Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?
Nuclear energy is by no means new, with the first nuclear power plant dating back to 1954. But, there are still many misconceptions around nuclear energy, including the issue of renewability.
Nuclear energy is a powerful energy source with years of data to back it. But, is it renewable? And more importantly, is it worth it?
What is nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy as a power source dates back to the first nuclear power plant, built in 1954 in the Soviet Union. But, the study of nuclear energy goes back more than 100 years. What began as the study of atoms, eventually led to the development of the nuclear bomb, and then the harnessing of nuclear energy for power.
Nuclear energy, as far as power and electricity in general are concerned, is both simple and complex at the same time. Nuclear energy is produced through nuclear fission. This is the practice of splitting atoms to produce heat.
But, these split atoms aren’t simply funneled into power lines.
How do nuclear power plants produce energy?
While nuclear power is far more complex than coal, solar, wind, or just about any other power source available, the end result is the same.
Nuclear power plants produce energy by creating heat through nuclear fission. This heat creates steam, much like coal produces steam in a coal power plant, or natural gas produces steam in a natural gas plant, and so on. The generated steam is used to spin turbines, which then power a generator and create electricity.
Essentially, nuclear power plants produce energy in a similar manner to other power sources, with the source being the main differentiator.
Is nuclear energy renewable?
The debate over nuclear as renewable is an old one that continues to carry on today. Much like the science behind nuclear power, the issue of renewability is a complicated one.
Nuclear energy requires uranium, a metallic mineral found in the Earth. Like other minerals, uranium is finite and will eventually run out. But, unlike fossil fuels, uranium deposits are far more plentiful. In fact, some estimate there’s enough uranium to generate power for another five billion years. However, that’s still not infinite, which is where many argue nuclear isn’t renewable.
So, while nuclear technically isn’t renewable, it does have a ways to go before the planet runs out of uranium. But, there are still several big disadvantages that make nuclear less than ideal.
What are the disadvantages of nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy is a complicated power source, and being such, it has some complex issues working against it.
- Nuclear waste: While nuclear power uses steam like other energy types, there’s a lot of hazardous byproducts created. Nuclear waste is highly toxic, and difficult to responsibly dispose of. This makes it a risk to the environment, and those working around it.
- Nuclear meltdown: Nuclear is fairly stable, but in the event of a nuclear meltdown the aftermath can be catastrophic. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is a famous example, and shows just how dangerous nuclear can be when things go awry.
- Risk to workers: Nuclear waste is incredibly toxic and dangerous, and as a result nuclear poses a threat to those working around it. For example, nuclear fuel rod waste can be fatal if direct exposure occurs for more than 10 seconds.
The disadvantages of nuclear largely boil down to potential risks. In a perfect world, nothing goes wrong. But, when things go wrong, they can go very wrong, resulting in a loss of human life, damage to the environment, and millions of dollars in recovery.
What are the advantages of nuclear energy?
While there are some significant disadvantages to nuclear, there are some positives as well.
- Nuclear produces few emissions: Unlike many non-renewable power sources, nuclear is fairly clean when it comes to emissions. The CO2 levels are almost negligible in many cases, meaning it does very little damage to the air and atmosphere.
- Nuclear is efficient: Nuclear is highly efficient, both in output and cost. While there are sizeable amounts of dangerous waste generated as a result, nuclear still manages to create a lot of energy at little financial cost.
- Nuclear runs 24/7: Nuclear doesn’t rely on wind or sun, and as a result it can run all the time. This allows it to provide nonstop power, with virtually no downtime. This is especially important for large metropolitan areas.
While nuclear comes with significant risks, it’s a disservice to downplay how efficient it can be. And yes, the waste produced is dangerous and hard to dispose of, but there is something to be said for how little it pollutes the actual air.
Nuclear energy: the way of the future, or thing of the past?
Nuclear energy is powerful and efficient, but is it the way of the future? According to some, more should be invested in nuclear. But, with the continuous growth and advancements in truly renewable energy, like solar or wind, many argue we should be backing off nuclear entirely.
Only time will tell if nuclear grows, or slows to a halt. At Phoenix Energy, we believe in using truly renewable energy sources whenever possible, and dream of a future where “going green” is simply the norm. If you’re interested in pursuing truly renewable, clean energy for your New York business, contact us to learn more about making a difference and going green.