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Essay: Integration of Nuclear Energy

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  • Subject area(s): Science essays
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  • Published: 11 July 2022*
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  • Words: 1,296 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)
  • Tags: Nuclear energy

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Over the course of many decades, the human population has attempted several approaches to satisfy the demand for energy. As the population continues to grow exponentially, our alternatives to obtaining energy, from our houses to our jobs, have changed. In the spectrum of energies that exist today, there has been one that is the most controversial of all, due to the human instinct of fear for the worst that can happen when being used and produced. This is the manufacturing of nuclear energy, which is the energy released during nuclear fission. It delivers electricity to cities all over the U.S. accounting for 20% of the used nuclear energy in the world. Nuclear energy is sometimes seen as a danger to society due to the 57 accidents that have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster such as in Marcoule (2011) and in Fukushima (2011). Furthermore, radioactive material can potentially be disseminated, as radiation is harmful and can, even in small quantities, be lethal. Contamination with radioactive material can make an entire region uninhabitable for thousands of years. However, despite nuclear energy’s negative reputation due to the many devastations that have occurred amongst the human population, ultimately nuclear energy is a better alternative, as humanity must face the reality that it cannot depend indefinitely on combustion of coal, gas, and oil, for most of its energy needs. Therefore, nuclear energy has to play a huge role in this necessary transformation of the 21st-century energy-supply system.

The Nuclear Revolution

In the mid 20th century, society speculated the idea of nuclear energy as a viable energy source that would produce enormous and beneficial results to the world in general due to its rapid expansion. The development of nuclear energy in the second half of the 20th century progressed through several stages: theoretical development by physicists, military application as atomic weapons during World War II, commercialization by the electrical industry in several industrialized nations, proliferation (for military and non military uses) among less developed nations, crises spawned by power plant accidents, cost overruns, and public protests. As a result of the nuclear energy development through the 60s and 70s, many nuclear reactors were built for producing electricity, using designs similar to those made on submarines. They worked well and produced cheap, emission-free electricity with a very low mining transportation footprint. Subsequently, due to the low mining footprint that nuclear energy had on the environment through the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan, raised the budget for nuclear energy 36%, to 1.6 billion, reducing every other Department of Energy Program. Moreover, because of its great demand that nuclear energy had on society, the U.S. population envisioned the great expansion of nuclear energy throughout the nation. For instance, Barry Brook ARC Australian Laureate Professor and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania asserts, “ From these developments of the 20th century, an entire industry emerged that has led to 435 operating nuclear power reactors(as of late 2014), 72 under construction, and 174 more on order or planned, as well as numerous research factors around the world…” Furthermore, after WWII, nuclear energy greatly expanded throughout the U.S. and has been a sustainable resource for humans to rely on for 80 years and counting. It has promoted for major advances in many fields such as in medicine, weaponry, and other fields. In addition, nuclear energy has played an important role in keeping humanity out of the energical crisis as William Parker, member of the Institute of Physics mentions: “It has been shown energy released from uranium per gram is much more than that of fuels such as oil or coal; approximately 8,000 times more efficient.” Clearly, the expansion and development of nuclear energy has greatly influenced not only our nation and cities, but also our daily lives.

The Power of Nuclear Energy

Over time, nuclear energy has expanded to meet the demand of energy for the U.S. population, delivering clean energy and a large number of products and services for use in human activities, including medical diagnosis /therapy, industry, and agriculture. In addition, nuclear energy is not only limited to the generated electricity, but may equally well be used for such important tasks as desalination, production of hydrogen, space heating, process-heat applications in industry, and for extraction of carbon from CO2 to combine with hydrogen to create synthetic liquid fuels. Moreover, after the accident in Chernobyl, the United Nations increased the role of IAEA as an auditor of world nuclear safety. According to the World Nuclear Association, an international organization that promotes nuclear power asserts, “ The IAEA prescribes safety procedures and the reporting of minor incidents. Its role has been strengthened since 1996. Every country which operates nuclear power plants has a nuclear safety inspectorate and all of these work closely with the IAEA.” The safety regulations upon nuclear energy were strictly enforced by policymakers to promote safety in response to public fears of nuclear energy. Nonetheless, due to these strict regulations, nuclear energy for electricity generation can be considered extremely safe compared to coal mines as several thousand people die every year to provide fuel for electricity. Subsequently, to date, no deaths or radiation exposure was caused by the meltdown of Fukushima.

Limitations

However, despite nuclear energy being an effective resource in the U.S. to battle the consumption of greenhouse gases, with it, comes many limitations. One problem with nuclear energy is the lack of reserves that we currently sustain. According to Daniel B. Botkin, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and president of the Center for the Study of the Environment states, “ Best estimates put the amount of uranium that can be mined economically at about 5.5 million metric units…today’s nuclear plants use 70,000 metric tons a year of uranium…at this rate uranium would last about 80 years.” This lack of efficiency for a long term use of nuclear energy makes society prone to accepting fossil fuels due to its cheap and abundance. Consequently, nuclear energy can’t stand for the demand of energy for the U.S. as fossil fuels account for 80% of the energy consumed in the U.S. in 2017, while nuclear energy accounts for only 9%. Furthermore, nuclear energy, is not only an unreliable resource, but it has caused severe devastations such as the one experienced in Chernobyl were it resulted in widespread radioactive contamination in regions like Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine inhabited by several millions of people. Devastations like these have led to a challenge to convince an often reluctant public that with new waste disposal techniques, nuclear energy is worth a second look in the interests of sustainable development.

Regulation on Nuclear Power

Nuclear energy has proven to be effective in the growing population of the U.S. As a result, nuclear energy could be acknowledged as a “stepping stone” from non-renewable to renewable energy. A solution for the advancement of nuclear energy in the U.S. is to implement more safety regulations upon the nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy needs to be safe in order for people to trust it and move from fossil fuels to a low-emission source of energy, such as nuclear energy. Furthermore, nuclear energy will help transition us into renewable sources as it will give us time to modify and perfect sources such as sources that aren’t yet efficient for the demand of energy. Moreover, in order to implement the idea of nuclear energy globally and the U.S., the world’s industrial nations should take the lead in transforming the major part of their stationary electrical energy-generating capacity from fossil-fuel-based to nuclear-fission-based. With a long-term energy policy and proper incentives, this could be achieved within a few decades (as was already done by France). Overall, such a transformation could drastically reduce the global rate of greenhouse-gas emission with respect to both atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane.

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