Nuclear energy is produced through fission using uranium as fuel. This energy is created through a process of controlled nuclear reactions. In this process, a lot of heat is produced. This heat is the main source of energy in a nuclear reactor. It is mostly used to boil water and release usable steam. Nuclear energy is used in electricity production, powering ships, and as a power source for unmanned space vehicles. Nuclear energy is already in use in many countries around the world.
Currently, the United States is the world’s leading producer of nuclear energy. The United States accounts for more than thirty percent of the global nuclear energy production. The discovery and use of nuclear energy have had various impacts. These can be environmental, economic, social, or even political. This paper addresses the effects nuclear or atomic energy has had on society and the economy.
Statistics indicate that nuclear energy accounted for twenty percent of electricity production in the year 2008. This is as compared to other sources like coal, water, and gas. The reason why nuclear power is preferred over other sources of energy is that it is comparatively cheaper. This makes it a viable economic option. In economic terms, nuclear-sourced electricity is thirty-two percent cheaper than coal-sourced electricity. It is also seventy-five percent cheaper than gas-sourced electricity as of 2009 estimates.
There are fears that oil deposits are approaching exhaustibility. This has heightened the search for an alternative and inexhaustible form of energy. For this reason, the interest and demand for nuclear energy have increased considerably in the last decade. This push is aimed at cushioning the shocks that are usually accompanied by gas shortages.
The recent rise in gas prices and the accompanying implications are an example of some of the problems that can be solved by nuclear energy. It is for his reason that most countries-even third world countries are already setting up nuclear reactors. These efforts are aimed at easing the economic strains caused by the overreliance on oil and coal products.
Environmental economists have lauded nuclear energy because they consider it a clean source of energy. The increasing concerns about global warming have made nuclear power seem more economically viable in the long term. Nuclear energy production does not emit any carbon. This minimizes its global warming effects. Global warming is considered to have dire economic consequences in the long run. This premise makes nuclear energy an attractive source of energy.
Nuclear energy production requires setting up reactors. These reactors are a massive investment as they are very costly to build and maintain. This is the reason why most developing countries cannot manage to set them up. It takes a long time to recoup the investment made by building these reactors.
Developing economies like China and India have recently joined other developed countries in relying on nuclear energy. There are fears that when all the reactors in the developing countries start functioning, the demand for Uranium will outstrip supply. Uranium is the main element in nuclear energy production.
The nuclear energy market has brought unexpected economic effects because of the security threats it poses. There is a possibility of nuclear energy being exploited by terrorist groups or even irresponsible leaders. The effect of this threat is the need to set aside resources for monitoring these security threats.
For instance, The United Nations has a branch that supervises nuclear energy production and uses it around the world. In addition, nuclear accidents are costly and their economic repercussions are far-reaching. An example of this is the recent reactor accidents in Japan. Even though they happened months ago, their economic impacts continue to be felt in Japan and around the world.
Impacts on Society
Most effects of nuclear energy on society are felt by the people living near nuclear reactors. One of such is the effect reactors have on society’s social structure. Putting up a reactor sometimes involves moving the residents of the area away from the reactor. This may translate into relocations hundreds of miles away. These relocations usually have huge impacts on social structures. This is because people who may have been neighbors may end up living in different locations.
Another effect is that whenever a reactor is put up in a certain area, the tax and land prices of the area may change. Reactors are mostly built in secluded areas. This means they are accompanied by major infrastructure developments. These developments may influence an influx in populations or even a rise in property prices. These impacts are sometimes solicited or unsolicited.
Nuclear energy is known to be a major source of fear and propaganda to society. There are many risks associated with nuclear energy. These include health and security-related risks. Most people are afraid that nuclear energy has to have radiations that have adverse effects on their health. Others are concerned about nuclear warfare.
While some of these threats may be real, others are mere propaganda and only serve as a source of fear to society. Some of these fears have degenerated into international conflicts. For instance, the Iraq war started because of fears of nuclear energy misuse.