Thesis: Nuclear Power

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Nuclear power has long been one of the world's major sources of energy, especially electricity. Touted as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear energy does create waste but its waste is not carbon-based and therefore not a greenhouse gas. Fossil fuel energy production, on the other hand, is a culprit in global warming and climate change as well as in overall air pollution. Nuclear energy is, however, not a direct substitute for fossil fuels and should not necessarily be viewed as such. The waste created by nuclear energy production is highly hazardous, which is why nuclear power generation is receiving dwindling consumer and policy support ("Guide to UK nuclear power"). Moreover, nuclear energy cannot be used as a source of fuel for the internal combustion engine. The non-electricity consumer or business products that nuclear power can provide are relatively limited.

Nuclear power accounts for about 20% of generated electricity in the United Kingdom and slightly less than that worldwide ("Guide to UK nuclear power"). However, the UK scaled back nuclear power production for the past several decades due to a number of drawbacks associated with the process of transforming the atomic energy into electricity. During the 1990s, Great Britain gave the go-ahead to build the Sizewell 'B' station and last year authorized further investment in nuclear power technologies (Johnston 2008). In fact, Great Britain currently the "most ambitious plans" for new nuclear power plants in Europe if not the world (Anderson & Crooks 2009). At the same time, the BBC predicts that by 2023 only 4% of Britain's electricity will be generated by nuclear technology, down significantly from today ("Climate Change"). The main factors fueling investment in nuclear power technology include environmental, cost, and security concerns.

Nuclear energy production presents one distinct advantage over fossil fuel-based energy generation: a lack of carbon emissions. Although not as clean as the industry sometimes claims, nuclear power does not give off sulfur, particulates or other airborne pollutants as coal power plants do. Moreover, nuclear power generation does not contribute to acid rain ("Nuclear Power Now"). The amount of solid waste produced by a nuclear power plant is a small fraction of what would be produced by a coal power plant counterpart. New technologies promise to recycle nuclear waste into resalable energy in the same way paper bags or aluminum cans are recycled to consumers. The process by which nuclear waste is converted into usable energy is referred to as nuclear reprocessing and like nuclear power itself is not without its problems ("What is nuclear reprocessing

The problems with nuclear power processing were made painfully clear in the 1980s. A string of large-scale disasters like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl turned public attention toward the pitfalls of nuclear power generation. Technology and lack of attention to basic safety procedures were as much to blame as the nuclear power processing procedures themselves. Still, the hazards associated with nuclear waste are grim, grave, and worthy of attention. According to the BBC, the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is still affecting an estimated 16 million people ("Climate Change").

Creating nuclear power is relatively simple and astonishingly powerful in the scope of its applications. The atom bomb, with its characteristic mushroom cloud, is as much a product of nuclear power as the light bulbs in our kitchen. Nuclear power was in fact first discovered in the early 20th century and military applications became immediately apparent. By 1956, the first commercial, electricity-producing nuclear power plant became operational in Cumbria.

The main source of nuclear power is uranium, a naturally occurring element that like coal must be mined. Mining uranium poses a set of social and environmental problems similar to the excavation of any ore or coal. Plutonium and other elements can also produce energy when their atoms are split, but uranium remains the most common element used in nuclear power production. Nuclear fission is the primary process upon which nuclear power generation is based: an atom is split up into its constituent parts and the result is an unstable state inherently charged with energy. Concentrated uranium is formed into rods, which have an average shelf life of four years ("What is nuclear reprocessing?"). Nuclear reprocessing allows outdated rods to be recycled.

Nuclear power is re-entering the public policy… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Nuclear Power."  Essaytown.com.  February 10, 2009.  Accessed October 14, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/nuclear-power-long-been-one/894509.