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Nuclear Energy - The Basics

Nuclear energy environmental benefits atom

Recently, we discussed renewable energy and its benefits. There was a form of energy we didn’t mention, primarily because it’s not renewable. Still, this is a form of clean energy with potential to change the world. In case you didn’t read the title, I’m referring to nuclear energy.

What is it and how does it work?

Nuclear fusion is when “two light nuclei smash together and fuse to create a heavier nucleus,” according to energy.gov. It is inspired by the way stars, such as the sun, burn energy. Nuclear fission on the other hand, is the splitting of an atom’s nucleus. Nuclear fusion is a better source of energy than fission because it's safer and more powerful. 

Environmental Benefits

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear fusion doesn’t emit carbon dioxide into the air. This means that it has major potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions if the technology becomes more widely used. Its fuel, hydrogen and lithium, are widely available. Conserve Energy Future states that nuclear energy isn’t renewable because it’s created from uranium, a source which can deplete. Still, it’s eco-friendly because the energy is clean and has a minimal contribution to climate change.  

Dangers

When discussing something with the word “nuclear” in it, there are sure to be dangers. Nuclear fusion can create radioactive waste. Past nuclear power plants (think Chernobyl) have caught fire and caused catastrophes. These incidents mainly occurred with nuclear fission plants.  

Backers of nuclear energy, including Bill Gates, believe it can save the world. As a cleaner source of energy than fossil fuels, they have massive potential; however, their negative connotation (I say the name should change!) might be hard to overcome.


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