Everyone has different opinions on nuclear energy and most of us are terrified of it. In this article, I will try to explain nuclear energy by using the basic science theorems and looking into the pros and cons of it through concrete example. Firstly, nuclear energy does not beget pollution or lead to greenhouse gas emissions. To generate one kilowatt hour of energy – the amount a household consumes in 45 minutes – nuclear power plants only emit 12 grams of carbon dioxide which is enough to fill 3 two-liter soda bottles. Meanwhile, to produce the same amount of energy, coal plants emit 820 grams of CO2, about a full bathtub’s worth. Meaning: this technology endows us with free and clean power. On the other hand, it produces radioactive waste as obtained. To simplify, the nuclear power is the energy in the nucleus, the atom; and in order to create electricity, this huge power must be released from the core. There are theoretically two methods of doing that, one is nuclear fusion where atoms join together and the other is nuclear fission where atoms are split apart. However, nuclear power plants do not have the capability to produce energy from nuclear fusion safely and reliably. So nuclear reactors use pellets of the element uranium as fuel to produce nuclear fission and the products create heat by causing a chain reaction. Heat is used to boil the water, and water being the cooling agent produces steam that turns the turbines which generates the electricity.
Although the procedure is very efficient so far, the real danger is where the used fuel waste is stored that produces this energy.
In order to understand the basis of storing the nuclear, we may look at the best dangerous example: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station because it is in the Shore of Pacific Ocean, connected to Interstate five freeway, has L.A. and San Diego within 5 miles and 8.5 million people inhabit in the area. Back in time, San Onofre plant could power 1.4 million homes at a time. Now, the reactors are retired. Plants operator, Southern California Edison is preparing to dismantle it completely.
The place turned into a pile of containment buildings when one of the steam generators sprung a leak. So, The American government decided to demolish the place down to the ground but firstly, the fuel preserved in the facility must be taken care of. Although the fresh fuel is not that radioactive, when it waits too long in a generator it forms other dangerous radioactive atoms like Ceasium-137, Strontium-90, and as mentioned above: Plutonium-239. First two isotopes having approximately 30 years to decay in the nature, plutonium is the arduous one by taking 24,000 years to be gone.
So what happens to these explosive atoms? After giving it a good cool off, scientists store the used nucleus in earthquake/tsunami/flood-resistant, concrete blocks with no needs of pumps or any active systems to support it. Unless there arises a way to exterminate it completely, this passive havoc facility stays within the earshot of people.
Initially, this whole nuke journey started around sixties when Onofre hit the ground running. All the commercials were selling the America on how safe it was and too cheap even to be metered; also claiming that the entire country would be generated using nuclear energy by 2000. However, no one really didn’t know what to do with the nuclear waste, Rob Nikolewski says from the San Diego Union Tribune because it was believed that government would just take all the waste and burry it in Yucca Mountain in Nevada, yet the local politicians hated that idea having the government’s promise on wait. By the time, the plants were not only producing 20% of America’s electricity but also 2200 tons of waste each year. Consequently, next to the most significant nuclear storage of our time; many people go fishing, swimming, surfing and walk their dogs right in the beach that hosts 1700 tons of spent nuclear fuel. The only closure in mind is whether to keep producing that kind of energy and toxic the world little by little or to go old school and use the coal and oil that pollute the environment directly but with less hazard.