When the topic of nuclear energy is brought up in the mainstream media, many are quick to criticize the explosive personality that makes nuclear energy extremely attractive. This personality has also lead to uses and accidents which have stained the course of human history. It needs to be understood that there is no 100% clean energy in existence yet, but modern methods of harvesting nuclear energy are extremely clean and remarkably efficient compared to conventional sources of energy.
The concept that seemingly-limitless quantities of energy could be generated from a small amount of matter was but a fantasy at the end of the 19th century. During the era of the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels had changed the way the world does everything by providing a easy source of a lot of energy. However, the consequences of using fossil fuels became a serious long-term issue. The Earth’s supply of fossil fuels is finite, and the rate of replenishment is miniscule to our gluttonous consumption. In addition, extracting energy from fossil fuels produced large quantities of unwanted by-products. Nuclear power would present itself in the same way that fossil fuels did centuries prior: an easily available source of nearly-limitless energy.
The underlying principle of nuclear energy is that the forced fission or fusion of certain atoms can yield extremely greater amounts of energy than is consumed by starting the process. For example, a single pound of uranium fuel is able to produce about the same amount of energy as three million pounds of coal (Newton 18).
Safe nuclear energy was first demonstrated on December 2 of 1942 when scientists working in the metallurgical laboratories at the University of Chicago managed to start and control a chain reaction of uranium-235 fission, releasing a modest amount of energy (newton 10). Soon after this experimentation of controlled nuclear fission, reactors were built to produce Plutonium-239, another potential nuclear fuel from the common but non-fissionable uranium-238, using the excess neutrons from fission reactions, which served to alleviate concerns over the scarce but fissionable uranium-235.
As sad of a fact as it is, but one of the first practical applications of this explosive source of energy was in an explosive weapon. The first nuclear weapon was detonated on July 16 of 1945. Despite only being a test explosion, it was the most powerful single weapon used to that day, and predated the first successful generation of energy from a nuclear source by more than half a decade (newton 20). During the next month, the world was forever changed by the usage of two nuclear weapons in warfare, which would be the only two nuclear weapons ever detonated outside of tests to this date.
Before nuclear energy could be used as an electricity source The biggest initial problems that nuclear energy presented, as opposed to fossil fuels, was controlling the reaction of fuel. Unlike conventional fuel sources...