1 minute read

Nuclear Power

The Nuclear Power Plant, Types Of Nuclear Power Plant, Safety Concerns, Nuclear Waste Management

Nuclear power is any method of doing work that makes use of nuclear fission or nuclear fusion reactions. In its broadest sense, the term refers to both the uncontrolled release of nuclear energy, as in fission or fusion weapons, and to the controlled release of energy, as in nuclear power plants. Most commonly, however, the expression "nuclear power" is reserved for the latter. Approximately 430 nuclear reactors devoted to the manufacture of electricity are operating worldwide.

The world's first exposure to nuclear power came with the detonation of two fission (atomic) bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, events that coincided with the end of World War II. (It has long been assumed by many historians and members of the general public that these atomic bombings were necessary to produce a Japanese surrender and to forestall a United States invasion of Japan; this belief has been disputed by some historians in recent years.) A number of scientists and laypersons perceived an optimistic aspect of these terrible events; they hoped that the power of nuclear energy could be harnessed for human good. Those hopes have been realized, but to only a modest degree. Starting in the 1970s, intense political opposition to nuclear power arose in many nations, including the U.S. Some technical problems associated with the use of nuclear power have never been satisfactorily solved, although proponents of this technology argue that none are insurmountable. After three decades of progress in the development of controlled nuclear power, interest in this energy source has leveled off and, in many nations, declined. Indeed, strong popular opposition to nuclear power exists in many countries today, and nuclear power has become a locus of political struggle, with citizens' groups (supported by some scientists) ranged, typically, against industry and government experts. Nuclear advocates see nuclear opponents as irrationally fearing nuclear technology; nuclear opponents see nuclear advocates as irresponsibly advocating use of unreliable nuclear technology. The nuclear-power issue remains a highly contentious one in many nations.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) to Ockham's razor