Recently, the European Commission launched the proposal to include nuclear energy as ‘green’ energy, to which the Association of Renewable Energy Companies APPA has reacted by warning of the risk that this may pose to the objectives of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan. Nuclear energy has always been in the spotlight.
Photovoltaic energy has been debated, but there are many supporting what it have to offer and trusting the abundant resource of energy offered by the sun.
Although it can be considered energy that does not emit polluting gases, such as methane or CO₂, on the other hand, it generates highly toxic waste, posing a potential risk of catastrophic accidents.
The latest report on the status of the global nuclear industry shows that the world’s operating atomic capacity grew by just 400 MW in 2020, and generation fell by 4%. The same data for renewables show 256 GW and a 13% growth. But does it make sense to compare them?
What is nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy comes from nuclear reactions, for example, from the disintegration of the nucleus of certain atoms and the release of the energy stored inside them.
Nuclear power plants are thermoelectric power plants that use a heat source to transform a fuel such as uranium or plutonium into steam. This high-temperature steam activates a series of turbine alternators that produce electrical energy.
The difference between a conventional thermoelectric power plant and a nuclear power plant is the reaction that releases the energy needed to produce the steam that drives the turbines. In the conventional process, energy is obtained through the combustion of carbon, which can be gas, coal, or fuel oil. Nuclear power is obtained through the fission of uranium or plutonium, which releases millions of times more energy, hence its high profitability.
Fission, the reaction process needed for production of nuclear energy, is a reaction in which a heavy nucleus is bombarded with neutrons until it decays into two of the same size. In this decay process a large amount of energy is released, and at the same time several new neutrons are emitted which, in turn, interact with each other causing more fissions, and so on and so forth. The fission of these nuclear fuels generates radioactive isotopes which are stored in concrete containers in the plant itself. They cannot be reused, decayed or disposed of in any known way, only stored and accumulated indefinitely.
Disadvantages of nuclear energy
Although the European Commission considers that nuclear energy can be an option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, other organizations warn that the disadvantages should outweigh the advantages, to the point of definitively renouncing this type of energy.
- Nuclear waste – an environmental hazard
Another disadvantage is that the waste generated by nuclear energy is particularly polluting and dangerous. Exposing to radioactivity is severely harmful, with a very high probability of death, since it interferes with the process of cell division, which is fundamental for the organism. This is why radiotherapy in very controlled doses is used to stop the reproduction of cancer cells. Nuclear waste has to be confined for centuries, until its radioactivity is reduced.
- Is a Non-renewable energy
The main disadvantage is a non-renewable energy source. On the one hand, it produces deadly radioactive waste, which can take years to lose radioactivity and therefore must remain stored in safe places. In addition, nuclear power plants depend on mining, and also on engineering, since uranium has to be pre-treated in the enrichment plants. As for nuclear reactors used for fission, they have a limited expiration date, and after a certain date from their start-up, they have to be decommissioned.
- There is serious risk of accident
Nuclear power plants are a risk in themselves, despite the many safety systems that are implemented. An accident in one of these plants can have catastrophic consequences that last for years and generations. Throughout the short history of nuclear power we have several examples, such as the case of Chernobyl, which forced the evacuation of 350,000 people, many of whom developed cancer. 36 years has passed, and the area is still contaminated and absolutely uninhabitable. In 2011, another Fukushima accident happened in Japan, in which several reactors exploded. Their government dismantled all its nuclear power plants despite the fact that they generated 30% of the electricity consumed.
Nuclear energy is not yet a type of energy that is good for the environment and is not safe for humans; the management of this type of energy is still complex.
The energy transition continues to promote the use of truly environmentally friendly alternatives. The use of nuclear energy although proposed as an alternative to coal, is not a good idea and many countries reject its use and advocate the closure of these plants.
Solar energy has become renewable energy with more possibilities to solve the crisis without harming the environment.
Solar energy is no longer the future, but the present, and it is an option that can be within your reach. If you are considering installing solar panels in your home or business to generate your own clean and renewable energy, do not hesitate to call us, we have specialized equipment and durable material to start producing your energy.