In our day to days living, we seem to ask ourselves about what is meant by the term "Nuclear Energy". Some will give the right concept of the nuclear energy but others will not. It all depends with the knowledge one has about the nuclear energy which is normally produced in two different ways whereby large nuclei are normally separated to emit the energy while the other way is whereby small nuclei are brought together to emit the energy. However, there are three nuclear reactions that one needs to understand in order to find the true meaning of nuclear energy. These concepts are such as fusion which is also termed as the natural means that are normally generated by the sun and other stars. In this process, the hydrogen atoms are combined together under very high temperatures to give the results of helium hence the release of energy. The second concept is fission a way of splitting the two forces of nucleus of uranium atom. This idea of fission is said to be used by all the reactors under the nuclear to make steam which is then used in turbines to generate electricity. The last concept is the decaying method, a process seen in such a manner that nuclear of an atom are split down into unwavering form of which when succeeded, there no more radiations that are emitted. With the three concepts in mind, one is able to understand and define the term "Nuclear Energy."
Nuclear energy or atomic energy can be viewed as the kind of power that is normally created by the reaction of nuclear. This concept of nuclear energy which of late gives the range of 11% and 18% of the worlds electricity needs and wants especially in the United States of America originated in 1896 when Henri Becquerel, a French physicist discovered that an ore which had radium and uranium in it, could make the photographic plates turn its color to dark or fogged. Through this electrons and the helium, nuclei were the only ones being released. Since then, nuclear energy has left a legacy of debates whereby the proponents like World Nuclear Association and IAEA have argued that, the nuclear energy is very important due to its sustainability hence minimizing the carbon emissions while Greenpeace International and NIRS believe that the consequences behind the nuclear energy can pose some danger or many threat to the people and the environment. This has led to concerns to most governments as they look for the means of controlling the economic growth and also whether it can also be the key thing to the global warming solutions or whether it has become worse by creating problems in the world and finally whether reactors for nuclear energy should be implemented or not.
With this on and off debates of nuclear energy, scientist have conquered that the effects of global warming have been experienced due to the increased emissions of greenhouse gases especially the carbon dioxide gas (CO2) whose lifetime is averagely estimated to be 50 to 200 years of which it has still encourage global warming due to its emission even though a bight future can be observed a head (El-Hinnawi, par 7). This can be achieved if only the emissions of the nuclear energy are reduced and by that, new means of other energy should be implemented such as the use of nuclear power plants instead of using the carbon dioxide emitting electrical generations' plants which are the coal, oil of even gas. Some governments especially the United Kingdom have also been in the fore front fighting against public funding demands to build new reactors so as to contest also for global warming of the nuclear energy. There fight is towards the nuclear energy that will provide great benefits to their nations especially business wise and economically.
In economic point of view many nations have been perceiving the idea of nuclear energy to be cheaper in the sense that nuclear power stations would turn out to be expensive than the fossil fuel plants and the issue of maintenance cost would turn out to be cheap, however all this has ended up in a shun. This is due to high cost of constructing the nuclear power plants. This nuclear power plants take longer to build before they are completed and some technical challenges do come on the way. Maintenance cost has also proved to be a barrier especially when it comes to safety measures in the nuclear power plants and replacement of breakdown equipments. The other factor that has led to non-implementation of these nuclear power plants is the cost of decommissioning the energy station which has also escalated. This can be observed in a United States example whereby no power house has been put up since 1978 after the launch of Pressurized Water Reactor design. This is because of the rise of construction and operational cost especially after the Three Mile Island accident which led to extra safety demands. This Pressurized Water Reactor design is believed to host more nuclear reactors in the world than any other country.
A part from the economy that is affecting the implementation of nuclear energy, the environment factor has also been on the high risk due to the nuclear energy despite the improvements in technology. For example, some nations can decide to put up nuclear power plants but in this case, how many of these nations would be able to meet the internationally agreed climate standards? Apart from the international standards, any nuclear power plant that needs to be constructed needs a large man-made lake where the waste flow will be discharged (Time for change, par 3). Even though these power plants are known not to emit carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides, the fossil fuel emissions which are associated with uranium mining and uranium enrichment does this hence affecting those leaving around since emissions from nuclear energy can affect ones health. The thermal discharges of maybe unused heat from fission in the nuclear may trigger health problems such as reproduction impact, growth, and survival of larval form in children and adults. Fishes, plankton and benthos can also be victims of being affected due to heat discharges from the power plants. Radioactive emission from these nuclear plants can also affect the public because of its iodized radiations which are being emitted.
