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Nuclear Power Plant Isar, Germany

Spent nuclear fuel pool

Turbine of a nuclear plant

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Nuclear Energy

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy

The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy have always generated controversy.

Nuclear tech shows up in many sectors. Most important is power generation. However, it is used in other sectors such as nuclear medicine and the military industry.

Understanding the pros and cons of nuclear energy allows us to draw our own conclusions.

Advantages of nuclear energy

The main pros of atomic energy are:

1. No greenhouse gases emission

Nuclear plants produce electricity without emitting greenhouse gases.

This tech reduces the use of classic thermal power plants. They reduce the use of fossil fuels. As a result, less polluting gases (CO2 and others) are emitted.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the electricity generated by the world's nuclear plants save 2 billion metric tons of CO2. This amount of gasses would have been emitted if it were generated using fossil fuels.

The smoke coming out of nuclear power plants is steam.

However, it must be borne in mind that most of the fossil fuel consumption comes from road transport (thermal engines). Mainly used in cars, trucks, etc. Therefore, saving is relative.

2. You get a lot of energy with little fuel

With little fuel, large amounts of energy are obtained. This implies advantages in savings in raw material and savings in transport, extraction, and handling of uranium.

The cost of uranium represents 20% of the cost of the energy generated.

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy

3. It is planned

The production of electrical energy is continuous. A nuclear power plantgenerates electricity during practically 90% of the hours of the year.

Nuclear energy does not depend on natural aspects like solar and wind energy do.

Solar energy depends on the hours of the sun. Eolic energy depends on wind intensity. So that, not always coincide with the hours of greatest energy demand.

This favors electrical planning.

At the cost level, it is also plannable. Uranium does not suffer price variance than other fuels such as oil suffer.

4. Does not affect climate change

Being an alternative to fossil fuels, it is not necessary to consume as many fuels as coal or oil.

The less coal and oil the lower the global warming problem. As a result, the lower the planet's climate change. Less fossil fuels would improve the quality of the air. The better quality of the air the fewer diseases and also improves quality of life.

5. Low running cost

Nuclear power plants are cheaper to operate than their coal or natural gas rivals. It has been estimated that even taking into account costs it costs between 20 and 50% of a fossil fuel plant.

The amount of energy produced is also higher than most other forms. For instance, in the United States, it is estimated that replacing a 1GW nuclear power station would require 2GW of coal.

Additionally, research demonstrates no technical limits for reactors operating up to 80 years.

6. Nuclear medicine

Nuclear energy is also used to diagnose and treat diseases.

Some techniques in nuclear medicine are: Radiography, X-ray, Tomography, Scans.

7. Tech advances

Technology has made nuclear energy better in safety, cost, and production.

Today, nuclear power plants use nuclear fission. On the other hand, nuclear fusion is being investigated. For instance, the ITER project is one of those projects.

When nuclear fusion energy is viable, most of the cons of nuclear energy will disappear.

Disadvantages of nuclear energy

The main cons of nuclear energy are as follows.

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy

1. Nuclear accidents implies serious consequences

The safety systems in nuclear power plants are very high. However, the human component always has a certain impact. Faced with an unforeseen event, the decisions could be wrong. We have two good examples in Chernobyl and in Fukushima.

Chernobyl is the worst nuclear accident in history. Several wrong decisions of the staff caused the explosion of the nuclear reactor.

Fukushima's case was different. The accident was caused by natural causes. However, the ruling after the disaster was questioned. It was the second-worst in history.

2. Nuclear waste management

A major con is the management of nuclear waste or radioactive waste.

Nuclear waste takes many years to lose its danger. Confinement solutions exist, but cannot be made to disappear.

3. Installations with an expiration date

Nuclear reactors have an expiration date. After this date, they must be dismantled.

Approximately 80 new nuclear reactors should be built every ten years.

4. Very high initial investment

The initial investment of a nuclear plant is very high.

The cost of the investment must be recovered during the short life of the plant. If the proportional part of the investment is added to the cost of the generated kilowatt, it becomes more expensive.

In other words, the energy generated is cheap compared to fuel costs. Having to pay off the construction of the nuclear power plant makes it significantly more expensive.

5. Limited resources

Unlike other energy options, nuclear energy is not renewable.

Nuclear power requires uranium to produce energy and is not an endless resource. Uranium must be mined and searched. Thus, in the long term, uranium will be over.

6. External dependency

It generates dependence on the outside. Few countries have uranium mines. Furthermore, not all countries have nuclear technology. Consequently, they have to contract both things abroad.

7. Nuclear weapons

Nuclear technology can also create nuclear weapons.

The use of nuclear energy received a huge boost during World War II. So it was developed to build the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. Consequently, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated in a few minutes. This was the first and last time that nuclear energy was used in a military attack.

Later, several countries signed several treats in order to stop them were spread. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons are created and still exist. Therefore, the risk of a future nuclear attack is real.

Summary

The main pros are:

  • Does not emit gases.

  • It generates a lot of energy.

  • The production can be properly planned.

The main cons are:

  • Serious accidents.

  • The management of the nuclear waste generated.

  • The presence and the danger of nuclear weapons.

      References

      Author:

      Published: December 10, 2009
      Last review: June 11, 2020