nuclear energy has some downsides. For instance,there is a massive amount of radioactive waste that needs to be disposed of after a nuclear reaction. This waste transmits radiation and can have negative effects on the environment. Furthermore, the mining of uranium can also cause damage to the environment, with the dangerous chemicals and materials involved. Finally, nuclear plants are targets for militant organizations. Although nuclear energy supplies can generate an immense amount of energy for societal use, it can also be used for destructive purposes. With nuclear power, terrorist organizations are given the capability to construct nuclear weapons which will no doubt have devastating consequences on the world.
Today’s youth must begin to acquaint themselves with every different source of energy. Since nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuels will be depleted faster than it can regenerate, the need for another form of energy is necessary. Although it seems obsolete, as today’s youth is not directly affected by the loss of fossil fuels, the switch will occur later. However, it is inevitable, and thus needs to be addressed.
The world has a never-ending need for power. This need leads to a constant search for new and secure energy sources. One of these sources, nuclear energy, has the potential to provide a massive amount of power. However, the users of this new energy must consider whether the benefits outweigh the costs of its use.
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