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Fission And Fusion: The Future Of Nuclear Energy

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What exactly is nuclear energy? Nuclear energy is the energy held in the nucleus of an atom, it can be obtained by two types of reactions: Fission & Fusion. Fission produces energy through the splitting of atoms which produces heat energy, then it can be made to produce electricity. The fuel most commonly used for nuclear fission is uranium, all of today’s operating nuclear plants use nuclear fission to generate electricity. The second type of nuclear energy is nuclear fusion, the same process that powers the sun. Fusion is a nuclear reaction in which atomic nuclei collide at a high speed and join to create a new type of atomic nucleus; during this process, matter is not conserved because some of the matter of the fusing nuclei is converted…show more content…
Now, commercial interest and investment picked up at a great pace; more than half of all the nuclear reactors in the world were built between 1970 and 1985. There were many types of reactors to choose from but a surprising underdog candidate won the day: the light water reactor. It wasn’t very innovative and it wasn’t popular with scientists, but it had some decisive advantages: it was there, it wasn’t expensive, and it worked. A light water reactor’s job was basically to heat up water using an artificial chain reaction. Nuclear fission releases several million times more energy than any chemical reaction could. Really heavy elements on the brink of stability, like uranium-235, get bombarded with neutrons. The neutron is absorbed, but the result is unstable. Most of the time, it immediately splits into fast moving lighter elements, some additional free neutrons, and energy in the form of radiation. The radiation heats up the surrounding water, while neutrons repeat the process with other atoms, releasing more neutrons and radiation in a closely controlled chain reaction. Very different from the fast, destructive runaway reaction in an atomic bomb. In the light water reactor, a moderator is needed to control the neutron energy. Simple, ordinary water does the job, which is very practical, since water’s used to drive the turbines anyway. The…show more content…
In 2013, a study conducted by NASA found that nuclear energy has prevented around 1.8 million deaths; nuclear energy ranks last in death per energy unit generated per year. While nuclear waste is really toxic, it’s usually stored somewhere. The toxic byproducts of fossil fuels are pumped into the air we breathe everyday. So just by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned, countless cases of cancer or lung disease and accidents in coal mines have been avoided. If we can choose between lots of dangerous stuff being put into a deep hole and lots and lots of dangerous stuff being pumped into the atmosphere, the former seems more logical. Nuclear energy feels way more dangerous though, single catastrophic events burn into our memory while coal and oil kill silently. Another reason why nuclear energy is a good idea, it reduces Co2. Nuclear energy is arguably way less harmful to the environment in terms of climate change than fossil fuels, our main source of energy. Since 1976 about 64 Giga Tonnes of greenhouse emissions have not been pumped out thanks to nuclear energy and by the mid twenty first century, that could amount to an additional 82240 Giga Tonnes. Humanities energy consumption is rising steadily, according to U.S. government protections, China alone will add the equivalent of a new 600 megawatt coal plant every ten days for the next ten years. China already burns 4,000 tons of coal each year; coal is cheap, abundant,
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