Monday, May 20, 2024

Nuclear energy shapes U.S. future

By Rocco Golden

Energy in the United States has for a long time been a hot topic of debate. The typical debate is that the country needs to switch to renewable energy faster. Now, on paper it totally makes sense. Renewable energy would obviously seem like something to implement everywhere. 

The issue with renewables such as wind and solar is that the total energy output is less than that of other sources. More energy infrastructure would be needed, as well as more batteries to store the energy, which would defeat the purpose of going to clean energy in the first place, as batteries for these kinds of energy require materials that need to be mined and refined. 

The process of making batteries and other parts for newer machines such as EVs is just as harmful to the environment as using a combustion engine for a long time.

What if there was an energy source that produced a lot of energy and didn’t have emissions? There is. It’s called nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy has been around since the mid-20th century. The energy making process comes from fission. Put simply, fission is a chain reaction of atoms that releases a lot of energy through heat, which is used to create steam to power turbines. The process itself produces just as much, if not more, energy than other sources, and with zero carbon emissions. It’s the best of both worlds.

There are a few reasons as to why nuclear energy isn’t as prominent as you would think. It’s expensive, building nuclear power plants tends to be more expensive than all other energy sources. Nuclear waste is also one of the problems of nuclear energy. However, with the right storage and management, nuclear waste can be taken care of safely.

A misconception people make is how much nuclear waste is actually produced. The United States, on average, produces around 160,000 cubic feet of nuclear waste per year. That may sound like a lot, but that could easily fit into your local Walmart. The pros of nuclear energy outweigh the cons. There are certainly a lot of current issues with today’s nuclear energy, but in all reality, the issue is the government.

The U.S. government has, in essence, failed to keep up with changing technology over the past decades. This is for a multitude of reasons, whether it be lobbying, laziness, or the fact of rising polarization, the federal government just hasn’t delivered on what they claim to be doing.

Fortunately, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. According to an article by Consumer News and Business Channel, the Department of Energy has committed $50 million to nuclear fusion companies. The $50 million will help companies prepare detailed plans, and it will help bolster and give U.S. fusion companies credibility. Fusion is an up and coming technology that is different from fission. Fusion energy is by far the best source of energy for the future. 

There is no competition for fusion with regards to energy output. Fusion can create millions of times more energy than fossil fuels, and it doesn’t produce any nuclear waste or greenhouse gasses.

Now, obviously, there are pros and cons to everything. The issue with fusion energy is that the technology isn’t quite there yet. If the government would spend money on something that is worthwhile, instead of a bunch of useless programs, nuclear fusion should be the top pick. Sufficient funding would be able to accelerate technological advancement. The conditions needed for fusion are difficult to replicate, advanced technology that doesn’t exist yet is needed for sustainable fusion energy production.

Hopefully in the coming years fusion energy gains some much needed ground. Why have fossil fuels or ugly wind and solar farms when there is fusion energy? Nuclear fusion would be the best option for creating a clean, sustainable future whilst also having more than enough energy output. Fusion energy is just outright better than all other energy sources. Materials are getting more expensive, it would be better to invest in fusion now than later.

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