The use of nuclear energy in the civil sphere has numerous benefits for society.
The generation of electricity is the main use of nuclear energy and when we talk about the advantages and disadvantages of this type of energy we focus only on nuclear power plants. A nuclear power plant is a facility that generates electricity from the division of the nuclei of the uranium atoms that are produced in the nuclear reactors of the power plant.
This method of generating electrical energy is a point of controversy in society. The disadvantages of nuclear energy are notable especially in the case of nuclear accidents. However, there are many other applications that we benefit from.
Here is a list of the benefits of nuclear technology.
1. Electricity Generation
A nuclear plant produces energy from the fission reactions of uranium nuclei. Nuclear fission reactions generate a large amount of thermal energy that can later be transformed into electricity. This conversion process is carried out in nuclear power plants.
Obtaining Electricity on Demand
The main benefit of generating electricity through atomic energy compared to most renewable energies is that electricity production can be regulated over time.
This means that depending on the electricity demand, those responsible for nuclear plants can increase or decrease the power of the nuclear reactor.
On the other hand, energy production through renewable energies depends on factors such as schedules, climatic factors, etc. For example, during night hours or cloudy days, solar energy cannot produce electricity. In the case of wind energy, this depends on the intensity of the wind, which may or may not coincide with the demand at a given time.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction
The remaining resources of fossil fuels are limited, so if all power generation continues to be based on coal, natural gas or oil as resources fall, prices rise to unsustainable levels.
Higher Energy Efficiency per Unit of Fuel
Nuclear energy has the advantage that the nuclear fuel used, generally enriched uranium or plutonium, offers a high yield. With very little amount of uranium, a large amount of energy can be obtained. This means savings in raw materials but also in transport, extraction and handling of nuclear fuel. The cost of nuclear fuel (generally uranium) represents 20% of the cost of the energy generated.
Currently, work is underway to develop nuclear fusion that would further increase efficiency and reduce the risk of radioactive leaks.
2. Environmental Benefits
The benefits of nuclear power in environmental terms are significant when compared to the disadvantages of thermal power plants.
The advantages of nuclear energy compared to the production of electricity using fossil fuels are mainly concentrated in the environmental aspect. Thermal power plants that use coal or natural gas to power their steam turbines generate a large amount of greenhouse gases. The polluting gases that come out of the power plants favor the greenhouse effect and therefore contribute to increase the global warming of the planet.
How Does Global Warming Occur?
Solar radiation reaching Earth contains a large amount of energy. A part of this energy serves to heat the planet and another part is reflected back to the outside as if it were a mirror. In part, it is important that some of this heat stays on Earth since if this did not happen the planet would freeze.
What happens with pollution is that greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere forming a layer. When the radiation has been reflected on the earth and goes back into outer space, it collides with this polluting layer and partially returns to the Earth again. For this reason, the Earth overheats.
3. Medical Applications
Another advantage of nuclear energy is that it can be used in other applications, some as important as nuclear medicine.
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive isotopes and other aspects related to atomic energy for prevention, diagnosis, therapy and medical research. The clinical applications of radiopharmaceuticals cover practically all medical specialties.
Today, most hospitals and health centers have a Department of Radiology and a Department of Nuclear Medicine, and use radiochemical laboratory methods for the diagnosis and investigation of a wide variety of diseases.