The term ‘nuclear’ is often met with negative connotations. From weapons to radioactivity, anything involving nuclear properties is considered a danger to the world. However, nuclear energy may be the key to achieving clean energy that can be accessible to everyone. Nuclear energy is a resource that relies on the fission or (fusion) of atoms, freeing energy from them. Fossil fuels continue to pollute our planet, and other solutions have yet to prove themselves. With growing demands for energy, the debate concerning the use of nuclear energy has risen to the fore. But what is the deal with nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy can be the answer to the world’s energy crisis. The current supply of energy, fossil fuels, does damage to our planet’s ecosystem. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), nuclear energy releases the lowest amount of greenhouse gas than any other source. With concern over climate change growing, it has been looked at again for potential power production.
Nuclear energy also boasts a high fuel to power ratio, having the ability to power whole cities with just one reactor. Aside from cities, nuclear reactors would be beneficial to smaller communities. In parts of Alaska, those in small communities spend half of their incomes on diesel generators, which boasts one of the highest emissions levels. Generating energy from nuclear generators is cheaper and requires less maintenance than other sources. These generators can provide rural areas with the energy they might not have been able to have.
There are countries that already use nuclear reactors. The United States currently has 99 reactors across 30 states with another on the way in Georgia. In 2017, South Korea turned back their stance on reactors and is now considering restarting its nuclear power program. In the country, nearly 60% of polled citizens were actually in favor of the constructions of two reactors. Since this sudden U-turn, South Korea’s industrial and energy stocks have risen. Along with this, nuclear plants can create up to 400-700 jobs compared to a coal mine, which can run efficiently with about 90 jobs. With lower costs, high energy outputs, and eco-friendliness, it is surprising that not every country relies on nuclear energy.
While it does have its positives, nuclear energy is not without its flaws, which prevent it from being widely used. It is not a renewable resource, as uranium is in limited supply. It shares this flaw with fossil fuels while taking a step back when it compares to other green sources such as solar and wind energy.
While it may be cheap for nuclear plants to generate electricity, it will also take a fortune to build one. Construction of a new plant can take up to 5-10 years along with billions of dollars, hence why many countries are hesitant to take the next step. Also, nuclear energy’s potential to go wrong cannot be ignored when considering the history surrounding it. On April 26, 1986, a nuclear reactor exploded in Chernobyl, still affecting the area today. The explosion released more radiation than the atomic bomb, while the area known as the Exclusion Zone, is still one of the most radioactive places on Earth.
Another incident occurred in Japan where a severe earthquake caused failures in a nuclear plant. Seven years later, Japan is still struggling to contain the nuclear waste and find places to store it. Due to this incident, Japan has ceased all activities involving nuclear energy. While malfunctions are rare, the public and governments around the world are terrified of accidents—and rightfully so.
It was not until I began researching information for this article that I understood what nuclear energy is. Sure, I had heard of it before, but I never understood what it was. Now that I do, I find the prospect of relying on nuclear energy to be frightening. Yes, it has the potential to be the answer to the world’s energy issues and I prefer it over fossil fuels. However, the potential for something to go wrong is too much of a risk.
Imagine if a Chernobyl incident were to occur in a more densely populated area such as the tri-state area. The region would be left uninhabitable for years, people would be forced to relocate; not to mention those that would be affected by the radiation. While the probability of disaster happening is minute, the results are too great to ignore. In the case of nuclear energy, it is better to be safe than sorry.