Nuclear energy, also called atomic energy, originates from the nucleus, the core of an atom, made up of protons and neutrons. There are two ways to produce this type of energy: fission – when atom nuclei split into several parts – and fusion – when atom nuclei fuse together. Nuclear energy does not produce pollution, and one of its uses is in the production of electricity around the world. In today’s topic, we will talk about what is nuclear energy, how it is produced, and how it started.
What is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy also called atomic energy, it is released by processes that affect atomic nuclei, the denser cores of atoms. It is different from other atomic phenomena such as ordinary chemical reactions that involve only orbital electrons of atoms. A matter is made up of tiny particles called atoms; everything in the world is made up of atoms. An atom is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons but protons and neutrons make up the nucleus of an atom. So basically energy holds this nucleus together and besides, it contains a huge amount of energy. Moreover, this huge energy if taken out of the nucleus safely and can be used for many purposes. The energy which is inside the nucleus is called atomic energy.
How Nuclear Energy Is Produced and Utilized
The energy inside the atom can be obtained by nuclear fission, nuclear decay, and nuclear fusion. Commonly nuclear power is used to produce electricity with the help of nuclear fission.
- In Nuclear fusion, atoms are joined together to release energy and in nuclear fission, atoms are split apart.
- A nuclear power plant has the power to control this amount of energy and harness this energy to produce electricity.
- Nuclear power plants can’t handle nuclear fusion reactions inside safely so that is why nuclear fission is carried inside the plant.
- Nuclear fission is carried out inside nuclear reactors but with the help of nuclear fuels like uranium.
- A nuclear reactor splits the nucleus of atoms and thus starting a chain reaction across.
- The energy which is released from this chain reaction creates heat.
- Water is heated to produce steam which in turn spins the turbines. The spinning turbines are connected to a generator that creates electricity.
- In the year 2011 according to the reports, 15% of the world’s electricity is produced from nuclear power plants.
Nuclear Energy History
The idea of nuclear energy was given by physicist Enrico Fermi in 1930 and showed neutrons could split atoms. This Idea laid the foundation to work on the principle of atomic energy. Then in the year, 1938 discovery of nuclear fission occurred.
- Fermi in 1942 with the help of the first nuclear reactor in the world achieved the first successful nuclear chain reaction.
- In 1951 Electricity was produced from the nuclear plant.
- On the Commercial level, the first nuclear power plant was established in 1954.
- In 1954 nuclear submarines were put on the sea by U.S Navy.
- In 1954 first nuclear power plant which produced electricity for the grid was established in USSR
- From the year 1956 onwards focus has been on the establishment and improvements in the field of nuclear power plants.
Uses of Nuclear Energy/ Pros
The benefits of using atomic energy are not only in the production of electricity but in many other segments as well. The benefits are as follows:
- The most common use of atomic energy is in the production of electricity. Few nations derive almost all of their electricity from nuclear energy.
- Nuclear energy has significant use in space exploration programs. In the space discovery programs, both fission and fusion processes are used.
- In the medical field nuclear power is used in radioisotopes for the treatment of cancer. Furthermore, atomic energy is benefiting the medical department in sterilizing medical equipment.
- Atomic energy technologies are used in electric mobiles.
- In agriculture, nuclear energy is used in pesticides for sterilization processes, and to test foods for any health-related contaminations
- Nuclear got its main attention in history when it was first used in the making of nuclear weapons. Just in a few seconds, a nation can be destroyed with the power of atomic energy.
Environmental Impacts of Nuclear Energy/ Cons
Every energy out there has impacts on the environment either directly (like the usage of fossils) or indirectly (in wind energy).
- It’s evident that nuclear energy usage does not have a direct impact on nature. By direct it means that no emission of harmful gasses or greenhouse gasses while nuclear energy is used in the reactors.
- Indirectly, atomic energy has a serious impact on the environment. On the contrary nuclear energy has a serious impact on the environment indirectly. By using nuclear energy, by-products or wastes are produced, such as uranium mill tailings, used fuel, etc.
- Radioactive by-products remain radioactive for thousands of years and can be harmful to living things. Exposure to these radioactive wastes harms living creatures as well as future generations.
- Nuclear fuel can be directly used without emitting harmful gases; however, uranium can be obtained from the earth using various processes that are environmentally destructive.
- The mining and refining of uranium ore, reactor fuel, and huge amounts of metal used in power plants have an impact on the environment.
Future of Nuclear Energy
As a result of climatic change, developing nations have turned to atomic energy for their energy needs, which does not directly impact the environment. Nuclear power plants will play a crucial role in the future, according to environmentalists. Atomic energy needs both technical and innovative aspects to continue to play its role properly and sustainably. Nuclear technology advancements can reduce the burden of radioactive waste. Various international organizations are working on controlled fusion power that can generate a large amount of energy.
Since nuclear energy has both advantages and disadvantages in terms of its uses, it is undoubtedly a debatable topic. Due to its low carbon emissions, atomic energy is predicted to have a great future compared to other energy sources. With the growing need for electricity, it is possible that nations around the world will rely on nuclear power plants to meet their needs.