Definition of Nuclear Power
What Is Nuclear Power?
Nuclear power, also called nuclear energy, is power that is produced by human supervised nuclear reaction. It starts with the extraction of uranium, a naturally occurring element buried in the earth following its formation. Uranium is radioactive and therefore is dangerous to handle and dispose of, but when put into a nuclear power system, it reacts with other elements in a fission reaction that splits the uranium nucleus. This reaction creates heat, which is used as a heat source that turns water into steam, which drives a turbine, which then spins a generator to produce electricity.
Nuclear power is a highly contentious issue in the environmental community.
- Nuclear power pros:These people argue that nuclear energy is carbon-free, making it an excellent solution to our climate change challenges.
- Nuclear power cons:This group argues strongly that the resultant toxic waste, used or depleted uranium, which is still radioactive and highly dangerous, is very difficult to safely dispose of. The costs of uranium disposal are often not considered in the calculations used to estimate nuclear power’s advantages over other clean energies. They argue that the extraction of uranium ore is also a polluting process.
Nuclear reactors pose other potential safety and health risks. Though proponents suggest that new technologies make current reactor designs highly safe, nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl in Ukraine and Crystal River in Florida (1996) are still a significant risk, especially for the communities closest to the reactors.