The Future of Nuclear Power

Technology involving nuclear power is still developing. Though nuclear power is not currently classified as a renewable resource it has the potential to evolve into a source of energy production that is self-sustaining. Breeder reactors produce more fuel than they consume while producing energy; these core reactors are essentially renewable. From Figure 1 below, it is observed that the core reactor has a closed loop due to the self-generation of fuel needed to power the reactor. Though this seems ideal at first, there are still a lot of issues with breeder reactors, the main problem being that sodium, the systems form of coolant, “reacts violently with water and burns if exposed to air” (Thomas B. Cochran, “Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status”). In addition to this, if the core of a breeder reactor reaches extremely high temperatures there is a higher chance of a nuclear explosion. Though the technology is not yet available to make nuclear power a form of safe, renewable energy, there is hope that one day we will be able to harness power from atomic fusion (Energy Informative, “Nuclear Energy Pros and Cons). The ability to control atomic fusion, which is the same type of reaction that fuels the sun, would make nuclear power a sustainable and renewable source of energy.

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Figure 1: Diagram of a Breeder Reactor (Source: Cameco U101) 

Living in a time where reducing green house gas pollution is essential is driving the search for new forms of energy. Nuclear power has been around for decades, however it is just now receiving attention for being essentially a zero emissions form of power. Another major attraction to nuclear power is its ability to sustain high amounts of energy production. Pairing nuclear power with power from renewable resources would allow for an uninterrupted flow of energy production with close to no pollutants. Nuclear power could some day be considered as a renewable resource if our technology continues to advance. A goal must be to continue to strive for the ability to harness atomic fusion energy; achieving this would lead to a nearly limitless amount of energy.

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