The importance of the nuclear energy has been seen for quite some time since its inception even though they have been considered to pose some challenges which are the nuclear radiation risks due to accidents and the threats to the health. These challenges can be viewed in terms of reactors reaching the deadline they were manufactured and poor safety management. For instance, the 1986 Russia's, Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident which affected so many people by either killing them or getting some diseases such as thyroid cancers, affecting also livestock and the agricultural manufactures hence extending its wings to the U.K nevertheless leaving a caution to many nations (Paschoa, 67). If such a reaction occurs, it will definitely create negative impact. Production of nuclear weapons has also posed another challenge to many countries by becoming uncontrollable since if a war occurs or terrorist get the access to those weapons or the launching of those nuclear weapons becomes an accident, then the repercussions are worse.
With all the factor and effects being seen on the nuclear energy, some advantages or importance can also be observed are such as the production of electricity by nuclear power plants, less fuel needed by the nuclear power plants compared to those that burn remnant fuels, in nuclear power plants, there are no emissions of contaminants such as carbon dioxide or smoke to the environment compared to the coal oil burning which are know to pollute the environment/ air and finally, it can be reliable.
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With these advantages in place there are other things that contradicted them which were, in terms of the costs of which lots of capital for the case of nuclear power can be needed when it comes to emergencies, containment, radioactive waste and storage systems. Storage of nuclear for long has never been an easy task due to political instability in most of the nations. Incase of nuclear explosion, its radiations could cause human harm to the cells of the body which could contribute to diseases or even leading to death and finally, nuclear reactor are know not to last for more than fifty years.
However, having seen the importance of nuclear energy, its challenges and advantages of it, one remains to wonder how does it work? What are the processes that are involved? One needs to know that the nuclear energy has got some similarities fossil-burning processes even though the only difference is in the chain reaction which is normally found in the nuclear reactor that is used to produce the heat. This reactor uses 7% of Uranium rods as fuel and its here that the heat is generated through the means of nuclear fission. Here, the atoms are split by the use of nuclear reactors of which this atoms must be fissionable such as Uranium 235 (U235), Plutonium 239 and Uranium 238 of which only U235 does occurs naturally as the other isotopes are created in the U235's fission process, afterwards, energy in the form of heat is released. Carbon dioxide gas (600 degrees Celsius) which is known to be the best cooler and also reducing the risks of fire or water is then pumped through the reactor so as to cool the heat of which through this process, water is heated to make steam of which it is then transferred to the steam turbines in order to generate electricity which is then fed into a grid for domestic and industrial purposes.
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A part from the electricity production process for the domestic and industrial purposes, nuclear energy can also be processed in terms of production of fuel whereby the Uranium is created into the pellets of which are then direct into the rods. The rods are then placed in the reactor core for the purposes of neutron bombardment. Incase of replacements, especially when the fissionable materials have been used up, then there is need to open the reactor core, its pressure vessels that contains the fuel rods. This replacement is normally performed every one tot two years. A lot of caution also needs to be taken especially when it comes to the materials you want to use to come up with reactors because some of these materials might turn out to a health hazard to the environment. Fuel rods need to be handled with lots of care especially by the use of plastic gloves.
In the chain reaction, the neutrons are released from the nuclei during the process of nuclear fission of which they hit the other isotopes which then separated in turns hence the continuity of the process. What needs to be noted is that, when a chain reactor overheats, it may cause lots of damages to the reactor and the radioactivity may spill to the ground for instance the Russia's, Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident where it is known that during that incident, there were no separate protective buildings around the reactors house hence causing a lot of damage to human beings, livestock's and many more. After the overheating of the chain reactor, it is recommended that the chain reaction should be put into a stop or slowed down or even sped up by adding more rods which are made of cadmium, hafnium or even boron into the reactor core so that the cores can absorb more neutrons hence affecting the nuclear process. Incase of failure of the above processes and then it is recommended for the addition of water or graphite to shutting down the reactor.
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What about the heat transfer? Here, a liquid or gas circulates all the way through the reactor nucleus which then transfers heat to the turbines even though in some reactors, the gas or the liquid are considered to be coolers for the reactor in the core.
Due to the risks associated with nuclear energy and every going on with the changes in technology, many new waste disposal technologies have been formed at least to try and carter for some of the problems associated with nuclear waste. One of them is the reprocessing step, here, transuranic waste, 239Pu (plutonium-239) is removed from the already used fuel rods since it can be reused in the power plants instead of disposing it. With this, some benefits can be observed since the wastage disposal is limited and a lot of fuel is formed for the purpose of nuclear reactors. The only effect that tends to hinder this emersion of this kind of technology is politics like it did in the U.S, this process was burned because the recovered 239Pu was considered to be found to the military materials. It came to be learnt that, if one comes across the reprocessed fuel, then the likelihood of developing a nuclear weapon by that person is very high. Ever since, this burn has been lifted for some times, though it can be observed that this uplift has not been taken consideration. Effects concerned with tough regulations and anti-nuclear response of the public in general have been raised. The only few countries that embraces this kind of reprocessing is France and others.
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The use of High Temperature Breeder Reactors can be used to capture neutrons such as 239Pu from 238U thereby causing fission. It uses a liquid known as sodium as a coolant and its fuel has never qualified the standards of creating nuclear weapons since there is a separation transuranic waste from other wastes in the spent fuel rods.
