Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Future Of Nuclear Engineering

With an ever increasing demand for clean energy, nuclear power is an option that many governments around the world are considering to meet the energy needs of its nations. This coincides with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the need for their replacement. We take a look at the future of nuclear engineering at a time when the climatic effects of burning fossil fuels is a major talking point in the media.

Nuclear power is considered clean as it produces energy without burning fossil fuels and therefore does not contribute to rising greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The major drawback with this type of energy is dealing with the radioactive waste. The general consensus however is that as long as the waste is stored correctly, it will not pose a hazard to the environment or the population.

Coal fuelled power plants on the other hand are responsible for the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere which in turn contributes to global warming. At a time when many nuclear reactors are coming to the end of their life, governments are faced with a decision about what technology will be used to meet the growing demand for energy.

One consideration is harnessing energy from sustainable sources. Renewable energy from wind, solar and geothermal power have been considered as viable options, as has hydrogen power. Unfortunately the technology behind sustainable energy has not developed to a point where it is efficient enough or cost effective enough to meet demand. As such, these sources need to be combined with other types of energy production to provide the energy needed.

In light of this, it seems that the nuclear power sector has the potential to be the power source of choice. Advances in nuclear engineering means that an industry that has already been proven to meet energy demands without releasing greenhouse gasses is in a better position than ever to provide the solution. Even though the initial start up costs of building a nuclear power plant are high, the fact that it is a proven technology means that the government will be willing to invest; which is something they are reluctant to do with newer technologies that capture energy from renewable sources.

Power from nuclear reactors currently accounts for a large proportion of electricity generated worldwide, but there is a huge opportunity for expansion. Provided that nuclear engineering can alleviate the concerns over the safe disposal of radioactive waste, there is a chance that it can be the right technology for combating dangerous climatic change.

1 comment: