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Renewables vs. Nuclear

Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant_060422A
[Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant, Arizona - US Department of Energy]


- Overview

Renewable energy and nuclear energy have different advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some advantages of renewable energy: 

  • Cleaner air: Renewable energy produces cleaner air and lower carbon emissions.
  • Natural resource conservation: Renewable energy uses unlimited, naturally replenished resources like the sun, tides, and wind.
  • Long-term savings: Renewable energy can provide substantial long-term savings.
  • Energy diversification: Renewable energy can diversify energy supply and reduce dependence on imported fuels.
  • Economic development: Renewable energy can create economic development and jobs.

Here are some disadvantages of nuclear energy:

  • Expensive: Construction of a new nuclear plant can cost billions of dollars and take 5-10 years.
  • Risk of accident: Nuclear energy poses a risk of accident.
  • Radioactive waste: Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste.
  • Limited fuel supply: Nuclear energy has a limited fuel supply.
  • Environmental impact: Nuclear energy has a high environmental impact.
  • Non-renewable fuel source: Nuclear energy is a non-renewable fuel source.
  • Water consumption: Nuclear energy is intensive in water consumption.
  • Risk of catastrophe: Nuclear energy poses a risk of catastrophe.

Here are some differences between renewable energy and nuclear energy: 

  • Construction: Nuclear systems can have longer lead times and construction cost overruns than similarly sized renewable energy projects.
  • Emissions: Nuclear energy emits 4 times less CO2 than solar power, 2 times less than hydroelectricity, and the same amount as wind power.
  • Fuel source: Renewable energy comes from unlimited, naturally replenished resources, while nuclear energy comes from a non-renewable fuel source.
  • Waste: Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste, while renewable energy produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

- Tackling Greenhouse Gases 

According to NASA, the Earth's surface temperature has risen by 0.9 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Researchers agree that there is one main reason for the increase in temperature: increased greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide Greenhouse gases such as methane and methane have grown exponentially in the atmosphere since the late 1800s due to the increased use of fossil fuels in the energy, manufacturing and transportation industries. 

A report released on October 8, 2018 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that if the Earth's temperature rose by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the impact would be catastrophic. Entire ecosystems could disappear, sea levels would be higher, and extreme weather events would become more common. According to the IPCC, avoiding this "requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society", including a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide levels by 2030. 

- Swift Action Is Required To Save Humanity from Dangerous Global Warming 

Electricity is essential to modern life. It powers the lights and appliances in our homes. It powers many industry processes. It is used to power trains and charge electric vehicles. All power supplies have advantages and disadvantages. There are two different approaches to reducing fossil fuel consumption -- using renewable energy or using nuclear energy. However, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are environmentally friendly but have low power generation efficiency. 

Nuclear energy provides large amounts of reliable electricity without generating significant carbon emissions. Nuclear power is very efficient (reliable "baseload" electricity supply), but there are fears of radiation contamination. All these factors have led to different R&D efforts to form microgrids and large-scale penetration of renewable energy using distributed generation systems. In many countries, renewable energy is beginning to replace fossil fuels as the main energy source. But one of renewable energy's biggest questions remains unsolved: What happens if it's cloudy? More specifically, the problem is that renewable energy can never provide a steady source of electricity. 

Nuclear power plants use the heat from nuclear fission to generate steam that drives turbines, much like a fossil fuel factory. However, no greenhouse gases are produced during this fission process, and only small amounts are produced throughout the fuel cycle. 

- Radioactive Waste Management 

Like all industries, power generation generates waste. Regardless of the fuel used, waste from power generation must be managed in a way that protects human health and minimizes environmental impact. Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy source—the technology that produces the full responsibility for all waste and incorporates its full cost into the product. Compared to other thermal power generation technologies, nuclear energy produces a very small amount of waste. Spent nuclear fuel can be disposed of as a resource or simply as waste. 

Compared to other toxic industrial wastes, nuclear waste is neither particularly hazardous nor difficult to manage. The safe method of final disposal of high-level radioactive waste has been technically proven; the international consensus is that geological disposal is the best option.


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