The world is a big place filled with an even larger amount of people. In order to survive and sustain ourselves we require a large amount of resources. Energy is one of those key resources that we need to power our everyday lives, with its demand increasing by 33% since 1990 according to the US Energy Information Administration (Volpe 2). Unfortunately, with that growing need comes a great sacrifice. As we create more energy through the use of factories and power plants that burn fossil fuels, the byproduct of that energy production is pollution in the form chemical runoff and air pollutants. There are many alternatives for energy production such as; Solar, Wind, and Hydro Power. But the one that produces largest amount without costing as much for maintenance is Nuclear power. Not only does it cut costs but it can also be a major combatant to the problem unintended pollution.
Even though Nuclear Energy is capable of producing large amounts of energy, it doesn’t necessarily make it the leading source of energy production. A lead competitor is Solar Power, which collected by solar panels that “…work by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells”. (Dhar 1) Unlike Nuclear energy, Solar power can be collected in various locations, like on the roofs of homes, or even at solar panel farms, any location that has access to sunlight for large spans of time. The drawbacks to Solar power are the amount of maintenance that it requires is year-round due to the panels constantly being exposed to the elements and the requirement of a high volume of panels and storage systems needed to obtain enough energy for everyday use. (Inhaber 13)
Nuclear Reactors, according to the Harvard Journal article “The Future of Nuclear Energy”, are composed of three main parts with the first being a containment structure, which houses the reactive materials and is where the steam is created and pressurized from the heat given off. Here the radioactive material undergoes fission and produces the energy that heats up the water that is surrounding the Reactor vessel. That water then is transferred into pipes that run through another pressurized chamber of water that gets heated and turned into steam. Next is the section that houses the turbine, which is ran by the steam from the containment building, and the generator which is powered by the turbine is how the power is transferred from the reactor to the power grid for people to use. The final part of the reactor is the condenser which where the excess water that was heated in the steam generator and the steam that was ran through the turbine meet back up and are ran through a series of pipes that are in contact with cold water and once the steam is condensed back into water it goes back through the containment structure to start again.
When going about the construction of nuclear reactors, the costs are not as concrete as the reactors themselves. The price of building them and maintaining a reactor is not immediately paid off. The factors that go into the costs are the construction of the reactor itself, the material that powers the reactor and the disposal of the nuclear waste. The heaviest factor out of those three is the actual construction of the reactor itself. Most reactors’ costs are easier to grasp when compared to the amount of power that they provide. The most recent estimation of the cost of Nuclear Reactors is roughly $4000/KW. (Schultz 1) Although they may be a somewhat hefty sum to construct, there are other ways for recompensating such as possible government incentives like the IRS code, “The Credit for Production from Advanced Nuclear Power Facilities [which] allows utilities to be eligible for a tax credit of up to 1.8 cents per kWh for the development of new nuclear energy plants.” Plans like these are the key to utility providers starting on the path of nuclear power generation.
Even once there is a solid plan to help buffer the construction costs of Nuclear power plants, it does not mean that plants will begin to just sprout up like wildflowers everywhere. There is also the social issue involving the dangers of poor management and the involvement of natural disasters that creates another roadblock for the transition to Nuclear energy production. The most recent example of this is the Fukushima Meltdown in Japan. This mainly occurred to the several natural disasters that struck Japan then followed by no management of the reactors themselves due to an inability to provide enough manpower and resources since they were still recovering from the earthquakes that hit followed by the Tsunami. Nuclear power was something that was talked about as a lower tier alternative, but this event sent the thought of a public transition to Nuclear energy to all time lows, but I believe that if not only the utility providers, but the Government as well, put into practice safety measures in response to natural disasters that ensured reactors received the proper maintenance we could move one step closer to a cleaner energy future.
Nuclear energy can be a strong source of power for everyday life, once the financial and social conditions that are barring the way are improved. The small risk of improper maintenance can be solved with trained professionals being hired where they should be. As for natural disasters, that is one risk that probably cannot be solved. But with that risk comes potentially an even bigger reward. And who knows maybe someday someone will come up with an energy source that is versatile in its location as Solar power, and is able to generate massive amounts of power like Nuclear reactors are able to. Until then the future awaits.
Dhar, Michael. “How Do Solar Panels Work?” LiveScience, Purch, 6 Dec. 2017, http://www.livescience.com/41995-how-do-solar-panels-work.html.
This is an article from a website that explains how solar panels are constructed and a layout of how they produce and provide energy. I used this article to assist me in explaining how solar panels functioned in order to give a brief description of an alternative to Nuclear power.
“The Future of Nuclear Energy.” The Future of Nuclear Energy, no. 2, 2015, pp. 1–24., www.hcs.harvard.edu/~res/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/HCRECS_Spring_15_Final.pdf.
This source is an overview of Nuclear energy, its history, how it works and various theories on how to improve it. I used this source to help me explain how Nuclear reactors are structured, and how the process of energy collection through fission works.
Vulpe, Robert C. “The Role Of Advanced Cost Recovery In Nuclear Energy Policy.” The Role Of Advanced Cost Recovery In Nuclear Energy Policy, 2015, The Role Of Advanced Cost Recovery In Nuclear Energy Policy.
This source describes various past events that involve the planning, deployment and a brief history on Nuclear reactors. It also describes Advanced Cost Recovery plans that are able to help ease the costs of reactors. I used this article to help provide me with various examples for my proposal.