About 13% of the world’s electricity comes from nuclear power and more than 30 countries in the world, including the United States, Russia, India and China, among others, have been relying on the efficiency of nuclear energy, resulting from the process known as nuclear fission. In fact, these countries are now focusing on the development of more nuclear reactors by the year 2020 to generate more energy.
In order for nuclear energy to be harnessed, the nucleus of an atom is split into two different lighter elements, making it a form of elemental transmutation. Also, by-product particles such as photons in the form of gamma rays, free neutrons as well as alpha and beta particles are formed. In heavy elements, fission is an exothermic reaction that can produce nuclear power energy and cause explosion of nuclear weapons. The important nuclear fuels that make the process possible are Uranium and Plutonium.
When it comes to heat and electricity production, however, nuclear reactors or power plants are responsible in controlling nuclear fission. And while the non-renewable energy released is said to be carbon-free, environmentalists and energy experts have long been debating if this type of energy brings more harm than good to the environment and the people. When it comes to nuclear reactions, nuclear fission is also in the middle of contentions. There are those who see the good it brings while there are also environmental advocates who see otherwise.
For an objective analysis, here are some points about the advantages and disadvantages of this natural reaction.
List of Pros of Nuclear Fission
1. It is an important nuclear reaction.
Nuclear fission is considered a vital form of nuclear reaction because the process results to energy release that gives electricity to homes, schools, industries and the community. Without this process, nuclear reactors will not be able to serve their purpose.
2. It does not release air pollutants.
Unlike other forms of energy sources that release harmful chemicals when producing energy, nuclear fission is void of carbon dioxide emissions. This is probably the most popular advantage of this type of nuclear reaction. Even if the use of fuel is essential, its ability to produce massive energy with less fuel consumption makes it safer as opposed to other processes of energy production. Air pollution is worsened by the presence hazardous gases and chemicals in the atmosphere and this process does not emit greenhouse gases.
3. It does not contribute to global warming.
The greenhouse effect is a natural process responsible to keep the earth warm. This is critical to sustain life on earth. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor cause this phenomenon. However, too much emission of these gases from irresponsible human activities and carbon dioxide released in the air from burning fossil fuels, among others, make the earth warmer more than it should be. This is what is known as global warming. In the process of nuclear fission, no carbon dioxide is emitted, thus, making it harmless to environment in terms of emissions.
4. It releases energy for two to three years.
The nuclear fuel, once used in the reactor gives off energy that will last for years while in the case of fossil fuels, there is a need for several refills over a period of time. This makes nuclear fission less expensive and the maintenance and operation costs of the nuclear power plant lower.
5. It does not require expensive energy fuels.
Another element of neutral fission that makes it advantageous is its fuel requirement in the form of Uranium. Since there is ample supply of this element is available, the demand will be met accordingly with less expense. Moreover, the ability of Uranium to break down easily and the process faster does not require much energy consumption in burning unlike in fossil fuels.
6. It can play a major role in astronomy.
An outer space project of producing electricity in the bases on the moon and other planets like Mars is a dream that might just turn into reality in the near future. With the innovation of fission technology and by building a nuclear reactor in outer space, providing electric power for the astronauts in space can be possible. To accomplish this, nuclear fission will be used.
List of Cons of Nuclear Fission
1. It can be detrimental to health.
The process of nuclear fission emits radiation that is harmful to human beings and can cause anemia and different types of cancers. This is why protective gear is required for people working in nuclear plants. Moreover, people who are constantly exposed to radiation are prone to be stricken with cancer.
2. It is harmful to the environment by way of waste disposal.
Despite the importance of nuclear fission to produce energy for electricity, the same process results to the production of waste materials that are equally harmful to both the people and the environment. And with the accumulation of nuclear waste without proper disposal sites, government agencies will have to look for locations to dump these product wastes.
3. It can open an opportunity for terrorists to build weapons.
Spent fuel can be reprocessed into plutonium, the ingredient to make atomic bombs and other weapons that can cause havoc and disaster on a global scale.
4. It can lead to accidents that can be both deadly and costly.
There have been recorded accidents that occurred in nuclear power plants resulted to deaths. Although when it comes to the number of casualties, accidents resulting from other sources are higher. In terms of the burden to economy, disasters in nuclear plants are far more expensive to address because it entails closing the plant and relocating the people who might be affected.
With the list of the pros and cons of nuclear fission mentioned above, it is safe to say that the use of this process in generating electricity has its upside and downside. Leaders of the countries using nuclear energy should take in consideration these factors and work on mitigating the bad effects if they decide to continue to adopt this process.