How Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Renewable Energy

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One of the cleaner substitutes for fossil fuels is nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is the second-largest source of low-carbon electricity worldwide after hydropower. According to some academics, nuclear energy is crucial to assist nations like the United Kingdom in achieving their goals of producing all of their energy without creating greenhouse emissions. This is due to the availability of insufficient renewable energy capacity to meet all of our requirements for power. Some of the most lethal and destructive weapons in use today are powered by nuclear energy. Although developing nuclear power stations is expensive and time-consuming, the fact that nuclear energy is less harmful than coal and oil can make up for these drawbacks.

In order to achieve net zero carbon emissions, nuclear energy can be a good alternative for some nations. Nuclear power facilities produce around 15% of the world’s electricity as of 2011. Despite using fossil fuels and hydroelectricity to provide the majority of its power, the United States has more than 100 reactors. Nearly all of the electricity produced in countries like Slovakia, France, and Lithuania comes from nuclear power reactors.

How Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

Nuclear energy produces no emissions and is a clean source of energy. The United States avoided emitting almost 476 million metric tonnes of CO2 because of the usage of nuclear power, according to a 2019 analysis by the Nuclear Energy Institute. By assisting in the removal of contaminants, nuclear energy also contributes to the preservation of clean air. Otherwise, these pollutants may result in lung cancer, acid rain, and other environmental health issues, including smog.

Nuclear energy is sustainable and clean. Deciding if nuclear energy is a renewable or non-renewable resource is a bit more complicated. Let’s first have a basic understanding of nuclear and renewable energy.

What is Nuclear Energy?

The energy in an atom’s nucleus is referred to as nuclear energy. Nuclear energy can be used to produce electricity, but it first needs to be released from the atom. Natural radioactive mineral uranium is used to create nuclear energy. On all the continents, including North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, this copious radioactive ore may be found. The fuel most frequently utilized to create nuclear energy is uranium. This is due to how rapidly uranium atoms may split apart. Another fairly prevalent element is uranium, which may be found in rocks all across the planet. U-235, the particular kind of uranium utilized in nuclear energy production, is uncommon. Approximately 1% of the uranium in the world is U-235.

nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is produced via fission. Fission is the process of splitting the uranium atoms to release energy. Without the toxic byproducts that are created by burning fossil fuels, energy is produced by using the heat from fission to create steam, which turns a turbine.

Since the 1950s, nuclear energy has been a source of electricity. The number of nuclear power reactors worldwide has increased over time, and they now supply around 44% of the world’s electricity.

What is Renewable Energy?

According to the definition, renewable energy is a source that refills itself through regularly occurring natural processes. Sunlight and wind, for instance, continue to shine and blow every day, even if their availability changes based on the time of day and the weather. Renewable energy sources are regularly seen as superior to conventional energy sources. They are sometimes more economical, more efficient, and more ecologically friendly.

There are a variety of benefits and drawbacks associated with nuclear energy. Let’s first examine the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy so that you may have a better grasp of this energy source.

Advantages of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy does not emit any dangerous gases or air pollutants into the environment while it is operating, in contrast to typical fossil fuels that release large amounts of carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy has little environmental impact since it uses up much less actual real estate.

1. Fuel Output Ratio

Nuclear energy has a very high fuel-to-output ratio. With just one reactor, it can satisfy industrial and urban demands. A 1000-megawatt power plant can be run on a very tiny quantity of uranium. The 1000-megawatt electric plant has the capacity to provide a population of around 500,000 people with energy.

2. Stable Baseload Energy

Nuclear power facilities provide a reliable baseload of electricity. Around 20% of the power produced in the United States is produced by nuclear energy, which is widely employed in the country. The 98 nuclear power reactors spread over 30 different US states are the source of this effective energy. Nuclear energy can be produced continuously, unlike many renewable energy sources, and is not affected by the weather like wind and solar power. In times when other renewable energy sources might not be as easily available, nuclear power is more quickly available to fulfill energy demands, which helps to minimize the carbon intensity of the electrical supply.

3. Overall Low Cost of Operation

As Compared to other energy sources, nuclear power is one of the most affordable and dependable. The price of building upfront might be high. Still, compared to other energy sources like coal, oil, and gas, the cost of producing electricity is lower and more sustainable. In the US, a typical 1000-megawatt nuclear plant requires somewhat more than 1 square mile to run. According to Nuclear Energy Institute, solar photovoltaic plants need 75 times the amount of space, whereas wind farms require 360 times more land to generate the same quantity of power.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

The initial cost and duration of building a new nuclear power plant are far too expensive. The building can cost billions of dollars and take almost 5–10 years. In addition to this, there are a number of key expenditures to take into account, such as the initial cost, decommissioning costs, and storage costs for components like depleted fuel. Over the course of their lives, they also need a lot of upkeep. Accidents might also happen at a nuclear power plant. People are still terrified of and do not want to experience prior nuclear tragedies like Chornobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima Daiichi ever again.

Nuclear energy doesn’t generate any pollutants, but it does produce radioactive waste that needs to be disposed of securely and safely. The radioactive materials must be carefully and permanently disposed of since they can be exceedingly hazardous for tens of thousands of years. Additionally, uranium mining and enrichment are not eco-friendly practices.

To Conclude

Is Nuclear Power Renewable Energy? Both yes and no are the responses! Because the electricity generated by nuclear power plants is renewable, but the fuel needed to run the nuclear power plant is not. The choice of fuel for nuclear fission in nuclear power plants is uranium. Particularly, the method only works with one specific form of uranium (U-235). Even though uranium is a highly common metal worldwide, finding the necessary isotope is quite difficult, making it a non-renewable fuel for the renewable energy it generates.

There is a finite supply of uranium. Although uranium is widely distributed around the world, it is not limitless. In the mines, it is not replenished. This is why we speak of stock energy, as there is no more energy accessible after this stock has been depleted. Nuclear energy often does not meet the criteria for renewable energy since it depends on mined uranium, a material that was generated in the distant past and is unlikely to recreate itself.

Currently a sustainable energy source, nuclear power might transition to being entirely renewable if uranium was obtained from seawater rather than mined ore. Nuclear would become as infinite as solar as the Uranium removed is continually replaced through geologic processes. Literally, “renewable” means “to make new again.” Any resource that replenishes spontaneously through time, such as the development of wind or the expansion of living things for biomass or biofuels, is unquestionably renewable. Renewable energy is defined as energy that can be obtained from the environment and typically regenerates.

Also Read: Nuclear Hazards: Effects And Ways of Controlling Them Effectively

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