Nuclear Energy Synthesis Essay

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Across the United States 104 nuclear reactors generate around 20% of the nation's electricity. While worldwide 436 nuclear reactors generate about 15% of the world’s supply every year (Carson). Some people feel as though we need to expand the fleet of nuclear reactors and increase nuclear power production. Nuclear energy may be one of the best ways to combat global warming and reduce CO2 emissions, however if the radiation and nuclear waste that it produces is better for our environment than the CO2 is still uncertain. In the United States the nuclear power plants use uranium-235 as the nuclear fuel to produce energy. Most of the uranium that the United States uses is found in Wyoming and New Mexico (Nuclear Energy). U-235 is mined using methods similar to other ores. However when the uranium is mined it can expose the miners to radiation.…show more content…
The spent fuel rods and the other products produced by the nuclear fuel process are highly reactive. This waste must be stored in very safe and secure locations for tens of thousands of years, which is periods “longer than the history of most governments the world has seen” as the former Atomic Energy Commission put it (Carson). The uranium that is used in the reactors has a half life, that is long it takes for half the nuclei in the radioactive material to decay, of 10,000 years, while plutonium, another nuclear fuel, has a half life close to 25,000 (Carson). Some say that it is too much of a burden to place on future generations to be able to properly monitor and maintain waste dumps that will last 20 times the length of known civilization. As Michio Kaku put it in Nuclear Power: Both Sides “The controversy surrounding [nuclear] waste boils down to one question- can we trust and man made structure to isolate high-level waste for tens of thousands of years given our always-changing social institutions and the vagaries of war, revolutions, and social upheavals”
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