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A Comprehensive Guide on Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is that energy stored within the nucleus of an atom and is used in producing electricity. However, before the energy can be used, it must first be released. The enormous amount of energy stored within the bonds that hold the atoms together is released by means of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. If you are interested to know more, read this comprehensive article about all the important things you need to know.

What Is It?

nuclear plant

As previously mentioned, nuclear energy is that energy within the nucleus or the core of an atom. Atoms are small particles that make up each and every object here in the universe. There is an enormous amount of energy that bonds or hold the atoms altogether.

Nuclear energy can be possibly used to produce electricity. However, the energy must first be released. It can be released from the atoms in two ways, and as mentioned, these are by means of nuclear fission and fusion.

In the process of nuclear fission, the atoms are being split apart in order to produce smaller atoms, thereby releasing the needed energy. On the other hand in nuclear fusion, the energy is released if the atoms are combined or fused altogether in order to come up with a larger atom, which is similar to how the sun will process energy. Most power plants use the process of fission in producing electricity.

The process of producing electricity from the nuclear reactor is pretty much similar to most types of reactor, however the only difference is that the chain reaction is being used in order to produce heat. As mentioned, most of the power plants would produce electricity by means of nuclear fission. A nuclear power reactor will make use of uranium rods as a nuclear fuel in order to generate heat that will be used in generating electricity.

Water and carbon dioxide will then be used in order to take the heat away and to produce steam as well as generate electricity in the process. The steam will then operate the turbine that will drive the generators.

Check out this video from Kurzgesagt

Interesting Facts

nuclear power plant

To help broaden your knowledge about nuclear power, here are some interesting facts that you may want to know. Here’s another link.

  • In the year 1905, Albert Einstein has discovered that mass can change into energy and vice versa. In the year 1918, Ernest Rutherford has shown that atoms can be split and in the year 1942, the world has its first ever nuclear reactor.
  • These days, there are 104 nuclear plants that supply about 20 percent of the overall electricity in the United States. The oldest one have already been operating since the year 1979.
  • Although the power plants will not create sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide, the process of enrichment, mining and transportation of uranium will end up generating byproducts of harmful fossil fuels.
  • All over the word, there are more than 430 commercial nuclear power reactors scattered in 31 different countries.
All over the word, there are more than 430 commercial nuclear power reactors scattered in 31… Click To Tweet
  • The world’s first ever-nuclear power plant to generate electricity was the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant that opened in June of 1957.
  • Contaminated food is still being sold in the Ukraine right after the Chernobyl power plant accident and one worker has said that contaminated meat is being sent in the factory where the internal organs of the cattle are black and rotten, yet the meat is still being sold.
  • Currently, the nuclear waste in the US is being stored at cooling pools of water in dry storage casks inside the power plants. The US government however has hoped to bury all the waste underground in the Yucca Mountain of Nevada. Residents that live in the surrounding area have protested such proposal.
  • It has been estimated that there are about three million Americans who live within ten miles of a fully functional nuclear power plant.
  • A nuclear power plant is required to be shut down after every 18 to 24 months in order to remove the used uranium fuel and radioactive waste.
  • South Africa has developed complete nuclear weapons during the 1980s, but they also became the first ever country in the world to destroy voluntarily their weapon supply and to stop the production of more weapons.
  • Initially, the peace symbol was used to signify anti-nuclear weapons.
  • Some groups of scientists have estimated that each person receives up to five times as much radiation in his or her lifetime while sitting right in front of a computer or television.
  • The sun produces a hefty amount of energy as a result of its nuclear reactions that changes hydrogen to helium. With this process, the sun loses more than four million tons of mass in every second.
  • The government regulators in the United States have estimated that there is about a fifty percent chance of a core meltdown in the US reactor in a 20-year period.

