The word “nuclear power” evokes fear and apprehension in most of us. Recent studies show that “disaster” is the first word that comes to our minds when we hear this word, even before energy and war. This is understandable considering the track record of nuclear power.
On the other hand, is it fair to write this energy source off because of its dubious past?
Many people don’t think so. They feel that it isn’t right to hold its past against it and this energy source should be given a fair hearing, weighing its pros and cons. After all, there is no denying that nuclear power offers us access to one of the cheapest and most abundant zero-carbon fuel sources.
Those in favor of nuclear power argue that the advantages of using nuclear energy far outweigh its risks and other disadvantages. With climate change’s detrimental effects getting more visible by the day, using nuclear power is more about our survival now than ever before.
This article takes a close look at nuclear energy and lists its advantages. After reading this article, you will understand why countries worldwide including the United States are sticking to nuclear energy despite its evident drawbacks.
How is nuclear energy generated?
Nuclear energy is the prime example of utilizing something with highly destructive capability positively and productively. It is the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly source of energy that we have the know-how to produce on a large scale.
Nuclear power plants harness the energy trapped in the nucleus of certain atoms. A huge quantity of thermal energy is released during nuclear fission. That is the splitting of the atom by bombarding it with neutrons. Uranium and plutonium are the ideal elements for this process.
The thermal energy generated during nuclear fission is used to turn water into steam, which in turn is used to turn turbines to generate electricity.
Now, let’s understand all the benefits of this abundant, carbon-free energy source.
10 Advantages of nuclear energy
1. Offers affordable electricity
The cost of nuclear power generation is one of the lowest among all energy sources, both renewable and non-renewable, except in unique circumstances when access to other energy sources such as coal is exceptionally easy.
However, one of the main arguments against nuclear energy is its high investment cost. Nuclear power plants involve massive initial cost but their long lifetime along with low operational costs make nuclear energy comparatively more financially viable.
Moreover, price fluctuations are minimal for nuclear energy, once nuclear plants are set up. On the other hand, for traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas, the availability of raw materials fluctuates, resulting in vast variations in their prices.
The price of nuclear energy will remain the same or even go down with technological advancements.
2. Reliable source of energy
The availability of raw materials for energy production is one of the main criteria for making an energy source reliable. On this count, nuclear power scores high, well above the clean renewable energy resources like solar and wind.
A solar power plant cannot generate electricity when the sun is not shining. Wind power is not possible without the wind blowing. On the other hand, nuclear power can be generated at any time as per demand. When we are considering large-scale energy generation, the energy demand must be met at all times.
3. No carbon emissions
The most vociferous support for nuclear energy comes from its ability to generate zero-carbon electricity. As the entire world is grappling with the consequences of carbon emissions, this gains prominence. It also works in the favor of nuclear energy that there are no better alternatives to it in utility-scale energy production.
We have been relying on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas since the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, we never realized the harm we were inflicting on nature until recently.
When burnt, fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, which meddles with the natural processes in nature. This results in global warming and rising sea levels. Nuclear energy is seen as the ultimate savior of the planet from climate change.
4. Abundant energy source
As we are fast running out of known fossil fuel deposits, the only energy source capable of large-scale energy generation without limitations is nuclear power. It is touted as the energy for the future, promising abundant energy generation forever.
Once we learn to handle nuclear fusion, it can be an unlimited source of energy. By the way, nuclear fusion is the secret to the sun’s boundless energy.
Presently, nuclear fusion technology is not perfected to be tried on large-scale nuclear power plants. However, it offers us hope for the future.
5. Less quality of raw material required
Nuclear fission generates vast amounts of energy when compared to fossil fuels. The quantity of raw materials (nuclear fuel) is minuscule in comparison with the quality of coal or natural gas used in thermal power plants.
The energy produced during nuclear fission is approximately 10 million times more than the power generated by burning coal or other fossil fuels. This helps with large-scale power generation even while keeping the cost low.
6. Bridges the energy gap
As the world is reeling under the negative impacts of global warming and climate change, we have realized that burning fossil fuels is worsening the situation. In our efforts to find a substitute, we have zeroed in on renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. However, these sources come with their own constraints. They are not established enough to meet the demand for large-scale power generation.
We also need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to control the detrimental effects of climate change. Nuclear energy is the perfect choice to bridge this energy gap. Until renewable energy gains momentum and becomes capable of meeting our energy demand, nuclear power can act as our energy source.
7. Vital in the fight against climate change
The hold fossil fuels have over us is almost absolute. In the 1950s when scientists realized the adverse consequences of burning coal and oil, the scramble for an alternative began in the earnest. Even after almost 70 years, we are unable to shake off our dependence.
Nuclear power may have many disadvantages but climate impact is not among them. In fact, it is one of the cleanest energy sources available to us for mass production. Moreover, infrastructure to generate nuclear energy, as in nuclear plants, is already present in many parts of the world.
Switching to nuclear energy will help us wean away from the clutches of fossil fuels. This will provide a huge relief in our fight against climate change.
8. Creates jobs
Building infrastructure and running nuclear power plants involve considerable manpower. This directly translates to job creation. In the United States alone, nuclear power plants employ almost half a million people. Recent surveys in the job market point to the fact that the jobs in the nuclear energy industry are higher paying than the national average.
Setting up new nuclear power plants is also beneficial to the economy. In the United States, the contribution of the nuclear energy industry to the national GDP every year is about $60 billion. The federal and state economies also benefit from the billions worth of revenues earned annually from the nuclear energy industry.
9. National security
Being self-sufficient in the energy sector is crucial for the national security of every country. For the United States, being a powerful global economy, this is truer. Depending on imports to meet the domestic energy needs can put us on the back foot on many occasions.
Nuclear power offers us a chance to achieve independence in the energy sector. This will allow the country to carry on its global leadership in nuclear energy, thereby giving it an edge to enforce the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This will also afford us a chance to develop international ties and work together to improve nuclear technologies.
10. Good for public health
Coal and oil, the most used fossil fuels, are responsible for millions of deaths worldwide. The diverse levels of pollution including carbon dioxide emanating from the use of coal and petroleum products are creating health problems, the level of which is unseen before. As long as we burn fossil fuels to meet our energy needs, this is going to continue and gradually get worse.
The only way out of this mess is to choose a carbon-neutral energy source. Renewable energy resources like solar and wind offer the perfect answer to our dilemma. However, none of the alternative energy sources we have developed until now are capable of utility-scale energy generation.
To ensure that we are not reliant on coal and oil, the only good enough choice we have at present is nuclear power. We need to adopt this as much as possible for the sake of the health of the general public.
Does the future look bright for nuclear power?
That is a difficult question to answer. Even if the advantages of nuclear energy can offset its negative impacts, there is a loud enough voice against it as well. The nuclear debate is showing no prospects of dying down anytime soon. In the meanwhile, the use of nuclear power is as widespread as ever.
However, support for renewable energy resources like solar energy and wind power is gaining momentum. These clean and green energy sources come with the additional advantage of carrying no risks as in the case of nuclear power. But these energy sources come with their own set of drawbacks.
Unfortunately for nuclear energy, these setbacks of renewable sources are not as harmful. In the fight for supremacy in the energy sector, it is hard for nuclear power to maintain an edge for long, especially against renewable sources.
All that is needed is a breakthrough invention to gain the upper hand in this race among energy sources to occupy the top spot. The future looks brighter for renewables.