A Powerful Solution

June 9, 2017
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Everything runs on some form of energy: humans, cars, and lights are only a few examples. Energy is vital, yet some forms such as natural gas and fossil fuels are being rapidly depleted at high costs at the expense of the environment. Nuclear energy counteracts the defects of current energy resources, and scientists continue to discover technology to make the process of energy generated from nuclear fission more effective. Distinct benefits of nuclear power outweigh the few disadvantages of this energy source; however, it is important to understand the specific flaws of nuclear energy so effective solutions can allow the use of a safe and efficient energy supply.

 

Several factors regarding both the environment and economy make nuclear energy a worthwhile investment. Without a doubt, climate change due to the emission of greenhouse gases impacts the environment and poses a threat to ecosystems and the health of humans. The trapping of solar heat from gases such as carbon dioxide and methane is a result of human activities. Specifically, most of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil. However, the alternative usage of nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases, reducing the cause of climate change. In addition to being more appropriate than fossil fuel regarding air pollution, nuclear energy is independent. While fossil fuels depend on a supply of decayed organisms, solar and wind energy depend on weather conditions. In contrast, nuclear energy can be produced using several fissionable elements, including plutonium (rather than a limited natural resource) and can run despite unpredictable weather patterns. Another benefit is the high energy density produced by fission compared to fossil fuel atoms. As award winning researcher Rinkesh Kukreja confirms, “Energy released by nuclear fission is approximately ten million times greater than the amount of energy released by fossil fuel atom.” With this in mind, less stress on the environment is a positive outcome of nuclear power. It is important to note the several environmental advantages of nuclear energy given that it is closely interlinked with the economy. The economy relies on a healthy environment to provide resources for product production. Despite popular opinion, nuclear energy is a long term cost effective energy resource. Although the cost to build nuclear power plants is relatively high, the production cost of this energy source is low compared to electricity generated via solar and wind. To demonstrate this, one can analyze the expensive cost of solar panels compared to their energy production. In particular, the National Academy of Engineering explains that solar panels are less than 50% efficient in energy conversion, making it necessary to purchase a large amount for adequate power. Similarly, Randy Simmons, a renowned member of the Property and Environment Research Center, explains that wind is just as economically ineffective; federal wind initiatives involve government agencies that a grant significant sum of money generated by taxes to large foreign companies. It is also mentioned that the production of wind energy is usually found away from cities and urbanization, further raising the cost during transmission. Not only is the production of nuclear power much lower, but nuclear reactors that produce energy last 40-60 years. This time frame is about twice as long or greater (depending on usage amount) than the life of wind farms and solar panels. Arguably as important, nuclear energy has no relation with vacillating oil and gas prices. Overall the usage of nuclear energy can reduce pollution and save money. By improving both the environment and economy, nuclear power clearly covers all bases as a practical energy source.


Before investing in nuclear power as a primary energy source, the process needs to be protected to ensure the safety of humans and the planet. In particular, the process of mining Uranium requires precaution due to radiation from decayed particles. Potential threats, such as disturbing groundwater and the health of workers are both possible and preventable. For example the World Nuclear Association explains, “Radiation exposure is minimised by the use of remote handling equipment for many operations in the core of the reactor. Other controls include physical shielding and limiting the time workers spend in areas with significant radiation.” With safety precautions including limited exposure to radiation and proper procedure, the process is safe and effective.  However, when nuclear fuel is placed in a reactor for fission, small amounts of waste are released; this is much like any other industrial process. Ways to contain the radioactive waste have been discovered such as disposal facilities, and new technology is currently being developed to increase the possibilities of safe disposal. Currently, the World Nuclear Association mentions, “a number of countries are carrying out studies to determine the optimum approach to the disposal of used fuel and wastes from reprocessing; the general consensus favours its placement into deep geological repositories.” In the near future, discoveries will offer effective methods of disposal; however today the amount of nuclear waste is small and secured during this trial period. Overall, one can notice a pattern when addressing the safety of nuclear power: prevention, monitoring, and action make the consequences of failure insignificant. Nuclear power plants have cutting edge technology and are closely monitored to generate electricity safely. Continuing this investment in the research to both insure the further safety of nuclear power and ways to dispose waste is vital and rewarding when considering the environmental and economic rewards of nuclear energy.


Although utilizing nuclear fission for power can potentially be destructive like most industrial processes, it is important to note that advancements in technology as well as precautions prevent disasters. This being said, the massive issue of climate change due to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels can be greatly reduced with the substitution of nuclear power. Furthermore, the economic benefits of nuclear power allow the United States to save money for future research in other areas to solve further environmental, economic, and health issues. The advancement of mankind depends on scientific research and new innovations.






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