Is It Renewable?

light bulb

Renewable energy, as you know, is the type of energy that is capable of regenerating more than it can indefinitely replenish itself. The five renewable sources that are used most often are wind, biomass, solar, hydro and geothermal. On the other hand, nuclear energy is a result of the heat that’s generated through the fission process of the atoms. All of the power plants will convert heat into electricity through steam.

Most of the supporters of nuclear energy will stress out its low carbon emission aspect as its main characteristic for it to be considered as renewable energy. However, according to the opponents, if the main purpose of the renewable energy infrastructure is to lower carbon emission, then there’s no reason why it is not included in that list.

Advantages

air balloons

Although using fossil fuels to produce electricity may not have any threat of a much bigger disaster, they might not be good for the environment especially since they emit unlimited amount of greenhouse gasses. Nuclear energy is not really dangerous for as long as it is managed properly. Here are more advantages of using nuclear energy.

  • Reliable – nuclear reactors provide for impressive base load electricity and they operate and produce power almost 90 percent of the time. The period in between refueling has substantially been extended and the downtime for refueling has also been minimized. For instance, in the United States, these enhancements through the years have been linked to building one reactor for every year into the existing ones. Most of the nuclear reactors are designed to work for more than 40 years.
  • No emission of greenhouse gases – nuclear reactors actually emit zero greenhouse gases. Although mining, enrichment, as well as construction and management of the uranium waste will involve the emission of greenhouse gases, the total emissions are lower as compared to the emissions coming from fossil fuels.
  • Competitive cost – the overall cost of nuclear power is both stable and competitive. On the other hand, the cost of power that’s generated by the fossil fuels will basically depend on the market. If the market is good, then the cost of oil will also be stable. On the other hand, if the market is volatile, then the cost of oil may either plummet or shoot up.
  • Nuclear energy is compact – usually, nuclear power stations are compact and this means that it could cover an area that is similar to the size of a stadium, including its surroundings. Solar cells, wind turbines, as well as the growing biomass will all need a massive land area.
  • Modern day nuclear plants are safe – the developers of the modern day plants have learned from the past disasters, such as in Japan and the Chernobyl. Thus, the current power plants do not mainly depend on the external electricity supplies or the external water supplies for the purpose of cooling. Instead, they will make use of the water that’s fed by gravity, as well as gas pressurized water, and the natural heat exchangers. These types of systems are called the passive safety systems. Moreover, another advantage to this is that the reactors can be possibly installed underground, providing for an added insulation from any unauthorized access and other external hazards.
  • Cost of operation is low – although the overall cost of setting up a power plant is high, the electricity that is produced after its setup is really cheap. To begin with, the cost of uranium, which is the raw material used for the production, is not that expensive. If the plant is already up and running, the overall maintenance cost will hardly be felt. Even though market shifts will occur and the cost of uranium will shoot up, the overall effect on the cost of the nuclear power will not be felt.
  • Powerful and efficient – another main advantage of using nuclear energy is that it is really powerful and efficient as compared to some other alternative energy sources. The advancement in technologies has made this a more viable option compared to others and this is the reason why many countries will not mind putting huge investments on nuclear power. Currently, a small portion of the world’s electricity will usually come from it.

Disadvantages

Although there are lots of advantages that come with nuclear energy, it also has its own fair share of disadvantages and here are some of them.