The third tool is the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) a reactor that makes sure that no plutonium is available in the external contest but when the Clinton Administration took power in the US, this IFR was done away with and since then it has never been revived.
Nuclear energy policies have also been evaluated to encourage the investors to invest in nuclear energy. Policies such as regulation of the energy use and those standards that go hand in hand with nuclear fuel sequence, legislation on the energy trading transportation of the nuclear wastage and contaminated materials and where they are kept have been considered. Most government of different nations are planning on how to organize for the international treaties and trade agreements concerning with the issues of import and exportation of the nuclear technology, electricity, nuclear waste and uranium.
With this kind of policies and technology in place, the perspective of technology in terms of nuclear in the coming future should be looked upon so as to produce better resistance by the means of avoiding the emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that are considered to affect the environment. Factors to be considered for the better greenhouse gas management strategy are like the efficiency, renewables and carbon confiscation. With this factors looked upon by the World Nuclear Association, in the next 20 years, the nuclear energy market is expected to grow by far. Countries such as Brazil which had two nuclear programs in the year 2008 is expected to add more programs, that is up to 40 by the year 2060 and even they embrace more on those program, the number is likely to increase 330 programs by the year 2100. China is also considered to follow the same route extending their programs from 9 in 2008 to 500 by 2100 (Archive.greenpeace, Par 2). France been known to be the current leader of nuclear energy with 63 programs in place is the only country that is viewed that will register the minimum number of programs especially 10 of them by the year 2030. The amount of electricity in the U.S is expected also to rise to 50% by the year 2030 even though in 2001, the American citizens who supported the idea of nuclear energy was 46& and those opposing were 48% but of late, the margin of supporters has increased by 62% while those opposing has gone down by 33%. If this happens, then it can be predicted that, the demand for nuclear energy will be high and with this increase in demand might lead to lesser supply since the school of though of basics of economics reminds us that, the that price increased and decreases in relation to the dynamics of supply and demand. The greatest supporters of the nuclear energy in America are the republicans and democrats.
Nuclear energy investments should be viewed to remain as a long term investment and interested parties should venture in it. The average investors are likely to be the beneficial ones since they will be allowed to speculate in the future movement of Uranium. These investors will also be allowed to expose some and part and parcel of their collections to impact the potential growth in uranium through the investments in some companies that are not currently producing uranium but instead they are mining in it. A good investor and observer who look upon this kind of companies with lots of keenness will discover that, these kinds of companies have got some issues of low-share cost and the likelihood of them benefiting from such companies are very high (Paschoa, 67). Apart from putting your mind in those companies that don't have the idea of producing uranium, the investors should also concentrate on those companies that deal with uranium, operations for their own benefits and finally the investors should consider the option of speaking to the forex brokers on whether the currency of uranium-rich countries are expected to increase or decrease so as to gauge themselves in the market price.
For this idea of future improvements in nuclear energy to be viable, there is need for a number of recommendations to be put to task. Here, the new comers especially in the private sectors to such business of investing in the nuclear energy plants should be offered with low production tax credit, the government also should involve itself in analyzing the health matters and the safety measures that should be put into consideration. Other factor to be considered is the establishment of Nuclear System Modeling Project which should be responsible in data analysis and evaluation of other alternative reactor concepts and finally, the countries should be given the forego proliferation that is the risk improvement and reprocessing activities.
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In conclusion, one should know that nuclear energy is generated using Uranium and it does works almost the same as fossil fuel burning stations except the idea of a chain reaction inside a nuclear reactor to generate heat and apart from fission, each stage of nuclear processing produces carbon dioxide.
In terms of global warming, the nuclear energy is likely to produce little impact to reduce the cause of global warming and the more you look upon to the negativity of the nuclear energy, the more no results will be yielded. What can be observed is the year in, year out of the increase in the consumption of energy. Politics and the industry level have played a bigger role in ensuring the demand of energy is very high, followed by the supply and the sustainability not looked upon by the stakeholders.
The idea of high cost in the investment of nuclear energy should be a thing of the past because some countries like France and Japan who never gave up through the means of investing in nuclear energy have been benefiting all along. Investors' should take these countries as motivators to their success of investing in the nuclear energy hence changing the pattern observed before.
Technology has been viewed to end the future problems of nuclear energy and more innovation of this technologies should be invented with policies that support them but not those policies that may make them to be burned as happened to be seen in America where one of the technologies were burned due to them being believed or considered to be a risk to the country that is if the terrorist gets access to the material. He is likely to take advantages of it in the completion of terrorist attacks.
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Environmental factors should be observed so as to avoid some risk to the human beings as discussed before whereby emission of some materials from nuclear energy can create an, impact to human beings in terms of health wise and can also affect the livestock. All the above factors looked upon, the nuclear energy will be embraced in the future.