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Why nuclear energy is the future


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Public attention has turned to climate change in recent months largely thanks to  Greta Thunberg and protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion. 

Climate change is the biggest issue society faces, and something which can no longer be ignored or denied, in spite of the best efforts of climate change deniers such as President Donald Trump. I have seen multiple columns in newspapers and media outlets outlining opinions and plans of action for the future. A common theme is the dismissal of nuclear energy as a viable plan for the future, with the expense, radioactive waste and disasters, in my opinion, too far easily.

I completely understand the arguments that people present against nuclear energy. I understand it is expensive to implement. However my answer to that is you cannot put a price on our future. I understand there have been nuclear disasters in Chernobyl, Mile Island and Fukushima, but they are the only three major accidents to have occurred in over 17,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation in 33 countries.  I also understand that there are doubts about the disposal of radioactive waste and how safely it can be executed - but deep geological repositorys offer a safe solution - if this is carried out in a manner in line with procedural guidelines there will be no Simpsons movie-esque disaster.

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The key reason why nuclear energy should be the future is a simple yet nevertheless important one: clean energy.

Nuclear energy is often excluded from discussions surrounding clean energy, due to reasons outlined above. However, nuclear energy is the second largest source of low-carbon electricity in the world behind hydropower.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, we have used fossil fuels as the main source of global energy. There is no denying that the burning of fossil fuels oil, gas and coal emit greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming, leading to climate change. Our usage of fossil fuels is arguably the main reason we are in this current climate crisis - one that in many aspects has already passed the tipping point - the point of no return.

Yet we still endorse their usage; we still rely on oil and fuels, whilst nuclear energy is dismissed. Nuclear energy is a zero-emission clean energy source, which is generated through nuclear fission, the heat which is created is used to create steam spinning a turbine to generate electricity without the harmful emissions released by fossil fuels. One Uranium fuel pellet produces as much energy as three barrels of oil, one ton of coal and 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. Which in the context of things is somewhat extraordinary, and begs the question as to why nuclear energy has been dismissed all too easily in the past, and Britain why as a nation as not endorse as a key form of energy.

In addition to being a form of clean energy, nuclear energy produces minimal waste, contrary to popular belief. I outlined above a way in which the waste can be disposed of. According to NEI, all the used fuel ever produced by the commercial nuclear industry within the USA since the 1950s would cover one American football pitch at the depth of fewer than 10 yards. Coal plants, on the other hand, generate the same amount of waste every hour. Furthermore, any waste can still be used for energy, use fuel has only exhausted part of potential energy, and in some cases reprocessing can be an option to create more energy.

There is a lack of education and understanding when it comes to climate change and particularly forms of energy that are available to us. This lack of understanding and education leads to a stubborn attitude of it being too difficult and inconvenient to change the status quo.

People may say that Britain is improving and setting precedent for many nations worldwide in terms of the movement to renewable and green energy, but ultimately not enough is being done. We have now entered a period of damage limitation to ensure our future is secure. The damage has already been done. Nuclear energy is one step we can take to ensure our future is given a degree of greater security. It is not the only solution but it is one which can provide an answer for the future.

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