Nuclear Energy Pros And Cons: The True Advantage Of Nuclear Power

Few energy sources are as controversial as nuclear power. In fact, many people are against to it even if they do not know exactly why they should be against it. It is important to know what the disadvantages of nuclear energy are but there is also essential to recognize that there also advantages to this energy. So, what are the pros and cons of nuclear energy?

Before you can mind up about this or any other kind of energy is to understand what it is and how it works.

What Is Nuclear Energy? 

Nuclear energy is the result of what we call nuclear reactions. There are two kinds of nuclear reactions (or conversions):

  1. Spontaneous nuclei conversions.
  2. Induced nuclei conversions.

These conversions are changes in mass and energy. Nuclear fusion, nuclear decay, and nuclear fission.

All mass is made up of tiny atoms. Most atoms are located in the nucleus (or center) of mass. The rest of mass is distributed in a cloud of electrons that floats around the nucleus. The atoms in the nucleus are subdivided into neutrons and protons. Following Albert Einstein’s formula of relativity: E = mc 2 there are circumstances under which large atoms can see their nucleus split in two. According to Einstein’s equation, M is the symbol that represents a small quantity of mass and C is the symbol for the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second).

If many people associate nuclear power with war is because the potential of this energy as a weapon was discovered back in the 1930s and the 1940s. Nuclear energy has been used as a weapon when the United States dropped atomic bombs in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, as World War II was coming in an end. The devastating effects of both bombings were between 70,000 and 126,000 civilians killed in Hiroshima, and between 39,000 and 80,000 civilians killed in Nagasaki.

The devastation caused by these bombings has been imprinted in many people’s minds not only in Japan but also around the world. During the Cold War, many people in the United States and Western Europe live in fear of what they thought might be a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union as a result of an escalation in the conflict between the USA and the USSR. But, in the decades following Einstein’s theories, nuclear energy has been used for creating electricity.

The lesson of the Cold War is that against nuclear weapons, only nuclear weapons can hold the peace. – Chung Mong-joon

What Are The Pros of Nuclear Energy?

Despite people’s fears, there are many advantages of nuclear power.

Nuclear Energy Pros:

  • Does not emit large amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
  • Consistent and reliable energy source
  • Allows countries to become energy independent
  • Low operating costs once setup

In a time where many people rightly worry about global warming, it must be said that nuclear power contributes very little to it. Why? Because its generation only produces relatively little carbon dioxide (CO2). So, if you are concerned about the environment and, specifically, global warming, then you should consider that nuclear power is less of a polluter than other sources of energy, such as, for example, fossil fuels.

Another important advantage of nuclear power is that we are now technological experts. What this means is that we have already developed all the necessary technology for nuclear power generation. So there is no need to do any further research or invest for it as all the necessary technology to generate this kind of energy is already widely available.The final important advantage of nuclear power is that just one single nuclear plant can generate high quantities of electrical energy. So, at least, in terms of space, there are advantages of generating nuclear power. 

What Are The Cons of Nuclear Energy?

There are, of course, several important disadvantages to nuclear energy.

Nuclear Energy Cons:

  • Environmental impact of radioactive waste
  • Requires mining and refining uranium and transporting it to plant
  • Radioactive waste disposal
  • Potential for deadly and costly nuclear disasters
  • High initial cost to develop nuclear plant
  • Limited by availability of uranium
  • Can be precursor to nuclear weapons

The main con is what to do with radioactive waste. The problem is that the generation of nuclear energy creates highly dangerous radioactive waste. Radioactive waste needs to be kept in a safe place for many thousands of years after it has been produced.

The issue of nuclear waste cannot be underestimated. Radioactive waste can lethal for human beings and any other life forms. They cannot be disposed of safely but they need to watched over and kept somewhere safe enough so it does not affect the environment.

A related issue is that increasing radioactive waste could be used to create new lethal nuclear weapons. This is the flipside of this widely available technology. Why? Because the same technology that is used to generate energy in a nuclear plant can also be used to create nuclear weapons.

