Nuclear Energy has been around for more than 60 years. It is well known as a clean source of energy as it does not produce greenhouse gas emissions during the generation of electricity. This is in contrast to fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which release a huge amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses when they are burning. However, nuclear energy comes with costs, its waste product has an environmental impact that is considered to be dangerous and even lethal for many years if not managed well.
Atom is the smallest unit of an element that makes up all substances in this universe. At the very centre of an atom, also known as the nucleus, are the proton and neutron. The energy that holds the proton and neutron together is massive, and through a process such as fusion, the energy can be extracted which then can be used as electricity. The nuclear fusion process can be done in a nuclear plant using a nuclear reactor and using uranium as fuel. Uranium is generally chosen as the fuel mostly because it is abundant, it is relatively easy to extract and process, and it is relatively cheap. In addition to uranium, Plutonium is also used as a fuel in the country such as Japan and Russia.
It is important to note that a nuclear power plant is different from a nuclear weapon. Although both have the same underlying tech of nuclear reaction, they are designed differently and use different fuels. The nuclear weapon uses a nuclear reactor to release a large amount of energy, whereas a nuclear plant uses it to generate electricity through the generation of heat, which is then used to produce steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity. A nuclear plant is not capable of producing a nuclear weapon, and nuclear weapon is not capable of generating electricity.
The United States is the country with the highest total nuclear energy being produced each year (91.5 GWh), followed by France (61.3 GWh), China (50.8 GWh) and Japan (31.7 Gwh). However nuclear energy is not the main source of energy in the US, as it accounted only for about 20% of total energy. The US still rely heavily on fossil fuels (60%), but France’s nuclear energy takes up 73%, followed by Slovakia (54%) and Belgium (50%). Nuclear power generation rose by 3.9% in 2021, with 411 reactors operational around the world. Up until this point, only 3 countries that had nuclear energy programs shut off all reactors – Italy, Kazakhstan, and Lithuania.
Nuclear energy is one of the cleanest sources of energy nowadays. During the generation of electricity, it does not produce green gas emissions, however, the mining process as well as the processing of the fuel release some amount of carbon dioxide. The total carbon emission released per kilowatt hour is only around 15-50 grams of CO2. This is relatively low compared to other sources of energy such as natural gas emits around 450 gCO2 /kWh and coal is around 1,050 gCO2/KWh.
The power plant producing energy by splitting atomic nuclei in controlled reaction, which releases large amount of energy in the form of radiation. This radiation can be extremely dangerious if exposed to the environemnt, a measure such the use of protective barries must be in place to minimize the potential risk of leaking or spilling. The fuel used in nuclear reactor can also be hazardous even for ten or thausand of years. This happen because nuclear fuel, typically in a form of uranium, undergoes nuclear reactions to produce energy and create highly radioactive isotopes as a by-product.