Essay On Development of Nuclear Energy
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Production of nuclear energy stands on the edge between the greatest hopes of humanity and its solemn fears of disasters in the future. It provides clean energy, an alternative that free the world from manacle of over dependence on depleting fossil fuels, such as gas, oil, and coal that are responsible for high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It will also help eliminate the hunger for power and electricity and meet demands of electricity of the future. On the other hand, nuclear power calls for great disasters such as earthquakes caused by ruptured power plants. This wraps up that nuclear power production has a good side and the bad side, which restrict many countries from installing it.
How the Nuclear Power Operates
Nuclear power is produced from uranium-235, a metal that is mined from different parts of the world. It produces 11% of electricity in the world and gives large amounts of energy without polluting the environment. The nuclear reactor is the main source of heat in the nuclear power station. The Uranium rods act as fuel where heat is produced through nuclear fission. The uranium atoms normally split and release heat.
Water of carbon dioxide is then pumped to the reactor to cool the radioactive material. The heat driven away is then used to heat water, turning it to steam that is used to drive turbines. These turbines drive generators that generate electricity from heat energy. To ease access of water that can cool the reactor, some stations are located near sea water or at the coast where water can be pumped easily to the station (Miller & Spoolman, 2010).
The rector is normally controlled using boron rods that absorb uranium neutrons. The process of fission slows down when the boron rods lowered into the reactor to absorb the neutrons. When generating more power, the boron rods are raised so that the uranium is spilt to produce energy (Ollhoff, 2010). In this way, the reaction can be controlled when small amount of energy are needed to prevent wasting uranium.
The use nuclear power to produce electricity has spread across the world. In March 2011, around 443 nuclear stations were already operating in 43 countries. 14% of electricity use in the world in 2009 was produced from atomic power plants. United States has already 104 nuclear power stations that supply around 20% of the total electricity used by the states in United States (Domenici, Lyons & Steyn, 2006). The abundant electrical energy is now able to cater electricity to almost every state in the country. The nuclear energy being valuable source energy has good and bad side (McLeish, 2007).
The Positive Side of Nuclear Power
Uranium, which is the material used in the fission process has high-energy content, almost equivalent to the best grade of coal. This is implies that the fuel used in the reaction to produce high amounts of energy is normally small and this reduces production costs. Storage and transportation of uranium is also easier since producers are dealing with small amounts. Uranium, as compared to fossil fuels, is not depleting at a faster rate and this reduces operation costs of extracting the fuel (Bodansky, 2004).
The other advantage of nuclear power is that it does not emanate greenhouse gases to the atmosphere like fossil fuels. It is normally clean and friendly to the environment (Dell & Rand, 2004). Building more nuclear power plants in different nations to replace fossil fuel plants will help reduce release of greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming and climate change. The space used to build nuclear power plants is smaller than those of fossil fuels for equal megawatts output. Space for fuel storage is less and the used fuel from the reactor is normally stored in small water storage facilities.
Uranium is plenty all over the planet and the nuclear plants will have continuous supply for a prolonged time, unlike fossil fuels whose supplies are depleting. Nuclear energy being the most concentrated type of energy, small fuel amounts is needed and this implies that security implications during transportation are reduced. This means that the cost of transporting the fuel safely as well as time of exposure of the radioactive material to the atmosphere is greatly reduced (Dell & Rand, 2004).
Nuclear power is also reliable, as it is not affected by changes of weather. Output can be controlled by reducing splitting of the uranium using boron rods that absorb the neutrons. Small amounts of radioactive waste are produced and can be managed properly to prevent accidents. Output efficiency is higher than that of fossil fuels and so electricity is produced cheaply (McLeish, 2007). This means that the extra cost saved can be used to manage the waste produced properly to prevent dangers that the radioactive waste can have on people and animals.
The Negative Side of Nuclear Power
The main concern in every nuclear power plant is usually safety rather than electricity production. This is because there is normally possibility of risk occurrence, resulting from radiation leakage due to accidents. The by products of the fission process are radio active and can pollute atmosphere, water, land and other natural occurring resources (Bodansky, 2004). These risks are considered even before building the plants as the land used should not be resided by any man for over thousand years to prevent dangers from the remaining radioactive materials.
The nuclear plant is normally at risk when it is shutdown. When the reactor is shutdown, there is some decay heat still produced because there is still fission of the daughter products. This heat is about 10% of the total reactor power. If the reactor power has 500MW, then the decay heat accounts for up to 50 MW. When the heat accumulates to a significant level, it can melt the core causing radiation release and accidents in the plant (McLeish, 2007). To prevent this, nuclear plants have to design a passive cooling system that can remove the decay heat after the plant is shutdown. This will eliminate heat supplies that come from the daughter products to protect the core of the reactor.
Nuclear power plants normally use large amounts of water for cooling the radioactive materials. This makes this form of energy production restricted to areas with plenty of water or else will result to water shortage. This forces these plants to be built near a sea or river, which may pose some danger to these natural resources (Ollhoff, 2010). Some radioactive materials can accidentally contaminate these water sources and cause health issues to people depending on water for domestic use or irrigation. The nuclear plant also requires people to isolate the area around the plant, about 5 kilometers and so displaces people.
Nuclear power plants usually operate as base load stations, so they are not able to support the entire power grid in transient conditions. They are normally structured in a way the reactor is followed by the turbine. This means that nuclear plants do not worry what is the cause of high electricity demands and only generate power that is relative to the reactor (McLeish, 2007). This changing reactor power regarding the load will affect safety and shorten the life of the plant. To tackle this kind of situations and leakages there is the need for more advanced technology, which will increase operation cost and need of highly skilled personnel.
Disadvantages of nuclear power plants such as leakages are the main hindrance to this form of energy production. They can be solved by establishing better technologies that can tackle the problem. Building of modern plants that utilize the decay heat can help prolong life of most plants and prevent leakages. Building nuclear plants near rivers and seas will reduce problems of water shortage. Implementing strict regulations on water sources will encourage careful energy production so that radioactive materials are not released to the water resources, but only the acceptable levels. This will make production of nuclear power safe and at the same time benefit from its high output efficiency to cater for the present and the future electricity demands.
Nuclear power offers an opportunity to save the world by providing abundant electrical energy and supporting it is the best solution to eliminate electricity problems. Encouraging use of nuclear power will help produce enough power that will support all industries that depend on electricity for production. It will also encourage establishment of more industries that can better lives of humankind and lead to economic development of many countries and, including the developing ones. Building more nuclear power plants means a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and at the same time an end of the climate change problem (Ollhoff, 2010). This reliable source of energy will also reduce over dependence on fossil fuels by many nations, which are now expensive to obtain as they are depleting. It will also save the nations from greenhouse emission that mostly come from burning of these fossil fuels.
Bodansky, D. (2004). Nuclear energy: Principles, practices, and prospects. New York, NY: Springer.
Dell, R. M., & Rand, D. A. J. (2004). Clean energy. Cambridge, MA: RSC.
Domenici, P., Lyons, B., & Steyn, J. J. (2006). A brighter tomorrow: Fulfilling the promise of nuclear energy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
McLeish, E. (2007). Nuclear power: The pros and cons. New York, NY: Rosen Central.
Miller, G. T., & Spoolman, S. (2010). Environmental science. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.
Ollhoff, J. (2010). Nuclear energy. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishers Corporation.