Term Paper: Nuclear Energy

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[. . .] For example, solar and wind farms of a 1,000 MW capacity would require approximately 35,000 acres, 150,000 acres of land respectively. A nuclear power plant of similar capacity requires an area of less than 500 acres. Uranium (the nuclear fuel) also requires less land intrusion for its mining as it is a low-volume, energy-concentrated fuel. (Ibid.)

Reliable Electricity a) Secure Power: Nuclear energy is not dependant on climatic conditions (like hydropower), price fluctuations or unreliable foreign supplies (imported oil). It is, therefore, an important substitute for imported oil. For example, at the time of the 1973 oil embargo, oil accounted for about 17% of U.S. electric supply while nuclear energy was about 5%. In 1990, oil represented only about 4% of U.S. electric supply, with the share of nuclear energy increasing to 21% ("Nuclear Energy: Benefits for All...").

A b) Stable Electricity: Nuclear power plants are an important source of "base-load" generation characterized by large units that can run for extended periods.

A c) Infrequent Unplanned Shutdowns: Unplanned "trippings" in nuclear power plants have been on a constant downward trend. In 1998, 61% of all nuclear power suffered no unplanned outages at all and amounted to a total of just 0.04 per unit. ("Reliable Electricity" 2003) Average re-fuelling outage times have also declined significantly (by 59% in the period1990-99).

3) Improving Economics

Nuclear energy has become more efficient and cost-effective in recent years due to continuing plant modernization, stable nuclear fuel prices, high plant performance, renewal of plant licenses, and consolidation of plant ownership in the industry.

The improvement in economics is reflected in increasing plant capacity factors that improved from 58.5% in 1980 to 88.5% in 1999. ("Quantifying Nuclear's Econ.Value," 2003) The production cost (O&M and fuel cost) has accordingly declined from 3.04 ¢ / kWh (1988) to 2.14 ¢ / kWh (1998). (Ibid.)

Nuclear power plants, due to their continuing modernization process, are long-life power plants. This is reflected in the large number of license renewal applications put in by owners of U.S. nuclear power plants in recent years. In addition, de-regulation in the electric power industry is resulting in consolidation of nuclear generation companies leading to economies of scale. All these developments are leading to better economics for nuclear energy. ("Economical Energy Source" 2003)

4. Improved Waste Management

Following the 3-Mile Island (1979) and the Chernobyl (1985) accidents, heightened concern about nuclear safety has led to substantially improved safety practices. As a result of improved process efficiencies, the average volume of waste generated at nuclear power plants has decreased significantly in the past two decades. ("Nuclear Waste Disposal" 2003)

Conclusion

The usefulness of nuclear energy is inherent in the large amount of energy that is released in the fission and fusion processes (10 million times more than the energy in conventional fossil fuel). Other factors such as nuclear energy's environmental friendliness, reliability of the electricity produced, and the improved safety and waste management practices in the nuclear industry, make nuclear energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels for electricity generation. Due to its multifarious advantages, nuclear energy is all set to make a strong comeback in the years to come after a temporary setback due to safety concerns.

References

Economical Energy Source." Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Web site. Retrieved on March 13, 2003 at http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=2&catid=48

Environmental Preservation." (2003). Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Web site. Retrieved on March 13, 2003 at http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=2&catid=38

Nuclear Energy." (2003). Article in Encyclopedia Encarta. CD-ROM, 2003

Nuclear Energy: Benefits for All Americans." (2001). Nuclear Energy: From Yesterday to Tomorrow. Retrieved on March 13, 2003 at http://www.posse.net/ne_benef.htm

Nuclear Waste Disposal." High-Level "Nuclear Waste" Is Really Used Nuclear Fuel. Retrieved on March 13, 2003 at http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=2&catid=62

Reliable Electricity." (2003). Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Web site. Retrieved on March 13, 2003 at http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=2&catid=47

Quantifying Nuclear's Economic Value." (2003). Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Web site. Retrieved on March 13, 2003 at http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=2&catid=49

John Kemeny, chairman of the Committee appointed by President Carter to investigate the 3-Mile Island accident said in 1989: "The [industry's] improvements over the past decade have been impressive and are very reassuring." Quoted in "Three Mile Island and the Institute of Nuclear… [END OF PREVIEW]

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