Energy cannot be created nor be destroyed but it can be converted from one form to another. Nearly all the mass of the atom is concentrated in a tiny nucleus in the center. The nucleus is composed principally of two sorts of particles: the proton which carries the positive charge and the neutron which is electrically neutral and has a mass slightly bigger than that of proton. Nuclear energy is the energy released from the nucleus of an atom. When nuclear reaction occurs weather fission or fusion, it produces large amount of energy.
How Nuclear Energy is Produced
When the heaviest element, uranium was bombarded with neutrons, it was discovered that instead of inducing radioactivity as did other elements, something different happened. This process was named fission. When fission occurred, not only were two lighter elements and a lot of radiation produced, but also more neutrons. It was clear that these neutrons could in turn also cause fission, producing more neutrons and developing a chain reaction which might spread throughout all the uranium present.
In the fission of uranium 235 nucleus, the amount of energy released is about 60,000,000 times as much as when a carbon atom burns. Most of the energy from fission appears as kinetic energy as the fission products shoot apart and quickly share their energy with their surroundings, thus producing heat. The first reactors to produce a usable amount of power were built at Calder hall in England.
With pure fissionable material, atomic bombs can be made. Of the two bombs dropped on Japan to end the World War 2, one contained plutonium and the other very highly enriched uranium 235.
Advantages of Nuclear Energy
1. Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions : As per the reports in 1998, it has been calculated the emission of the greenhouse gas has reduced for nearly half due to the popularity in the use of nuclear power. Nuclear energy by far has the lowest impact on the environment since it does not releases any gases like carbon dioxide, methane which are largely responsible for greenhouse effect. There is no adverse effect on water, land or any habitats due to the use of it. Though some greenhouse gases are released while transporting fuel or extracting energy from uranium.
2. Powerful and Efficient : The other main advantage of using nuclear energy is that it is very powerful and efficient than other alternative energy sources. Advancement in technologies has made it more viable option than others. This is one the reason that many countries are putting huge investments in nuclear power. At present, a small portion of world’s electricity comes through it.
3. Reliable : Unlike traditional sources of energy like solar and wind which require sun or wind to produce electricity, nuclear energy can be produced from nuclear power plants even in the cases of rough weather conditions. They can produce power 24/7 and need to be shut down for maintenance purposes only.
4. Cheap Electricity : The cost of uranium which is used as a fuel in generating electricity is quite low. Also, set up costs of nuclear power plants is relatively high while running cost is low. The average life of nuclear reactor range from 4.-60 years depending upon its usage. These factors when combined make the cost of producing electricity very low. Even if the cost of uranium rises, the increase in cost of electricity will be much lower.
5. Low Fuel Cost : The main reason behind the low fuel cost is that it requires little amount of uranium to produce energy. When a nuclear reaction happens, it releases million times more energy as compared to traditional sources of energy.
6. Supply : There are certain economic advantages in setting up nuclear power plants and using nuclear energy in place of conventional energy. It is one of the major sources of electricity throughout the nation. The best part is that this energy has a continuous supply. It is widely available, has huge reserves and expected to last for another 100 years while coal, oil and natural gas are limited and are expected to vanish soon.
7. Easy Transportation : Production of nuclear energy needs very less amount of raw material. This means that only about 28 gram of uranium releases as much energy as produced from 100 metric tons of coal. Since it’s required in small quantities, transportation of fuel is much easier than fossil fuels. Optimal utilization of natural resources in production of energy is a very thoughtful approach for any nation. It not only enhances the socio-economic condition but also sets example for the other countries.