Nuclear energy: Is it really the fuel of the future?

first_imgThere is evidence that suggests that reduced economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, brought down pollution levels all around the world. This is good news for us, the bad news is as soon as we reopen, in our efforts to catch up on lost time businesses will go back to the same emission levels as earlier, perhaps even more. As the discussions around global warming start again, there will be a focus on renewable energy and every time talks about renewable energy happen, there is always the view that Nuclear energy is the all-powerful alternative.But, is that true?The man, who singlehandedly changed the face of modern physics. The man without whom, we would not be having this debate is the great Albert Einstein. But even he was deeply disturbed by the destructive potential that the building blocks of the universe hold.Nuclear fuel has been considered the magic fuel ever since the inception of the first nuclear reactors. It has been glorified everywhere, especially in science fictions, where it is used to propel giant futuristic spaceships as we see in Star Trek and Star Wars. Obviously, these science fictions usually take place in the future. But we have to ask ourselves, is nuclear energy, really the fuel of the future? Is it safe? Is it clean? Is it cheap?Safe, it is not. The horrific images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have faded in our memories but it brings to light the devastation that can be unleashed by nuclear energy. Though that was a nuclear weapon, we saw nuclear energy’s true destructive potential in 1986 in Chernobyl, Russia. The Three Mile Island incident that occurred in 1979 in the USA further underlines the dangers. And how can we forget the Fukushima disaster of 2011?There is a reason why European nations like Spain, Germany and Switzerland and many others are slowly phasing out nuclear energy.Is it clean? We all know that the harmful radioactive waste created as a bi-product in reactors can’t be disposed of in normal ways. They are extremely radioactive and do not decompose.And then there are other issues like renewability and availability. First of all, nuclear fuel is not renewable just like fossil fuels. Also, nuclear power is mainly derived from the fission of elements like uranium. The supplies of fuel-grade Uranium available in the earth’s crust is very limited, only 4 parts per million. Hypothetically speaking, if we completely switch over to nuclear fuel overnight, it would last us not even a century.Nuclear fission is a very expensive process which does not have a good return on investment. Scientists are working on making nuclear fusion reactors where the ROI will be better but that is still a pipe dream. In 2019, the most ambitious nuclear fusion project, The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor which was incepted in 2007 announced that tests would begin by 2025. Until a more renewable nuclear fuel is discovered or nuclear fusion is made viable, nuclear energy simply can’t be alternate energy.last_img read more