Climate-conscious homeowners know renewable energy is the best power choice for their homes, but the use of nuclear energy is still up for debate. Many questions naturally arise like…
“Do nuclear plants produce carbon emissions?” “Is it renewable?” and “What about safety?”
Here we’ll explore the pros and cons of nuclear energy, to help answer these questions and help you make more informed energy choices for your home.
Electricity produced by nuclear plants does have its advantages. When you research “nuclear energy pros and cons,” here are the bright spots.
1. Nuclear Energy is Clean
Nuclear energy is the largest source of clean power in America, producing more than half of the country’s emissions-free electricity (1). The impact of carbon-free nuclear energy is the equivalent of taking 100 million cars off U.S. roads (1).
In 2019, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft said this regarding Nuclear Energy and it’s future viability as a clean energy source:
2. Nuclear Energy Powers Over Half the U.S.
Did you know that nuclear energy currently helps to power 28 U.S. states (1)?
That’s a lot of carbon-free electricity, so it’s impact can’t be understated. This type of power generation leads to developments in the economy that can be felt locally, state-wide, nationally, and even globally.
3. National Security is Protected through Nuclear Power
Producing electricity through nuclear energy makes the United States less likely to depend on other countries for energy (1). Also, it’s important to note:
Exporting nuclear energy technology strengthens America’s international relationships.
4. Nuclear Plants Create Jobs
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear plants create approximately 475,000 direct and secondary jobs in the US (2). To help contextualize that number, The National Solar Job Census from 2019 revealed:
The U.S. solar industry employs nearly 250,000 workers as of 2019, according to the 10th annual National Solar Jobs Census.
With almost double the amount of jobs compared to solar, nuclear energy puts food on the table for a lot of families all over the US.
With the good, comes the bad, and nuclear energy is no different. When you look at the top nuclear energy pros and cons, here are the biggest downsides of nuclear energy for its future viability.
1. Nuclear Accidents can be Deadly
Nuclear plants rarely have accidents, but when they do, the results can be catastrophic.
The disasters at Fukushima in 2011 and Chernobyl in 1986 resulted in deaths and illnesses, not to mention environmental damage.
2. Plants are Viewed as Unsafe
The perception that nuclear power is dangerous has hampered growth in the sector. Films including “The China Syndrome” have characterized the power source as dangerous, making it unpopular with nearly half of American adults (3).
3. Used Fuel Poses a Disposal Challenge
A major drawback to nuclear energy is the creation of radioactive waste such as spent reactor fuel. Dangerous to humans for thousands of years, this nuclear waste must be stored with caution.
4. Nuclear Plants are Expensive and Time-Consuming to Build
Building a nuclear plant can cost nearly $6 billion, and the regulations involved can make the construction process for one of these plants last nearly a decade (4). Lisa Martine Jenkins, a journalist for the Morning Consult conducted a survey that stated:
Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) view nuclear energy unfavorably, making it the most unpopular energy source other than coal.
With nearly half of the public not fully onboard with nuclear energy, and given its high expenses in dollars, time, and opportunity costs — it’s important for us all to continue the conversation to make better energy choices.
How is Nuclear Energy Created?
Nuclear energy is created by using the heat produced during nuclear fission to boil water, which then produces steam to spin large turbines that generate electricity. Nuclear fission occurs inside the plant’s reactor, which contains uranium fuel rods at its center (5).
Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?
The answer to the question “Is nuclear energy renewable?” is a subject of debate. Proponents say it is renewable because of the planet’s abundance of uranium, but others disagree.
The International Renewable Energy Agency said they “will not support nuclear energy programs because it’s a long, complicated process, it produces waste and is relatively risky, proving that their decision has nothing to do with having a sustainable supply of fuel” (6).
How is Nuclear Waste Stored?
Nuclear waste is stored, transported, and disposed of by the U.S. Department of Energy. This nuclear waste is stored at 76 reactors or disposal sites in 34 states (1).
- Advantages and Challenges of Nuclear Energy. Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/advantages-and-challenges-nuclear-energy
- The Advantages of Nuclear Energy. Retrieved from: https://www.nei.org/advantages
- Nuclear Energy Among the Least Popular Sources of Power in the U.S. Retrieved from: https://morningconsult.com/2020/09/09/nuclear-energy-polling/
- Median construction time required for nuclear reactors worldwide from 1981 to 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/712841/median-construction-time-for-reactors-since-1981/
- Nuclear Explained. Retrieved from: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/nuclear/
- Is Nuclear Energy Renewable Energy?. Retrieved from: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph241/chowdhury2/