The presence of nuclear plants around the world has led to important debates about nuclear energy. Many environmental organizations such as Greenpeace expose the serious dangers to which the population is subjected in case of an accident.
How Does a Nuclear Power Plant Work in a Few Words?
To understand the benefits of a nuclear plant, it is important to know briefly the operation of a nuclear power plant.
A nuclear power plant has the mission of converting the energy that holds atoms together into electrical energy. For this it uses unstable atoms. Uranium is an ideal type of atom for this purpose, making it the most widely used nuclear fuel in this type of energy facility.
The nuclear power plants have a nuclear reactor (sometimes several) whose function is to cause the breakage of these unstable atoms. This process is known as nuclear fission. Every time an atom breaks, a large amount of thermal energy is released that can be harnessed in multiple ways.
Benefits of Nuclear Plants
- For every watt of electric power generated, very little nuclear fuel is required.
- Nuclear reactors, thanks to the control rods and other systems, allow to regulate the output power according to demand. In other words, they can regulate the amount of electricity generated at any time. This is a clear advantage over many renewable energy sources such as solar energy or wind energy that depend on the weather, solar time or calendar.
- Under normal operating conditions it does not generate greenhouse gases, or carbon dioxide or anything similar. The smoke that can sometimes be seen coming out of your chimneys is water vapor. We emphasize in normal operating conditions, because in the case of certain incidents or nuclear accidents according to severity, obviously the emission of radioactive particles is highly polluting.
Why Are Environmental Organizations So Against Nuclear Energy?
Each environmental organization has its own arguments against nuclear energy. However, there are two disadvantages of nuclear energy that support all of them:
- The devastating consequences of a possible nuclear accident. As can be seen in the history of nuclear energy; especially in the Chernobyl and Fukushimanuclear accidents, more recently.
- The difficulty of managing the generated nuclear waste. After breaking many atoms of the fuel there are very few left to get all the energy that one would want and the fuel is replaced. However, spent fuel remains radioactive and must be protected and encapsulated for years so that it is not harmful. In the section on nuclear waste management we address this issue.