Nuclear energy, first developed in the 1940s,
is a powerful energy source that the United States along with many other
countries has been using now for some time now. Just in the United States
alone, there has been millions and millions of dollars that have been pumped
into nuclear power reactors, the costs associated with developing this energy,
and of course the disposal of nuclear waste. There are estimated to be over 400
nuclear power reactors located in 31 different countries around the world.
These reactors are said to provide about 11% of the entire world’s electricity
and 20% of the electricity in the United States. The nuclear industry as a
whole generates anywhere from 2,000 to 2,300 tons of nuclear waste per year,
which obviously has to be store somewhere. Exposure to nuclear waste has caused
countless deaths over the last hundred years. Since nuclear waste remains
radioactive after its use, for thousands of years, disposing of this waste
properly has always been a problem. So now the questions that come to mind are
how is nuclear waste being disposed of, and why has it been this ongoing
problem for years now. There are flaws to using nuclear
energy, a big one of them being how to deal with nuclear waste. Materials used
in the making of nuclear energy cannot be immediately handled after use and
must be stored because of its radioactivity. Because plants have to store this
waste for lengthy periods of time, there isn’t enough storage space to continue
storing waste at the rate these plants are producing them.
Nuclear energy was actually discovered by
accident in 1896 by a French scientist. Antoine Becquerel stumbled upon nuclear
energy during an experiment he ran in which he found that uranium salts absorbed
sunlight and then emitted radiation similar to x-rays. He became known as the
father of nuclear energy. It was during World War II that numerous scientist really
studied nuclear reactors and eventually narrowed their focus to nuclear energy.
It was then when scientists discovered the potential nuclear energy had to
become a great power source in the future. Nuclear energy is created when atoms
of uranium are split in controlled nuclear reactions. Through a process known
as nuclear fission, uranium atoms are split in a nuclear reactor. During this
process when neutrons collide with uranium atoms, atoms split which produces
heat. This causes fission to create a chain reaction where the process becomes self-sustaining.
There are fuel rods inserted that either slow or acceleration the reaction.