Nuclear Power And Nuclear Energy

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Nuclear power is harnessed from the energy retained inside of an atom’s nucleus. This energy bindes the atom together and, when released, can be used to produce electricity. In order for this energy to be released, however, it must be subjected to either nuclear fusion, the combination of several atoms to form one larger atom, or to nuclear fission, the division of larger atoms into several smaller atoms. Nuclear power plants, first introduced in 1954, use this second method in the production of electricity. Inside of a nuclear power plant, uranium atoms are split and their nuclear energy released, creating the heat necessary to produce the steam that powers turbine generators and create electricity. Nuclear energy is often referred to as a “clean” energy source because, unlike fossil fuels, its production does not result in the generation of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Many endorse the use of nuclear energy because it is efficient, providing large amounts of energy in exchange for small amounts of fuel, reliable, as it can be produced almost all day and night, year round, and affordable, costing about 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2012 compared to fossil fuels, which cost about 3.27 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2012. However, the use of nuclear power also has several significant disadvantages. Its main downside lies in the threats nuclear power plants present in the forms of radioactive waste and nuclear meltdowns.
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