In 1953, in a search for a cheap and efficient energy source, nuclear energy was introduced into America. . Nuclear power became quickly popular over increasingly scarce fossil fuels which were known to cause air pollution. It was quickly accepted by the public since it lowered the cost of electricity. (Bodansky, 21)
Nuclear power is produced by splitting a nucleus of an atom is to release a powerful burst of energy. Nuclear power reactors generates heat that is converted into steam. The steam can be used directly for energy. This energy is used in transportation. Most military subs are now run by nuclear energy. The most used purpose of nuclear energy can also be used to generate electric power for example in a commercial nuclear power plant. Another way to produce nuclear energy is by gas-cooled reactors with either carbon dioxide or helium as the coolant instead of water. This method is used mainly in nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom and France due to the lack of freshwater. (The Divison of Nuclear Power Safety and the Laboratory for Melt Interactions in Reactor Accidents Homepage)
Eventually people started to realize the long term dangers involved in storing the nuclear waste, and began to reject it. Two accidents, at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, demonstrated to the world the enormous risks involved in producing nuclear power. (Glenn, 72)
Nuclear power provides 17% of the world's electricity. Coal is still the main source however, providing 39% of the worlds power. Despite this, fossil fuels such as coal, are needed in greater quantities to produce the equivalent amount of electricity produced by nuclear power using Uranium 235 or Plutonium 239. Using nuclear power instead of other sources such as coal, has reduced the carbon dioxide emissions by over 2 billion tons per year. This is a positive effect since it helps to reduce global warming, since carbon dioxide makes up half of all man made gases which contribute to the Greenhouse Effect. This problem has even caused the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to get involved. The Panel decided that in order to stabilize the carbon dioxide to safe levels, there needs to be a 50-80% reduction in all emissions. (Galperin, 59)
There will always be an increasing demand for the amount of power. People have been using more and more power, with the affordability of more and more electric devices. In addition to this the population has been growing rabidly and will continue to brow. The United Nations has that the world's population will reach 8.5 billion by the year 2025. Nuclear power is the only practical source, in consideration for the environment, cost and efficiency. Using fossil fuels increase carbon dioxide emissions, and will not be able to be produced forever. There is only a limited supply of coal and oil, and it will not be there forever, especially with the increased use. Other renewable power sources such as solar and hydroelectric, cannot provide the large scale power generation which is needed. (Kaku, 187)
Nuclear power is not perfect. There are many problems with of the radioactive waste byproduct. It is a threat to the environment and people around it if it is not contained properly. and temporarily disposed of with maximum security. Disposing of nuclear waste is extremely difficult since it takes thousands of years for it to decompose. In addition to the environmental effects of disposing of the nuclear waste, the potential of the disaster of radioactive fallout from a reactor is an extremely dangerous possibility. This has been shown by the effects of the Chernobyl in 1986. This was caused by an unauthorized experiment conducted with the cooling system turned off which lead to the explosion of one of the reactors. The radioactive fallout spread through the atmosphere, going all the way into northern Europe and Great Britain. There were 31 casualties resulting directly from the accident, but the total deaths due to radiation will never be determined. The radiation has even caused genetic mutations in children whose parents were exposed to the radiation. (Kaku, 256)
Nuclear power may be efficient and environmentally friendly when it comes to the harvesting of fossil fuels and the direct pollution that they cause. However, nuclear power has been used for negative causes. One of the biggest consequences of the nuclear technology are nuclear weapons. The detonation of a modern nuclear bomb can cause a substantial damage to humans, and the surrounding environment. The area affected will remain uninhabitable for a substantial amount of time. It also destroys everything which is living anywhere near the area of impact at the time the bomb goes off.
A use of nuclear power that not many people realize is scientific research. Scientists can now use nuclear power for biological research to help understand life more. Radioactive isotopes have been described as the most useful research tool since the invention of the microscope. Physiologists use them to learn where and at what speed physical and chemical processes occur in the human body. Isotopes are also used for agricultural Biologists use radioactive isotopes to see how plants absorb chemicals as they grow. With radioactive cobalt, botanists can produce new types of plants. Structural variations that normally take years of selective breeding to develop can be made to occur in a few months. (Kaku, 78)
Many fossil fuels have been causing a large amount of pollution. Burning fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas causes pollutants to be emitted into the air. This is causing higher CO2 levels, as well as other harmful gasses to the atmosphere. The harvesting of these fuels also causes a great deal of damage to the environment. Mining ruins all of the surrounding land, and most of it was beautiful before it was stripped of it's "valuable resources." Using fossil fuels as the main source of power leads to harm caused to the environment.
Nuclear power is a safer form of power for the environment. It takes much less raw materials to produce power using nuclear reactors. It does not require the mining of huge quantities of natural resources. Nuclear power also is better for the environment since it does not emit chemicals into the air. The main gas put into the air by a nuclear power plant it water vapor. This makes nuclear power much more "environmentally friendly." The extremely slim risk of a possible nuclear disaster is well worth the amount of destruction it saves the environment.
The way the population on the planet has been expanding it seems clear that nuclear power will be needed in order to meet the energy needs. Fossil fuels are in limited supply, and they aren't capable of producing nearly as much power as nuclear power plants can. There is also a trend of more and more new inventions that are becoming commonplace in most homes today, all of these require power. The average household is using more and more power every year. With out the use of nuclear power everyone will be "stuck in the dark" eventually, since there will not be enough power available. The technologies available today are also making nuclear power, cleaner, safer, and more efficient. With all of the advances they have made, there is almost no chance of another disaster happening involving a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power is good, and needed by society, and there should be no reduction in it's use, only an increase.
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