“Nuclear energy research initially was concentrated on producing an atomic bomb for use in World War II. The development of nuclear energy for… the generation of electricity began only after the war ended in 1945” (Miller 1). Due to quick assumptions and little research, nuclear energy is thought of to be a safety hazard and used for weaponry and destruction amongst people. However, nuclear energy is more than mere darkness. People do not realize that there is more to nuclear energy than danger. As this paper progresses, there are four questions to be answered; do the benefits outweigh the risks, is nuclear energy safe for humans and the environment, is nuclear energy a good solution to climate change, and what is the future of nuclear energy? As the attempt to answer these questions conveys, one may form his or her own opinion of nuclear energy. To answer the four previous questions, one must understand the logistics behind nuclear energy. The basic building blocks of matter are atoms, atoms in turn go through a process called fission1, in which large amounts of energy are released to heat water and create steam. This steam is used to spin steam turbines, creating electricity.
This is the basic understanding of how steam is made to create electricity, what does nuclear energy have to do with this? The nuclei of radioactive elements are unstable, giving out energy as they break apart and go through several stages in order to become stable. In this several stage process, the radioactive isotopes’ nuclei decompose to acquire a more stable number of protons and neutrons. However, they release radiation2 in the form of high-energy waves. There are three forms of these energy waves, alpha, beta, and gamma waves. The alpha waves are the weakest of the three and the least harmful of them. These waves have two protons and two neutrons, making them positively charged. These waves can be stopped by a sheet of paper or by one’s skin. However if released into the body, these waves can cause harm to the person. Next, there are the beta waves, a stronger wave component compared to the alpha waves. These waves are fast moving electrons leaving the nucleus of an atom. Any metal element can halter these waves as metals deflect and diffract particles. Finally, the gamma waves are the most feared and dangerous, due to the nucleus of the atom being in an excited state3 emitting one or more photons or packs of electromagnetic radiation. Gamma waves are capable of vaporization, as seen from the atomic bomb droppings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. With this basic understanding in mind, one can now understand why uranium is the favorable element in the nuclear energy process. “Uranium is a very heavy metal which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy” (What is Uranium?). This statement alone tells one two things, uranium is heavy, thus making it durable to experimentation and testing and two, it is an abundant source of energy. Uranium is found in most rocks, is common in the earth’s crust, and appears in seawater hence being recoverable from oceans. “This unstable element has played major roles in its brief arc through history… a Greek drama of the rational age” (Zoellner 4). Discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, uranium has been the earth’s main inside source of heating due to its slow radioactive decay. Uranium is a great source of heat, therefore using it in nuclear energy is practical and efficient. Uranium atoms replace the use of coal or gas in nuclear-powered stations and other fossil-fuelled power stations. Through the process of converting uranium ore to uranium hexafluoride, a process of mining, dissolving, and creating the gas uranium hexafluoride, the cores of the reactors are assembled and “by 1941 the world had its first reactor” (Snedden 1). Other uses of uranium include military use, but the proportions in which the uranium differs than that for the nuclear energy, however it is common...
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