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Using Nuclear Power As an Energy Source

Eric Gehler
 


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The thought of nuclear power still bring images to mind of the Cold War, the Chernobyl accident in the mid-1980's and the proliferation of destructive weapons. We remember the recent past well. Those images are hard to dispel. So, it's understandable if the public approaches the idea of building nuclear facilities with caution. But, nuclear power is being used today to produce a relatively low-cost source of energy. There are significant benefits (and a few drawbacks) of doing so. In this article, you'll discover what those advantages and disadvantages are. We'll also briefly discuss the future of nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

Advantages Of Nuclear Power

One of the main advantages of using nuclear power is that producing energy through it is less expensive than using our rapidly depleting inventory of fossil fuels. This is due, in part, to the high levels of energy released by nuclear fission (splitting the nucleus of an atom). It's also due to the availability and relative low-cost of uranium. It's estimated that uranium reserves throughout the world are sufficient to last over 100 years.

Another benefit is that the process of converting nuclear power into usable electricity doesn't release greenhouse gases into the environment. Even other alternative energy sources such as solar and wind energy release small quantities of greenhouse gas.

Disadvantages Of Nuclear Power

The cost to build and maintain a nuclear facility is substantial. That means that while nuclear power offers significant cost savings in energy production, it can take years to recoup the initial investment in the facility. Another drawback is that converting nuclear power into usable electricity results in significant nuclear waste. Storage of this waste is problematic because it involves political concessions. Because the political environment can be volatile and unpredictable, decisions made during one administration may be overruled or changed during a subsequent administration.

The Future Of Nuclear Power For Energy

Some claim that the lack of new nuclear facilities being built is a clear signal that the world is moving away from using nuclear power as an alternative energy source. But, that perspective may be short-sighted. In truth, substantial investment continues to be poured into the research of nuclear power. As the costs of using fossil fuels to generate usable power climbs and global warming becoming an ever-present topic of concern, many industry experts expect demand for low-cost, environmentally friendly nuclear power will grow.

Major countries such as Japan, India and the United States are aggressively pursuing the use of nuclear power as an energy source. In fact, Japan recently (in 2005) finalized construction on a new nuclear facility, displaying their dedication to its potential. As we deplete our current reserves of fossil fuels, it's likely that nuclear power will become more prevalent as an alternative energy source.

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