In the effort to get away from our oil and coal dependency, nuclear energy is getting attention again. Here is an overview of nuclear energy.
An Overview of Nuclear Energy
Harnessing a chemical reaction at the nuclear level of certain materials produces nuclear energy. The process is known as nuclear fission.
Nuclear fission occurs when certain materials, such as uranium, are manipulated in a manner that causes them to decay quickly. A byproduct of this decal is immense amounts of heat. The heat is then typically used to turn turbines much as occurs in hydropower dams. The spinning turbines produce electricity, which is then used for commercial applications and propelling naval vessels such as submarines.
The largest known nuclear reaction can be seen everyday in the sky. The sun is essentially a nuclear reaction, but on a much larger scale than we could ever replicate. It does not blow up because of its immense gravity. It does, however, shoot off massive solar flares which contain more energy than we could use in years.
Nuclear energy is a popular subject with governments because it produces a lot of energy with relatively small resource requirements. Countries such as Russia, France and China have invested heavily in nuclear energy production. There are, however, significant problems with nuclear energy.
Nuclear fission is a fairly unstable process. Energy is produced by speeding up and slowing down the decay process. Essentially, it is a balancing act. Allow the decay to happen to quickly and your risk a meltdown. Although meltdowns are rare, they are absolutely devastating when they occur.
The best known nuclear disaster was Chernobyl in 1986. Located in the Ukraine, the individuals controlling the reactor attempted an ill-advised test. Blame has been put on the controllers and the basic design of the plant, but nobody is really sure as to the exact cause. What is known is control was lost and the nuclear fission went to fast. Huge steam explosions occurred followed by a full nuclear meltdown. A huge radioactive cloud escaped and dropped radioactive material over much of Eastern Europe. 330,000 people around the reactor had to be evacuated. Thousands died immediately. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have suffered health problems. Birth defects are a sad, regular occurrence. All and all, the meltdown produced 300 times the radioactive material produced in the two bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War.
Nuclear energy is a very efficient way to produce energy, but one that is extremely devastating when it goes wrong. All and all, we are better off finding another platform for our energy needs.