Editorial Feature

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Power Stations

Nuclear power generation has its pros and cons, and it is critical to comprehend all sides to appreciate the capability of the energy source. Knowing and understanding the advantages and disadvantages will assist in determining if nuclear power is an excellent decision to meet the world's energy demands for the future. This article will explore nuclear power station advantages, such as cost-effectiveness and low emissions, and disadvantages, including the important environmental issues they raise.

nuclear power

Image Credit: Christian Schwier/Shutterstock.com

Nuclear power plants generate enormous heat produced during nuclear fission at the core of the nuclear plant. This is where ceramic pellets are housed and are made from uranium fuel. In comparison, around 150 liters of oil can generate energy that one ceramic pellet can.

The splitting apart of atoms into smaller atoms during nuclear fission releases energy, and heat is generated. This is then used to produce steam. The steam is then transferred to stimulate the rotation of the blade turbines to produce nuclear power.

Advantages of Nuclear Power

Overall low cost of operation

Nuclear power is relatively one of the most cost-effective and reliable energy compared to other sources. Other than the initial cost of construction, the cost of generating electricity is cheaper and more sustainable than other forms of energy such as oil, coal, and gas. One of the additional benefits of nuclear power is that it experiences minimal risk of cost inflation instead of traditional power sources that regularly fluctuate over periods.

Consistent source of energy

Nuclear power has a consistent and predictable output. It is not affected by weather conditions compared to other sources such as wind and solar power.

Nuclear fission generates far more energy than fossil fuel combustion such as coal, oil, or gas. The process produces almost 8,000 times more power than typical fossil fuels, resulting in less material used and causing less waste. All-year-round energy production is feasible, allowing for favorable returns on initial investment due to no energy production delays.

It is estimated the world has enough uranium to produce electricity for the next 70-80 years. It does not seem like a long enough period, but in comparison to fossil fuels, they are expected to diminish in a far less period. Additionally, there are current investigations into alternative power sources for nuclear energy.

Generates low amounts of pollution

Nuclear power is the lowest carbon emission energy source and a lower carbon footprint compared to other sources such as fossil fuels.

The majority of carbon dioxide emissions primarily occur during the fueling process and construction of the plant but not during electricity generation. The overall pollutant generation from nuclear plants is relatively modest compared with fossil fuel energy generation. 

Currently, nuclear energy usage cuts more than 555 million metric tons of carbon production each year. The greenhouse reduction is an excellent sign of how crossing over to nuclear energy will reduce the long-term impact on global climate change.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Power

Nuclear energy is a promising alternate and reliable energy resource for future electricity needs. However, there are numerous drawbacks to nuclear energy to consider, particularly its environmental impact in the future.

Expensive to Construct

Nuclear power plants are affordable to operate but are relatively expensive to construct. The expected cost of nuclear plant construction has increased from $2- $4 billion to $9 billion between 2002 and 2008 and often, their cost estimates are surpassed during construction.

Aside from the cost of constructing a power plant, nuclear reactors must allocate funds for waste that is generated, which must be stored in cooled facilities with strict security protocols. All the costs and expenditures make nuclear power rather costly upfront.

Generation of radioactive waste

While no emissions are produced in nuclear energy generation, a bi-product of radioactive waste is developed. The waste must be stored in secure facilities to avoid polluting the environment. Radiation is not harmful in small quantities, but radioactive waste from nuclear plants is hazardous.

Storage of radioactive waste is a significant concern and cost for nuclear power plants. There is no way to destroy nuclear waste; the only current solution is to seal and store it in deep underground facilities. As technology improves, there will hopefully be the development of better ways of storing radioactive waste in the near future.

Restricted fuel supply

Nuclear power plants are heavily dependent on thorium and uranium to generate electricity. Before the supply of thorium and uranium is depleted, a nuclear fusion or breeder reactor will have to be created, otherwise, power generation will not be possible. Currently, nuclear power is only an expensive short-term option for power generation due to diminishing resources.

Impact on the environment

The most significant impact on the environment stems from the destructive process of uranium mining. Both open-pit and underground mining can mine uranium.

Open-pit mining is generally a safe process for miners but generates radioactive waste while causing erosion and, on some occasions, polluting water supplies. Underground mining exposes miners to a far greater risk of radiation poisoning than open-pit mining. While also producing large amounts of the radioactive waste rock during both processing and extraction.

Is Nuclear Power the Future?

Nuclear power has numerous advantages and disadvantages, causing the contentious argument about whether to find alternatives or preserve the technology for future uses. Nuclear power energy has the potential to be particularly dangerous, however, the risk of disaster is relatively low.

While there is continued debate, enthusiasts of nuclear power have said that being more dependent on nuclear energy will reduce third-country energy reliance. However, reliance would still be necessary as nuclear power facilities still require raw materials such as uranium imported from Kazakhstan, Australia, or Canada.

Adding further contention is the negative connotation surrounding nuclear energy. Largely, individuals are only aware of nuclear disasters and not the potential low-carbon positives. This is where the concept of renewable energy is greatly favored. However, ideally combining the two procedures is expected to be a more feasible approach for future sustainability.

References and Further Reading

Eia.gov. 2021. Nuclear power plants - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). [online] Available at: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/nuclear/nuclear-power-plants.php.

EDF. 2022. What are the advantages of nuclear energy?. [online] Available at: https://www.edfenergy.com/for-home/energywise/what-are-advantages-nuclear-energy

https://springpowerandgas.us/the-pros-cons-of-nuclear-energy-is-it-safe/. 2018. The Pros & Cons of Nuclear Energy: Is it safe?. [online] Available at: https://springpowerandgas.us/the-pros-cons-of-nuclear-energy-is-it-safe/

Igini, M., 2022. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy | Earth.Org - Past | Present | Future. [online] Earth.Org - Past | Present | Future. Available at: https://earth.org/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-nuclear-energy/

Orano.group. 2022. Is nuclear power a renewable energy. [online] Available at: https://www.orano.group/en/unpacking-nuclear/is-nuclear-power-a-renewable-energy

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Olivia Hudson

Written by

Olivia Hudson

Olivia has recently graduated with a double bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and Business Management from the RMIT University in Australia. During her studies, she volunteered in Peru to construct wind turbines for local communities that did not have access to technology. This experience developed into an active interest and passion in discovering new advancements in materials and the construction industry.  

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