Today, nuclear energy provides close to 10% of the world's electricity and has the potential to shift reliance on fossil fuels. But is nuclear really clean energy? Are the potential risks worth the benefit to the world?
Nuclear power offers large amounts of electricity and is not available only intermittently like some renewables. It is also one of the safest energy sources, contrary to popular belief. Surprisingly, there were no deaths attributable to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Yet, our most used energy source remains oil: a limited resource with negative impacts on the environment and one of the highest mortality rates in production.
The idea of nuclear power began in the 1930s and today researchers are opening up the possibility to create microreactors to provide low-cost electricity anywhere. But disposing of nuclear waste is difficult and dangerous, and the real threat of accidents and terrorism leads many people to argue that the negatives outweigh the positives. Could nuclear be the answer to powering the world?
Dr. Robert Hayes is an Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering at North Carolina State University where he teaches Health Physics, Nuclear Waste Management and Radiological Emergency Response.