  • Nuclear radiation accidents – the radioactive waste that comes from the power plants has been known to be a great threat to nature and the humans. The devastating effects of the Japan nuclear disaster and the Chernobyl still linger to our minds, wherein grave effects on humans can be seen up until today. According to reports, about 30,000 people died in the Chernobyl disaster alone and millions are still dealing with the health tribulations as a result of such disaster.
  • Radioactive waste – this is any type of material, whether solid, liquid and gas, that consists of radioactive nuclear substance, where the operators of the plant have determined this to be a waste. The radioactive material will be considered waste right after it has spent more than three years in the reactor producing electricity and heat. This waste came from the nuclear reactors and must be disposed or stored safely since they are highly dangerous and could let off radiations if they are not disposed properly.
  • Requires high initial cost of capital – another disadvantage of using the nuclear energy is that it will require huge amount of money for the initial setup of a power station. Indeed, building a plant will require a massive outlay of capital. For instance, between the year 2002 and 2008, the overall cost of building a new power plant has increased from $2 billion to $4 billion for every unit and up to a staggering $9 billion for every unit.
  • Eutrophication can lead to the death of aquatic life – eutrophication refers to the extensive enrichment of a lake as well as other water bodies by nutrients, usually due to runoff from land. The process will lead to a dense growth of plant life that will eventually lead to the death of aquatic life because of the lack of oxygen. Radioactive waste will usually cause this problem. A lot of seminars have taken place all over the world in order to look for a solid solution for this problem, although a solution has not been found yet.
  • Impact on humans – the impact of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear bombs during the World War II, is still rife in the memories of most people. Up until today, the effects of the bombs can still be felt. Several kids in Japan were born with defects, which makes the nuclear power plant to be more dangerous especially in this age wherein terrorism threat is everywhere.
  • National risk – nuclear energy has also provided humans the power to produce more weapons instead of producing things that can help to make the world to become a better place to live. We’ve become more responsible and careful in using nuclear energy in order to avoid any catastrophic accidents. Security is therefore a major concern here. A little lax on security can prove to be lethal for humans and the entire universe.

Why Do We Use Uranium?

uranium

The nuclear plants in the US are said to provide about 20 percent of the overall electricity that the country needs each year. The nuclear plants based in France supplies about 77 percent of the electricity that the country needs each year. So you might ask what abundance from Earth these power plants need in order to produce power? The answer to this question is uranium and here is why uranium is ideal for nuclear power.

Nuclear fission takes place if one atom will split into two, which leads to the creation of energy. Spontaneous fission will occur all the time. Uranium will undergo fission at a slow rate and will end up emitting radiation. The reason why uranium is suitable for producing nuclear power is because it naturally decays through a process known as the alpha radiation.

This means that it will release an alpha particle, which consists of two neutrons and two protons that are connected together. Another reason why uranium is ideal for producing nuclear power is that unlike other materials, uranium could undergo induced fission. If the free neutron will collide with the nucleus of uranium, the nucleus will end up capturing the neutron and will split fairly quickly. The splitting will release about 200 million electron volts of power.

Does It Pollute The Air?

A lot of people are wondering if nuclear energy can cause pollution. The answer is yes, it does. In fact, the effects of nuclear pollution are more dangerous that one could ever think of.

Radiation is the term that refers to the waves caused by electromagnetism as well as high-energy particles. The most popular electromagnetic waves are light, radio waves, infrared rays, X-rays, UV rays and Gamma rays. These waves are well known and are extensively used in the field of industry, communication, research and medicine.

Radioactive substances tend to have high-energy particles and consist of tiny bits of matter made to move at an extremely high speed, thereby releasing nuclear radiation. There are about 50 radioactive substances that are naturally occurring and more than 200 are manmade ones. Moreover, there are three different kinds of radiation and these are the beta particles, gamma radiation and alpha particles. Basically, nuclear pollution refers to the contamination of the atmosphere as a result of radiation as well as radioactive particles.

The effects of nuclear pollution can be seen in each and every organism in the environment, from plants, bacteria to human beings. Nothing will be spared. In fact, fetuses are also affected with cancers and birth defects. They might also be born with a very short life span.

Nuclear energy is one of the best sources of energy, which is not only inexpensive, but extensive too. With only small amount of fuel, a large amount of energy will be generated. Although there have been mishaps in the past regarding the wrongful use of nuclear power, there is still a huge potential for it. Any of the well intentioned effort must first be backed by good research, proper back-up and well-designed plans The safety of the people and the environment should always come first when it comes to the use of nuclear power energy.

