Since the Industrial Revolution, the demand for electricity in the United States has been steadily increasing. At the moment, fossil fuels are meeting those ever-growing demands. The problem is, fossil fuels are limited and dirty. This has lead scientists to look for other options to supply our electricity. Among the options being explored, nuclear energy has become the most used and promising.
Nuclear energy is released by nuclear fission, the splitting of an atom. The atom most commonly used by nuclear power plants is the uranium atom. The process involves the uranium being mined, enriched, and formed into pellets. The uranium is then brought to the nuclear power plant and placed into the reactor. A nucleus is shot at the atom, which splits it. In addition to producing energy, additional parts of the atom continue to bounce about and split, creating even more energy.
Nuclear energy is dependable, clean, and effective. It is dependable, because it does not rely on the environment to be produced. Unlike windmills, it does not require wind to be produced. And, unlike solar energy, it does not require a bright day to be fully effective. It is clean, because it does not produce carbon emissions, which leads to less pollution. It is effective, because each and every atom split produces a massive amount of energy. With only 59 power reactors, France produces 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy.
Although proving to be extremely effective, there are several roadblocks to the furtherance of the production of nuclear energy. One of the roadblocks is fear of an accident. These fears do have some substance, dangerous accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima have wreaked havoc on the surrounding areas. The problem with these fears is that they are based on the idea that the equipment being built today is the same as the equipment built years ago. Actually, equipment built since Chernobyl has focused on increased safety. Critics at this point will bring up the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The problem is, that plant was using older technology and was involved with one of the biggest earthquakes of all time. Instead of rejecting nuclear power altogether, it would be wise to avoid building plants near fault lines. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Another objection to nuclear energy is the disposal of nuclear waste. There are currently two options to dealing with waste. The first is putting the substance in containment units to be buried and left for an extended period of time. The second is reusing the material, which is extremely expensive. Research is ongoing to provide a safer and cheaper method to this dilemma.
The final main objection to nuclear energy is cost. The construction of nuclear power plants is extremely expensive. This cost may go down in the future though, as scientists continue to research and develop new technology. If done correctly, nuclear energy can also become extremely profitable. France has become the largest net exporter of energy and has made over three billion euros as a result of their nuclear power plants.
All that being said, nuclear energy continues to come under attack by multiple groups and organizations. As stated, some of their reasons for skepticism do have substance, but they can all be satisfied by proper research and precautions. Nuclear energy will continue to grow as an energy source in the United States, and may even help to bring us to the point of energy independence in the near future.