What is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy is another non-renewable source that has gained popularity in the last few years. With the depleting resources and high energy demand the world is looking towards the nuclear energy as its source that is created from the nucleus of an atom. Nuclear energy, as the term says, is released from the very nucleus of an atom. This happens as a result of its mass being converted to energy. Even though nuclear power is safer than burning electricity for fossil fuels, it is still a hazard to our health and the environment.
Nuclear power is produced through two different processes: Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion.
Nuclear fission is the process of releasing the atomic energy by splitting the nucleus thus creating two products of roughly half the mass of the original. A nuclear reactor splits the nuclei of uranium atoms, creating large amounts of energy. This process also creates radioactive waste and radiation, which can contaminate the environment. Nuclear fission is the physical process responsible for all types of power generation, including that used in both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.
Nuclear fusion is the energy source of the future. It is what provides the sun and the stars with the energy to shine continuously for billions of years. Nuclear fusion is when multiple atomic particles join together to create a larger atom. Fusion reactors join hydrogen atoms together to form helium atoms, neutrons and other forms of energy. This is the same type of nuclear energy used in hydrogen bombs. Fusion has been used here on earth to produce nuclear bombs, but has not yet been controlled so that we can obtain useful energy. Unlike nuclear fission, there is no limit on the amount of the fusion that can occur.
The Future of Nuclear Power
Nuclear energy is a powerful force. Attempts have been made to find other constructive ways of harnessing it. Nuclear power is an important source of energy in many countries. 442 nuclear reactors are now operating worldwide with a total capacity of 300,000 MW. Two and a half times this number will be added by 2030 and four times as many by 2050, says the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the bastion of the global nuclear community.
Higher oil and gas prices make alternatives such as nuclear power more attractive and are expected to lead to growth in nuclear generating capacity worldwide. Improvements in reactor design enhance safety, increase efficiency, and reduce costs, making nuclear generation an economically attractive source of energy. Many countries, including the UK, have recently affirmed their intention to continue their use of nuclear energy for electricity generation, and although this decision has been condemned by anti-nuclear pressure groups, all the indications are that nuclear power will continue to be an important source of energy for us for a long time to come.
Environmental concerns about the disposal of spent nuclear fuel persist, and countries are addressing those concerns in different ways. The US is developing a disposal facility on government property, but this solution is itself controversial.
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