How Much Energy Does a Nuclear Power Plant Produce?

energy illustration

As of December 2016, there are said to be 99 nuclear reactors operating at 61 plants all over the United States. The R.E. Ginna that’s based in New York is considered the smallest ever nuclear plant in the country and it consists of one reactor having an electricity generating capacity of just 508 megawatts. On the other hand, the Palo Verde nuclear power plant that’s based in Arizona consists of a total of three reactors and is said to have the biggest combined electricity capacity of around 3.937 megawatts.

The amount of electricity that the power plant will generate mainly depends on the time it will take to operate a certain capacity. For instance, the R.E. Ginna reactor will operate at 508-megawatt capacity for up to 24 hours and generates 12,192-megawatt hours. Most of the power plants do not operate in a full capacity each hour of every day for the whole year.

Most the traditional baseline energy products, such as the coal, nuclear, natural gas, as well as thermal solar, produces energy by means of heat. Technologies that lose less heat while in the process of producing energy are considered the most efficient.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas is considered to have the highest efficiency of around 43 percent by the year 2015. Oil, coal and nuclear plants are just around 33 percent, with nuclear taking on a slight lead.

In the latest Energy Review, the EIA has reported that the efficiencies of the conversion of renewables are much lower than that. The report has placed wind to be at 26 percent. Thermal solar is at 21 percent while solar is at 12 percent. But these figures are cited in 2011 and this means that the energy has greatly improved a lot since then.

For example, in the year 2016, the First Solar has announced that they produced a PV solar cell, which is capable of running 22.1 percent efficiency, which is a new record. However, it’s not scalable just yet and the company noted that its mass production lines are making panels that will ran in just 16.4 percent at that time and it has believed that the number can increase up to 19.5 percent this year.

The problem is that the figures stated above are not yet the norm. And even if the biggest efficiency technologies are scalable, the conditions are rarely perfect.  Thus, given this new distinction, it seems that nuclear is still the highest contender in terms of clean energy.

When Was It First Used?

The first ever-atomic device was tested successfully in New Mexico last July 1945. The device made use of the plutonium made out of a nuclear pile. The teams did not consider it a necessity to test a much simpler uranium device. The first atomic bomb that contains U-235, was dropped in Hiroshima last August 6,1945. The second bomb that contains the PU-239 was dropped in Nagasaki three days after.

In the course of producing nuclear weapons, the West and the Soviet Union have acquired a wide range of new technologies and a team of scientists realized the tremendous heat that’s produced during the process could be tapped either for generating electricity or direct use. It’s also clear that this form of energy will allow for the development of long lasting power sources that could be used for other applications.

The first ever nuclear reactor to generate electricity, although only a trivial amount, was the small experimental breeder reactor that was designed by the Argonne National Laboratory in Idaho. Such reactor started up in December of 1951.

History

In order to explain the history behind nuclear energy, it is best to distinguish the three major stages involved. First would be the physical and chemical scientific studies of the elements. Second is the development of the nuclear bomb in World War II and third was the use of nuclear energy to generate power.

Seeing the danger of these weapons, the government has started to establish treaties in order to regulate the use of nuclear in the civil field. It is then at this moment that the first nuclear power plant for the production of electricity started to appear.

An experimental liquid and metal cooled reactor done in Idaho, that requires attaching the ER-I into a generator in the year 1951, is what led to the production of the very first nuclear generated electricity. However, before the civilian nuclear power plants really came to the picture, Admiral Rickover has pushed for the use of reactors in order to power up submarines, which allows them not to refuel from time to time, nor use oxygen for combustion.

The USS Nautilus has launched in 1954 the first ever-nuclear powered submarine. Thereafter, the Soviet Union has opened the very first nonmilitary electricity-producing rector. Based on the reactor design of the submarine, the Shippingport reactor has opened in the year 1957, which was known as the first commercial reactor in the United States.

What is Nuclear Waste and Types?

