Nuclear energy is for some, the way of the future, and for others an outdated dangerous, unsustainable energy source. Nuclear energy is produced by splitting the atom of uranium, which causes water to heat up and turn into steam, which in turn moves huge turbines, producing energy. Currently 30 countries worldwide are operating 450 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 60 new nuclear plants are under construction in 15 countries. (Nuclear Energy Institute, 2017) Nuclear energy is a huge debate, especially in modern times when we are feeling the first effects of climate change.
The strongest argument for the use of nuclear energy is that it is a better and cleaner energy alternative to fossil fuel burning. Burning fossil fuels emits several air pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and human health. Between 1976 and 2009 64 gigatons of greenhouse gases were not emitted due to nuclear energy use. (NASA, 2013) This huge number could even increase to 80-240 gigatons by 2050. (NASA,2013) As this study has shown, use of nuclear energy could be a significant factor in dampening the effects of climate change by reducing emissions. While nuclear energy is unsustainable in the long-term, it is a good short term solution to combat climate change while we are still shifting from fossil fuel based energy to renewable energy.
Current nuclear technology is out of date, as nuclear innovation stopped in the 1970s. With increased research and development, nuclear energy of the future could be cleaner, cheaper and plentiful. Current nuclear reactors are powered by uranium, but countries around the world are increasingly looking at using thorium to power reactors. Thorium is a naturally occurring, mildly radioactive element. Thorium is abundant, difficult to weaponize and almost two times less wasteful than current nuclear reactors. (Discover Magazine, 2015) Thorium reactors produce significantly less waste than current nuclear reactors, and the waste material produced is only dangerous for a few hundred years, in contrast to several thousand years. (The Green Age, 2016) One ton of thorium is estimated to provide the same amount of energy as 200 tons of uranium or 3.5 million tons of coal. (The Green Age, 2016) If more money was invested in thorium reactors they could replace our outdated uranium reactors and make nuclear energy a much cleaner power source.
Another argument is that nuclear energy saves lives. In a study conducted by NASA in 2009, it was concluded that nuclear energy has prevented 1.8 million deaths between 1978 and 2009. This number could increase to upwards of 7 million by 2050. (Scientific American, 2013) Fossil fuels directly contribute to people’s deaths in many ways. In 2010, 4.5 million deaths could be attributed to air pollution, because of the production of carbon particles and nitrogen oxides. Another 500,000 deaths that year could be attributed to greenhouse gas caused changes in climate, which lead to extreme...