, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada
Nuclear Power Today and Tomorrow and Its Role in Fighting Climate Change
One of the “hottest” topics in the world today among many others is the climate change. In general, climate-change indicators are melting of ice in Arctic, Antarctic, and in mountains, which results in continuous sea level rising; ocean acidification; extreme weather events and weather-pattern changes; changes in wildlife and disappearance of many species on our planet, etc. And it looks that almost everyday we have more and more evidence for climate change from human activities.
In general, it is well known that the concentration of carbon dioxide and water vapor in atmosphere, as greenhouse gases, affects global temperature, and the concentration of carbon dioxide plays the primary role in that. Carbon dioxide from human activities is the product of combustion process of fuels such as coal, natural gas, oil and its products, etc. Therefore, if we can decrease amount of fossil fuels used for electricity generation and use electricity-powered vehicles, we can decrease substantially amount of carbon dioxide emitted into atmosphere. Therefore, such electricity-generating sources as nuclear, hydro and other renewables as wind, solar, etc. can help to decrease carbon-dioxide emissions and to minimize human-activities impact on climate and environment.
Nuclear power, which, currently, generates 10% of the world’s electricity, is often considered to be a non-renewable-energy source as the fossil fuels, such as coal and gas. However, nuclear resources can be used for significantly longer time than some fossil fuels, and in some cases almost indefinitely, if recycling of unused or spent uranium fuel, thoria-fuel resources, and fast-neutron-spectrum reactors are used. The major advantages of nuclear power are
1. Concentrated and reliable source of almost infinite energy, which is almost independent of weather;
2. High capacity factors are achievable, often in excess of 90% with long operating cycles, making units suitable for continuous base-load operation;
3. Essentially negligible operating emissions of carbon dioxide and relatively small amount of wastes generated compared to those at fossil-fuel thermal power plants; and
4. Relatively small amount of fuel required compared to that of fossil-fuel thermal power plants.
As a result, nuclear power is considered as the most viable source for electricity generation within next 50 – 100 years. However, nuclear power must operate and compete in energy markets based on relative costs and strategic advantages of the available fuels and energy types.