As with any industry, the generation of electricity will also lead to the production of waste. Regardless of the fuel that is being used, the waste produced from the generation of the electricity should be managed well, and in ways that will safeguard the health of the people while also minimizing the impact it has in the environment.

For the radioactive waste, managing the waste will require isolating and diluting it in such a way that the rate and the concentration of the radionuclides returned into the biosphere are not harmful. In order to achieve this, almost all of the radioactive waste must be contained and managed well, with some waste clearly needing permanent and deep burial. For the generation of nuclear power, unlike some other forms of the generation of thermal electricity, all waste have to be regulated and none will be allowed that could lead to pollution.

There are several different types of radioactive waste and most of them include any kind of material that’s either intrinsically radioactive or was contaminated through radioactivity and is therefore deemed of no use. Government policies will dictate whether certain materials, like nuclear fuel and plutonium will be categorized as waste. Here’s how the wastes are categorized:

  • Low level waste – also, categorized as LLW, this type of waste contains radioactive content that will not exceed up to 4 GBq/t of the alpha activity or at 12 GBq/t. The low level waste will not require shielding during the handling and transportation of the waste and is suitable to be disposed at near surface facilities.
  • Intermediate level waste – also known as the ILW, the intermediate level waste is more radioactive as compared to the low level waste. However, the heat that it generates will not be sufficient to be taken into account on the design and selection of storage and disposal facilities. Because of its higher levels of radioactivity, ILW will require some shielding.
  • High-level waste – also called the HLW, the high level waste is sufficiently radioactive due to its decay heat, as the temperature and that of its surroundings will increase significantly. Because of this, this waste will require cooling and shielding. These wastes result from burning the uranium fuel at a nuclear reactor.
  • Very low-level waste – the exempt waste as well as the VLLW or very low-level waste, contains radioactive materials in a level that is not considered harmful to the environment and humans. These wastes consist mainly of demolished materials, like bricks, concrete, plastic, metal, valves and piping during the rehabilitation or the dismantling process within the nuclear industrial sites. Other industries, like food processing, steel and chemicals also produce these kinds of waste as a result of the concentration of the natural radioactivity that’s found on certain minerals that were used in the manufacturing.

Why Are Waste Products a Problem?

The challenges of making the nuclear power safer will not end after the power has been produced. Nuclear fuel remains to be a dangerously radioactive material even for thousands of years even after it is deemed not useful as a commercial reactor. The resulting problem on water disposal has resulted to a major challenge faced by the government.

Usually, when the waste is disposed, it is placed into containers made of steel and is then placed inside a cylinder that’s made of concrete. These protective layers can help to prevent the radiation from going outside, causing harm in the atmosphere and the surroundings near the nuclear waste. It is a relatively inexpensive and easy process of containing hazardous materials and will actually not need any special transportation or stored in a special place. However, there are also a number of dangers that will surround the nuclear waste disposal.

First of all, the products of the nuclear fission only have a long half-lives, and this means that they will continue to remain radioactive and thus, it will remain hazardous even for a thousand of years. Thus, if anything is going to happen in the waste cylinders where the waste will be stored, such material can become extremely volatile as well as dangerous even for so many years to come.

In addition, another problem in nuclear waste disposal is the issue on storage. Various methods have been talked about all throughout the history, where only few is being implemented due to the problematic nature of storing these hazardous materials that will remain radioactive even for a thousand of years.

Another concern when it comes to the waste is the disposal of the hazardous materials, which might have impact on the animals, humans and even plant life. Although most of the time, the waste is sealed well inside huge drums made of concrete and steel, but sometimes, accidents cannot be avoided and leaks could occur. Nuclear waste will have drastic effects on life, and might even lead to cancerous growths, for instance, causing genetic problems for the many generations of plants and animals.

Disposal of the Waste

The LLW, or low-level radioactive waste, is normally sent to land based disposal immediately after it’s packaged and used for long term management. This means that for most of the waste types that are generated through nuclear technologies, a satisfactory means of disposal is being developed and being implemented all over the world.

