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The use of nuclear energy and power


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Nuclear energy, also known as atomic energy, was first discovered by French scientist Henri Becquerel in 1896. According to Science Dictionary, nuclear energy is an energy released by the nucleus of an atom. The amount of energy released by the nuclear fission of a given mass of uranium is about 2,500,000 times greater than that released by the combustion of an equal mass of carbon. Due to the massive amount of energy released by nuclear energy, the pursuit of nuclear power began soon after the discovery in the early day. According to International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's first nuclear power plant, USSR's Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant, which is producing around 5 megawatts of electric power in 1954. Currently, there are 442 nuclear power plants in the world including China, India, South Africa and the United States. In China, nuclear power plants provided 62.86 billion kWh, which is 2.3% of total electricity output to China. (World Nuclear Association, 2011)

However, due to the insufficient advanced technology of handling nuclear power, catastrophic accidents happened. A series of explosions at the Chernobyl plant reactor number four on 26 April, 1986. As a result, a plume of radioactive fallout sent into the atmosphere and drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern, Western and Northern Europe. (World Nuclear Association, 2011) This was the worst nuclear accident in the history of world. As a result, the arising of anti-nuclear organization grows rapidly such as Greenpeace and Friend of The Earth. Anti-nuclear movements are carrying out within the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific. They protest the usage of the nuclear power has been out of its own purpose.

Besides that, with the uprising of alternative power sources, people who support the usage of the alternative power sources are also raising their voices to question nuclear power researchers about the need of nuclear power for generate electricity. Alternatives such as wind, biomass, hydroelectricity and solar power are cheaper and cleaner ways to generate electricity. For instance, in Germany there are 21,164 wind turbines with the total capacity of 25,777 megawatt installed and by the end of 2009, 38 TWh of wind electricity are being generated in 2009, which meant it occupies 7% of Germany's net electricity consumption. (German Wind Energy Association, 2010)

Nuclear power is indeed one of the most current issues in the world. Taking both the supporting and opposing views of the society, associations, researchers and industries into consideration, the main argument now centers on whether nuclear energy should be used for generating electricity. Subsequently, the ultimate question that needs to be answered is: Can Nuclear power competes with alternative power sources?

Nuclear power can compete with alternative power sources because it offers phenomenal energy output to the world and it requires low costs which the fuel is inexpensive. Besides that, nuclear power is fine to the environment which does not causes greenhouse or acid rain effect.

Therefore, the following report will hereby focus on the advantages of nuclear power and the weaknesses of the opposing arguments. This report will be centered on western and eastern countries where research and documentation on advantages of nuclear and alternative energy sources for generating electricity are both comprehensible and exhaustive. The time frame used in this report is from the 1890s till today.

Body of content

2.1 Phenomenal Energy Output

Proponents of alternatives power sources say that major alternative energy sources like are able to generate abundant electricity supply. In 2005, there is 8933 MW of installed power capacity in 24 countries, which are generating 55709 GWh per year of green power, which is according to the International Geothermal Association. Coal-fired power, which has been widely used in many countries for several decades, supplies at least 40% of electricity, which is 7692 TWh to the entire world. (International Energy Agency, 2004)

According to International Energy Agency, the pie chart above shows the Coal-fired power generates 40.8% of electricity to the world whereas nuclear power supplies 14.7% of electricity to the world in 2006. This can be defined that major power sources such as coal-fired power, gas, hydroelectric, oil and renewable power sources are supplying abundant electricity to the world.

However, this is wrong as nuclear power too have phenomenal energy output. Nuclear power does provide about 14% of the world's electricity as continuous and reliable base-load power. As such the efficiency does increase year by year. Instead of coal-fire power, nuclear power is the most powerful sources that can generate up to terawatts of electricity to the world. Today, 442 nuclear power plants in the world and more than 15 countries rely on nuclear power for 25% or more of their electricity. A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) studies has been carried out; by 2050 nuclear power could become the largest sources of electricity worldwide and contribute almost 25% of all electricity.

World Nuclear Association stated that, France, which is refer from the bar chart above, about 75% of electricity is supplied by nuclear power, which has the total of 58 nuclear reactors with total capacity of over 63GWe out of 116GWe. The United States, the largest nuclear electricity generation in the world. In 2008, 104 nuclear reactors in USA generate 805 billion kWh out of 4119 billion kWh net of electricity, which resulting of almost 20% of total electricity generation (World Nuclear Association, 2011). As can be clearly seen nuclear power in France and the United States are vital to the entire country. In short, the contribution of nuclear power to supply electricity cannot be neglected and nuclear power can compete with other alternative power sources.

On the other hand, according to Nuclear Energy Institute, they claim that uranium fuel pellet contains high and concentrated energy. 1 uranium fuel pellet can be equaled to 1 ton of coal, 17000 cubic feet of natural gas, and 5000 pounds of wood as well as 149 gallons of oil. As a result, nuclear power can produce high electricity supplies compare to coal-fired power, gas, oil and combustion of woods as small amount of fuel can generates massive power production. Therefore, nuclear power not only saves fuel but also generates massive electricity output.

In a nutshell, nuclear power can compete with alternative power sources as only small amount of fuel are require to generate electricity and nuclear power generates massive electricity output compare to alternative power sources. If nuclear power has been widely used all over the world, then it supplies phenomenal electricity to the world. Hence the usage alternative power sources can be reduced. So, choose nuclear power rather than alternative power sources, why not?

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