Safe Nuclear Power as Green Alternative Energy

April 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Nuclear Energy

The thought of nuclear energy brings fear to most people, with negative associations such as the incidents at Chernobyl and Hiroshima. However, safe nuclear energy is a powerful alternative that has the potential to be clean and eco-friendly. Because of its great energy potential, it would be prudent to consider all of the pros and cons of using safe nuclear power before reaching a definitive conclusion.

Though there is no denying the potential dangers inherent from nuclear energy, with safe handling it can be powerful and cost effective. Because of incidents like Chernobyl, nuclear scientists and engineers have worked hard to make sure that the technology is as safe as it can possibly be so that there are no more incidents. Understanding how it works is important when forming an opinion as to whether it should be supported as a national option for alternative energy or not.

When it comes to creating nuclear energy, there is a difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission creates energy by splitting the atom, and requires metals that are very heavy to work. Nucelar fusion creates energy by fusing two atoms, which are mostly variations of hydrogen because they are light nuclei.

When atoms are fused together, helium is created, which is lighter. Mass that is lost in the chemical reaction creates energy, usually as heat. The heat energy can then be used to run a turbine to create electricity. One of the biggest problems in creating nuclear power is the high degree of heat that has to be maintained to trigger the chemical reaction and keep it going. This is where the difference between fission and fusion is important.

Nuclear fusion results in much less radioactive waste, which is dangerous for only around 50 years. In contrast, not only does nuclear fission result in a great deal of waste, but the number of years that waste will remain reactive is in the tens of thousands. This makes nuclear fission a less than optimal choice.

Another benefit of nuclear fusion is the minimization of safety risks. With nuclear fission, the process is self-sustained, which means that should a problem start, there would be no stopping the reaction. However, nuclear fusion depends on many factors, such as heat. If there were a malfunction with the nuclear fusion process, the reaction could be stopped by an automatic cooling of the reactors. Therefore the risk of nuclear meltdown is virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, the materials needed for a nuclear fusion reaction are also plentiful, and can’t be used for producing weapons.

Because of all of these benefits, nuclear fusion may someday be a great source of renewable energy. However, it is still in research in development. Though it shows great promise, scientists have yet to create a successful and energy efficient fusion reactor. There are presently fission reactors that successfully create energy, but with all of the aforementioned disadvantages. When nuclear fusion is made effective, safe nuclear energy may be the green, cheap, and renewable energy source of the future.