For used fuel that is categorized as HLW, or high-level waste, the first step is to allow the decay of the radioactivity and heat, which makes handling much safer. The storage for used fuel might be in dry casks or ponds, either centrally or at reactor sites. Aside from storage, several options are also being investigated that will seek to provide for a publicly acceptable, environmentally sound and safe solutions for the management and disposal of radioactive waste. The most preferred solution will be a deep geological disposal and the focus is on where and how the facilities are going to be constructed.

Used fuel that’s not intended for disposal might instead be re-processed in order to recycle the plutonium and the uranium that’s found in it. Some of the separated high-level waste arises during the re-processing of the fuel, which is vitrified in glass and then stored in a container, pending the final disposal.

Some countries are already at the preliminary stage of the consideration of disposal for the intermediate and high-level waste, while others, like Sweden and Finland, are already making good progress in the selection of publicly acceptable sites for the future disposal of the radioactive wastes.

Half Life

Radioactive isotopes will eventually disintegrate or decay, and may end up becoming harmless materials. Some of the isotopes will decay in a matter of hours and even minutes, although others will decay at a slow pace. For instance, cesium-137 and strontium-90 have half-lives of about thirty years and half the radioactivity could decay in the next 30 years. Moreover, plutonium-239 has a half-life of about 24,000 years.

High-level wastes are considered hazardous since they produce radiation that could lead to fatal consequences during only a short period of direct exposure. For instance, ten years right after it is removed from the reactor, the dose rate of a typically spent fuel assembly will exceed 10,000 rem/hour, which is far greater than the fatal whole body dose for humans.

Reprocessing will separate the residual plutonium and uranium from fission products. They can then be used again for fuel. Most of the high level waste that’s generated over the past 35 years will have come from the reprocessed fuel from the plutonium production reactors owned by the government and from research, naval and test reactors.

How Much Nuclear Waste Is Produced?

energy illustration

The volume of the highly radioactive waste that’s being produced by the nuclear industry is relatively small. It has been estimated that about 3170 thousand metric tons of heavy metal that comes in the form of used fuel are being discharged since the very first nuclear power plants started operation. From this, the agency has estimated that 120,000 metric tons of heavy metal has been re-processed, and with proper balance, 250,000 metric tons of heavy metal, will be in storage.

The IAEA has further estimated that the disposal volume of the 250,000 MTHM of high-level waste that’s currently in storage will be about 22,000m3. For this context, this is the volume that is roughly equivalent to about a three-meter tall building that can cover an area that is the same size as a soccer pitch.

The amount of intermediate, low level and very low level of waste produced is in greater volume. However, they are much less radioactive. Given the lower inherent radioactivity, much of the produced waste that will be classified as LLW and VLLW, has already been placed into disposal. The IAEA has estimated that more than 80 percent of all the LLW and the VLLW produced up until today has been placed in disposal. For the ILW, the agency has estimated that about 20 percent of this is in disposal, where the balance is in storage.

All of the hazardous waste will require proper management and careful disposal, not only the radioactive wastes.

Plant Accidents

Serious accidents concerning nuclear plant are common. Knowing their stories can help to prevent any future catastrophes.

