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Can Nuclear Energy Replace Fossil Fuels For Electricity Production?

By Roger Vanderlely

Nuclear energy has been receiving a lot of attention as a possible solution to the use of fossil fuels for generating mainstream electricity. But how does it really fare as a long term contender for base load energy production?

There’s no doubt that fossil fuels have lots of problems associated with their long term large scale use. One problem is that of Peak Oil production, where we may have already passed maximum capacity production, yet demand is still rising. More serious than this is the very real possibility of significant and virtually irreversible climate change brought about at least in part by our continuous addition of Carbon Dioxide and other pollutants to the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels.

How does Nuclear energy compare to fossil fuels for long term production of mainstream energy? There are concerns about Nuclear power, some real and some imagined. If we think “nuclear disaster” most people will be able to recall the names of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl where reactor malfunctions caused lots of suffering. The reality though is that problems such as these, while potent, are extremely rare particularly when compared to the amount of electricity produced by those same reactors. The number of casualties in the coal and oil production sectors is far greater per year for the same amount of electricity production.

Storing the waste products from Nuclear reactors was a significant issue in the past. However, now the waste can be stored in solid form meaning there is almost no chance of contamination outside the storage area.

Fuel enrichment is a fact of using Nuclear energy, as the whole process would be far too wasteful without it. It is unfortunate that weapon-grade Plutonium-239 is a byproduct of this process. Nuclear weapons, while devastating as shown by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War 2, are essentially a separate issue and the fact that they are still produced is more of a sad reflection on global politics than a condemnation of Nuclear energy.

The key long term factor though is that Nuclear energy production relies on a non-renewable resource. It is true that deposits of Uranium may have only started being used, but given that the world is continuing to use more and more energy we can see clearly that the day will come when the Uranium will run out.

It does not make sense to replace fossil fuels with an energy source that is doomed to face exactly the same problem. Those who champion Nuclear power say it is the solution to our current energy and pollution crisis, but those people are not looking far enough into the future.

We need to be making plans not just for our own well-being, but also that of our children and grandchildren. Adopting wide scale renewable energy production from solar and wind sources is the way forward. These are proven technologies that are more than capable of meeting our energy needs and which have very limited adverse environmental effects, if they are manufactured and deployed sensibly.

Governments around the world need to start making intelligent decisions that benefit both us and the generations to come. A secure, clean energy source is obviously the way forward so large scale renewable energy production must be implemented immediately.

Discover more about Nuclear energy and how it compares with coal and oil use in the Fossil Fuels section of Roger Vanderlely’s website. You can also read about important energy sources under development like the Bakken Oil Field.

categories: global warming,current affairs,current events,energy,technology,environment,environment and nature,nature,science,reference,education,politics,government,world

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Vanderlely, Roger "Can Nuclear Energy Replace Fossil Fuels For Electricity Production?." Can Nuclear Energy Replace Fossil Fuels For Electricity Production?. 1 Oct. 2010. 3 Apr 2015 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Vanderlely, R (2010, October 1). Can Nuclear Energy Replace Fossil Fuels For Electricity Production?. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Vanderlely, Roger "Can Nuclear Energy Replace Fossil Fuels For Electricity Production?"

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