Nuclear Power Feasibility
Hello- I have a large scale question to be answered,
Bearing in mind sustainability, global warming, the greenhouse
effect, nuclear waste, renewable energy sources and all the other
factors involved, is nuclear power the energy source for the future?
Thanks for your question. Nuclear power will have to be one of the major
sources of energy for the foreseeable future. Because energy demand
worldwide is growing quickly and will continue to grow for some time as
third world countries modernize and industrialized nations continue to
evolve technologically, all sources of energy generation must be part of
the energy mix. Nuclear power has the advantage of being an established
energy generation technology which is also emissions-free. It makes use
of fuel (uranium) which has extremely high energy density one gram of
uranium can generate as much electricity as 1000 kg. of a fossil fuel.
In other words, this is simply too good an energy source to ignore.
Uranium is mined in a number of countries (U.S., Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan,
Namibia, Niger, Russia, Uzbekistan, others), most of which are politically
stable, and it can even be extracted from seawater, so it is reliably available
in forms suitable for use in nuclear power reactors. Nuclear power reactor fuel
is not directly usable in nuclear weapons.
Here are some further points about nuclear energy:
* Nuclear energy is an enabling energy source for "green" initiatives, such as
hydrogen fuel and plug-in electric hybrids, which would allow western nations to
reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies. Without major, non-fossil,
baseload energy sources, these green alternatives simply don't make sense. Recharging
electric hybrids and producing hydrogen for hydrogen-fueled vehicles require substantial
amounts of electricity that 1) can be supplied 24/7/365 on demand and 2) is generated
without producing greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power is the only baseload energy
source that meets these criteria.
* Nuclear power plants are the single largest source of emissions-free electricity.
Nuclear power is a proven (nearly 50 years of providing baseload electricity), on-demand
emissions-free energy generation option that integrates seamlessly into any power grid.
* Myth: “We do not know what to do with the waste from nuclear power plants.” Used
fuel from nuclear power plants is not waste it’s mostly made up of uranium and other
elements which can be extracted and formed into new fuel. Research and development at
Argonne and other laboratories in the U.S. and abroad has resulted in advanced reactor
designs and recycling technologies to process used fuel into new fuel.
* Worldwide energy demand is expected to double by 2050 as emerging markets grow
their economies. This simply cannot be sustained without significant baseload capacity
from established technologies, including nuclear power. China and India have already
recognized this fact and are moving forward with ambitious nuclear power plant building
programs. France recognized this decades ago and now generates nearly 80% of its
electricity from fewer than 60 nuclear reactors. Heavy reliance on more expensive
alternatives, such as solar and wind power, puts businesses and industry at a competitive
disadvantage. Nuclear power plants are the lowest-cost producer of baseload electricity
renewable energy plants. When evaluated on a per gigawatt-hour of capacity basis, total
hydrocarbon emissions (from mining and uranium processing) associated with nuclear power
generation are about the same as for geothermal, hydroelectric, or wind generation and
are less than for solar photovoltaic and biomass. Biofuels generate greenhouse gas (GHG)
when land is cleared and the fertilizer used to improve crop yield triggers soil bacteria
to release some greenhouse gases. Hydroelectric generates GHG mainly from the water
reservoir; solar PV generates GHG primarily from the silicon in the cells; wind generates
GHG from the production of the turbine and foundation materials. All forms of energy
generation produce GHG in construction and operation of the power plant.
You can learn more about nuclear energy by looking into some of the information links we
have assembled on our Nuclear Energy Learning Resources page
If you have any further questions, please contact us at
Short Answer: A great big YES.
New designs have made nuclear power plants far more safer and far more
efficient than those of just five years ago.
While research has yet to reveal a way to store the nuclear waste, nuclear
power will be a large part of the world's future energy supply.
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Update: June 2012