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The Pros Vs Cons of Nuclear Energy, The Lurking Dilemma

You really need to know about the pros vs cons of nuclear energy. It is the greatest dilemma to our future prosperity. Will it prevent both catastrophic climate change and energy insecurity, or will it lead to a nuclear holocaust? 

Why It Is Important To Know The Pros Vs Cons of Nuclear Energy and What Is It? 

  • Nuclear Energy Definition. It is the energy released by a nuclear chain reaction. Specifically, the process of nuclear fission or fusion in the reactor creates energy. Further, nuclear reactors generate energy using a source of fuel called uranium. So the process of nuclear energy starts with the mining and processing of uranium (enriched uranium). Lastly, the nuclear reactor creates the energy which is then utilized to generate steam and produce electricity.
  • Why is it important To Understand The Pros and Cons Of Nuclear Energy? Decisions we make on the use of nuclear energy will dramatically affect every one of us. Indeed, nuclear energy decisions should not just be made by scientists, politicians or activists. To illustrate the importance of this decision, Enrico Fermi has a quote. In brief, he (in 1942) built the first nuclear reactor in a squash court under University of Chicago’s Staff Field. He said, “Whatever Nature has in store for mankind, unpleasant as it may be, men must accept, for ignorance is never better than knowledge.” Hopefully we can overcome our ignorance and understand the pros vs cons of nuclear energy.  We all need to be able to make informed decisions on the use of nuclear energy. Thus, this will assure our continued prosperity and avoid unfortunate circumstances.

The Pros of Nuclear Energy.

Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Reactor
  • Lowest Greenhouse Emissions. Nuclear energy has the least greenhouse emissions since it doesn’t discharge any gasses like methane and carbon dioxide. Namely, nuclear energy is carbon neutral.
  • Highest Power Output / Lowest Footprint. Nuclear energy’s fuel to power output ratio is incredibly high compared to both fossil fuels and renewable energy.  As an example, nuclear energy provides 20% of all electricity generated in the United States. So all this energy comes from just 98 nuclear power reactors.
  • Most Stable, Reliable Source of Energy. For practical purposes nuclear power plants continuously produce power at the same rate (average capacity factor of 92.3%). On the other hand, renewable energy sources including hydroelectric, wind, and solar cannot compete with nuclear energy in terms of stability and reliability. What is more, renewable energy sources have only average capacity factors ranging from 25% – 40%. Undeniably, nuclear energy is even much more stable than traditional fossil fuel plants which have an average capacity factor of about 50%.  
  • Lowest Operating Costs. Nuclear power produces cheap electricity compared to fossil fuel plants.

The Cons of Nuclear Energy.

  • Environmental Impact. When looking at the entire process of producing nuclear energy, there are environmental impacts. Specifically, this includes the process of mining and refining uranium. Also, nuclear energy’s supply chain can be a pollution hazard with the transport of nuclear fuel to and from plants. Lastly, some think that the disposal of nuclear waste is a crisis waiting to happen. This is because nuclear energy plants produce radioactive and dangerous waste with no long-term solution.
  • Nuclear Accidents. Accidents resulting in nuclear meltdowns can have the potential catastrophic consequences as the destructiveness of a nuclear weapon. No nuclear accidents (ex. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl) as of yet have reached the destructiveness of a nuclear weapon, but the potential is there. At the same time, nuclear accidents, no matter the size, have a long-term effect on a geographic area. If an accident occurs, the area becomes uninhabitable for decades if not for centuries..
  • High Startup Cost. Nuclear plant startup costs run into the billions if not the tens of billions. This is because the nuclear industry has to fulfill many government requirements and safety measures for any given startup.
  • Uranium Is Not Renewable. Experts estimate that uranium may be depleted within 80 years. Because of and through innovation, technology advancements, and use of alternatives to uranium, the nuclear energy industry may be able to extend this energy source way into the future.
  • Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorist Target. The more nuclear power is used globally, the increased chance that more countries will start to produce nuclear weapons. Additionally the more nuclear plants there are, the more terrorist’s targets that are available that can cause catastrophic damage.
  • Limited Nuclear Technology and Know-How. Due to the catastrophic potential of nuclear energy, the spread of nuclear energy technology is restricted and is only available to a select number of counties. This limits nuclear energy as being a viable option to many countries of the world.
  • Not Renewable (today). Currently, nuclear energy is dependent on uranium which is not renewable. Technology advances in the future may offer opportunities for nuclear energy to not be fully dependent on a limited resource such as uranium.

See ConserveEnergyFuture’s Various Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy and Yale School of the Environment’s Why Nuclear Power Must Be Part of the Energy Solution for more information on the pros and cons of nuclear energy.

For more information from Unvarnished Facts on energy topics, see Use of Fossil Fuels and A Layman’s Guide to Off-The-Grid Electricity.

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