There is a place for nuclear energy, and here is why…
Is nuclear energy with its carbon neutral waste an answer to our growing energy needs or an environmental disaster waiting to happen?
What is nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy comes from the binding energy that is stored in the centre of an atom and holds it together. To release the energy, the atom must be split into smaller atoms. This process is called fission.
Why nuclear power?
Nuclear power is known as the most reliable, low-carbon energy source currently available to the UK. Nuclear power is a clean and economical way of boiling water to make steam, which then turns turbines to produce electricity. There is an ongoing demand for electricity in the UK and nuclear power has enough positives to be part of the solution.
It is said that no other electricity source can match nuclear when it comes to efficiency and reliability. Nuclear power plants can continuously produce large-scale, around-the-clock electricity for months at a time, without disruption and climate damage. Whereas fossil fuels are still a significant source of energy in the UK and are extremely damaging to the environment.
What are the benefits of nuclear power?
Nuclear power offers many benefits for the environment and is reliable and cost-effective. Though nuclear power stations may be considerably expensive to build, once built they have low maintenance costs and longevity.
Nuclear power can provide low carbon generation for years and years for businesses and domestic use, making it a useful investment. Unlike energy from wind turbines, nuclear power is consistent and does not depend on weather conditions to function.
Power plants do not burn any materials, so they produce no combustion by-products, making nuclear power one of the smallest carbon footprints. Whilst renewable energy such as solar and hydroelectric is a great for the environment, nuclear power has all the technology required to be used on a large scale.
Also, because they do not produce greenhouse gases, nuclear plants help protect air quality and alleviate climate change. It is estimated that since 1976, 64 gigatons of Co2 emissions have not been released into the atmosphere due to nuclear power.
What is the downside to nuclear energy?
Whilst nuclear plants do not produce emissions whilst operational, carbon dioxide is released into the environment when new plants are built which ultimately contributes to pollution and needs to be considered as part of the overall environmental impact.
Another big downside is radioactive waste, which although minimal in volume can remain dangerously radioactive for many thousands of years and impact on the environment. However, if waste is removed and safely stored until a permanent disposal site or better still a recycling option becomes available, it can be a good solution for the both the economy and the environment.
So how can nuclear play into our energy future?
Combined with renewable sources, nuclear power allows us to enjoy our energy needs without the impact on our environment that is coupled with fossil fuels. Nuclear energy might be the only way of dampening the effects of climate change and preventing a catastrophic man-made global warming.