Nuclear energy has been around for decades as a powerful energy source, but as of late it’s often overlooked in favor of wind and solar power. In the recent past, meltdowns in Japan stoked the fears of many about the perceived dangers of nuclear power. But nuclear power is a viable—and, when implemented correctly—safe alternative to conventional energy sources.
A readily apparent benefit of coal plant shutdowns throughout Canada is an overall increase in air quality. One of the major advantages of nuclear power is that it does not produce harmful air emissions as a byproduct of energy generation.
Solar and wind energy are dependent on factors outside of mankind’s control. Sites are determined by areas where sun and wind are in abundance, and even in those areas these resources are not constant. What’s more, because potential locations are so rigidly defined, solar panels and wind turbines are often built where they’re not wanted. In Canada, we have a number of these turbines on the Bruce Peninsula, a popular vacation spot where travelers have complained about both the eyesore created by the turbines, as well as the noise they produce. Nuclear plants generate power consistently throughout the day and night, regardless of outside conditions.
Power is utilized in various voltages and wavelengths. The energy generated by solar and wind power is only good for certain loads. Nuclear power however creates a more widely applicable form of energy, creating a solid energy base to be distributed throughout the power grid.
The tragic meltdown in Japan, set off by earthquake and tsunami, was evidence of what can happen when nuclear plants are not built in the right locations. But when built on seismic safe zones they are a safe energy generation solution.
Nuclear energy is not a perfect method of power generation. It’s true that the energy created is abundant and relatively low cost, and that nuclear meltdown is a not a regular or even an expected occurrence. But while the air emissions from nuclear power plants are clean, the spent nuclear fuel rods are not. These radioactive rods are dangerous, and must be disposed of carefully. Currently, disposal is typically handled by shielding the spent fuel and then storing it in a safe location.
The feat of creating nuclear power is an engineering marvel in its own right. The challenge of how to better dispose of spent nuclear fuel is another problem for engineers to solve. Until they do, current disposal methods keep spent fuel tucked safely away, and nuclear energy remains an excellent method for power generation.