  • Fukushima Daiichi – the earthquake that triggered a tsunami in Japan last March of 2011 has led to a serious accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, located in the northeastern coast of Japan. The earthquake has cut off the reactors’ external power while the tsunami has disabled the backup generators, which crippled the reactor cooling system of the power plant. As a result, the radiation released has contaminated a wide area near the plant and forced an evacuation of almost half a million residents.
  • Chernobyl – the accident in Chernobyl is hailed as the worst nuclear disaster in the world, which took place in April of 1986, when a sudden surge of power in the reactor system resulted in an explosion and fire, which destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power plant. The disaster resulted because of the worker’s inability to implement adequate safety measures and they failed to alert the operators on the risks involved in the electrical test they conducted.
  • Three Mile Island – the partial meltdown that took place at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 is said to be one of the most serious nuclear accidents in the US although it only resulted in the release of small radioactive releases. The accident started with a failure in the non-nuclear secondary system and then followed by the human operated relief valve at the primary system, which stuck open and allowed for a large amount of the nuclear reactor coolant to escape.
  • Enrico Fermi Unit 1 – this accident happened at the Frenchtown Charter Township in the state of Michigan last October 1966, when a blockage of the coolant flow in the two fuel channels resulted to the partial meltdown a couple of fuel assemblies taking place at Unit 1. The Fermi Unit 1 is actually the country’s first and the only commercially operated liquid metal fast breeder reactor. The vibrations caused certain components within the reactor vessel to loosen, which end up in the blocking of the coolant flow. Workers have not noticed this occurrence until such time that the core temperature alarms have sounded.

Can Nuclear Waste Be Reused?

One of the biggest challenges that the nuclear power industry is faced with is in trying to fire out what can be done with all the waste it generated. Radioactive leftovers are piling up for decades now and it has become clear that the controversial repository based in the Yucca Mountain of Nevada is not going to solve the problem easily. The capacity of the site is only 70,000 metric tons, and such amount is expected to grow to about 2,000 tons every year.

In order to overcome the problems on the increasing nuclear waste, former President Bush has unveiled a project that involves building a commercial scale facility that could recycle all those toxic nuclear leftovers and convert them into fuel for the next generation reactors.

With the help of the GNEP, the Dept. of Energy is providing millions of dollars to the industry, including universities and federal labs for the development of the technology needed for the first ever nuclear waste recycling facilities in America, that is expected to be up and running by the year 2025.

Reprocessing used fuel and separating the different radioactive elements so that others can be used is not really a new concept. UK and France, for instance, have been operating such recycling facilities for more than a decade now and in 2006, Japan has decided to switch on a plant. As a matter of fact, the DOE has researched about this, but it was banned in 1970s for fear that the separated plutonium might lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Alternatives

solar panel

Because of the danger that the nuclear power plant brings, people have been searching for alternative sources of fuel as well as power that will be safer and much less harmful for the environment. Some of these alternatives have been around for generations and among them are the solar power, thorium, natural gas and hydrogen.

  • Solar power – solar power is an abundant and arguably one of the best-known sources of alternative energy. The most common process of harnessing solar energy is with the use of solar panels that will convert sunlight into electricity and will then be distributed for public consumption. Another potential use of the solar power is in producing transport fuel for the use of trucks and automobiles.
  • Thorium – a lot of countries have already taken the lead in promoting thorium as an alternative source of energy. China in fact has just announced that they will pursue the development of a molten salt nuclear reactor that will make use of thorium as its fuel. India is also considering Thorium as an energy source at the phase three of its Nuclear Power Program, which they have adopted since the 1960s.
  • Natural Gas – natural gas can also be an alternative source of fuel and comes with various advantages over oil, which is the typical fossil fuel that’s refined to be used for gasoline. Natural gas can only emit less carbon as well as other harmful pollutants into air once it is burned, and thus, has seen a huge increase in supply in the US.

Natural gas that’s used for transport fuel can come in the form of CNG or compressed natural gas or LNG or liquefied natural gas. CNG is cheaper, with an average selling price of $1.15 less than gasoline.

  • Hydrogen – another alternative source for fuel is hydrogen, which may be used along with a fuel cell in order to provide transport. Hydrogen can be burned clean and can be domestically produced, and can be three times more efficient compared to a typical gas-powered engine. Hydrogen can also be produced in various processes that includes from biomass, fossil fuels or electrolyzing water. In order to get the most benefit from hydrogen, the best thing to do is to use other renewable energy sources in producing hydrogen.