But this is not the only security consideration that needs to be made. Nuclear energy is potentially dangerous. This is why nuclear plants are built with the highest possible security standards. But everyone can remember nuclear accidents, most notably the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

The reason why nuclear plant disasters have continued to happen is that it is impossible to build a nuclear plant that is completely safe. So there is always a risk, albeit, small of disaster. As the number of nuclear plants grows, the possibility of future nuclear disasters also logically increases.

Another hugely important disadvantage of nuclear energy is the scarcity of its source. If current demand continues, it is estimated that Uranium resources will not last for more than 30 years approximately. The only solution to this would be setting up more nuclear plants but this is not practical in the next 30 years as there is no time to do so in just a few decades.

The disadvantages of generating nuclear power do outnumber the advantages. However, there are some powerful reasons why many people think nuclear power is the answer. The problem is not only that the cons outnumber the pros, but that all of the disadvantages are extremely serious.

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7 Comments

  • I wonder if the writer of this article did his research on nuclear waste. The so called waste consists for a large part of reusable nuclear fuel, which can be reprocessed. Most other countries (Russia, China, France, UK) do this, leaving very little real waste that is radioactive for only a few hundred years. The US chooses not to reprocess, because it is slightly more expensive than new nuclear fuel.

    Also the mentioned shortage of nuclear fuel is not true. Through reprocessing there will be fuel for hundreds of years. Also new fuel can be breeded in new reactors. And uranium can also be extracted from seawater.

  • “All mass is made up of tiny atoms. Most atoms are located in the nucleus (or center) of mass. The rest of mass is distributed in a cloud of electrons that floats around the nucleus. The atoms in the nucleus are subdivided into neutrons and protons.”

    Who wrote this? I think they meant to say particles not atoms.

  • Over 95% of nuclear waste can be recycled to be used as more fuel or to be processed as medical isotopes. It is a major shame that in the U.S. nuclear waste is not recycled. New nuclear power technologies such as Molten Salt Reactors(MSRs) produce no waste as the fuel is dissolved and recycled continuously. As the previous comment suggests, the 30 year life span of existing nuclear fuel is far from accurate.

    Saying that the cons outnumber the advantages is not backed by very little in your argument. Every power plant on the entire planet is dangerous. Not to mention the oil industry having several catastrophes (remember BP). Further more the plethora of coal mining incidents has led to a far more amounts of deaths than in the nuclear industry. Coal plants release 60x more radioactive material than nuclear plants in the form of Radium. The coal industry is not regulated by radioactive release so they are free to release as much as they want as long as they keep within CO2 limits. In the U.S., there has been one death from a nuclear facility and that was due to user error and possible foul play.

  • The pro’s are significantly understated and disproportionately weighed against the cons. First the pro; burning fossil fuel in North America kills over 34,000 every year according to the US EPA. Nuclear power and its waste products have never killed a single person in North America, ever. Insert mike drop here….
    Now for the con; yes, nuclear power produces waste but its the only base load producer that sequesters its waste. Fossil fuel just spreads its waste around the globe, killing the planet. Nuclear waste is not a technical problem but a social and political problem. The technology and means are there, just not the will. Uranium is plentiful and inexpensive which makes it uneconomical compared to reprocessing (about 5 times the cost).
    So, the simple truth is that large scale nuclear power is our best hope to reduce global warming. Unfortunately politicians and anti-nuclear organisations have put us on a course toward climate change.

    P.S., Showing pictures of nuclear weapons testing only stokes fear in the uninformed. Bad choice…

  • The concluding paragraph is completely unjustified. A couple of additional points are: Germany and France provide a useful comparison. Germany is moving away from nuclear; France relies primarily on nuclear. Germany has the worst air quality (in Europe) and the highest electricity prices. The reverse characterizes France. Second, what alternatives to nuclear do we have? Renewables are available only ~1/3 of the time. What are the CO2-free alternatives for the remaining 2/3? Storage is (and will be) too expensive. Finally, no one in Fukushima died from radiation. Thousands drowned, and ~1500 died from the unwarranted evacuation.
    An especially good summary of the issues is Michael Shellenberger’s TED talk in Berlin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciStnd9Y2ak).
    Art Williams, PhD

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