Nuclear energy is energy in the nucleus of an atom. There is enormous energy in the bonds that hold atoms together. This energy can be released from atoms in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. In nuclear fission, atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms, releasing energy. Nuclear power plants use this energy to produce electricity. In nuclear fusion, energy is released when atoms are combined or fused together to form a larger atom. This is how the sun produces energy. Fusion is the subject of ongoing research, but it is not yet clear that it will ever be a commercially viable technology for electricity generation.
Nuclear energy, also called as “atomic energy,” was first discovered by French scientist Henri Becquerel in 1896. Nuclear reactors are the devices that initiate and control nuclear chain reactions which are predominantly nuclear fission. Uranium (U-235) is used as fuel for nuclear reactors because its atoms split relatively easily.
There are many advantages of nuclear energy and the first amongst those is the production of electricity. Currently 12 — 18 % of the world’s electricity is generated through nuclear energy. Unlike the fossil fuels and other sources of energy, there is no threat to the fragile environment from nuclear energy. Since the fission process does not emit any gas there is no contribution to the global warming problem. High amounts of energy can be generated from a single reactor.
But there are major disadvantages to this energy, chiefly, the by product of the fission is radioactive material which is extremely harmful to humans and the living environment and has to be disposed with great care. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is an example of how disastrous it can be if a nuclear reactor explodes. Combined with these is the growing threat of nuclear proliferation and chances of diversion of fusion material for the manufacture of nuclear weapons by so called rogue countries and terrorist organizations.
Like everything, nuclear energy has a good and a bad side; it is up to us to be prudent to choose what is best for our future