Nuclear Energy Summary

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Nuclear power has been shown to be an economical, clean source of energy with no emission of carbon dioxide, acid rain, and other chemical pollution. Public concern about radiation associated with nuclear fuel production, waste disposal, nuclear proliferation, and now terrorism has, however, made nuclear fission controversial. Furthermore, the nuclear accidents in Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and the resulting fallout of radio nuclides heightened the fear that what happened by accident could also happen by design. According to the latest poll carried out on behalf of the European Commission (a), only 7% of the public is “totally in favor” of nuclear power.

Many believe the problem is not of a technical nature, but of a social nature instead. The public has lost confidence in the government and political and economic influence by various lobbyist groups. Unless concrete measures devoid of political influence are taken to assure the public of nuclear safety, for many, the nuclear option may remain one of the last choices to meet our energy needs.

Unlike fission, the physics of fusion make it inherently safer. A fusion reactor cannot go through a meltdown, and the waste generated by fusion is less radioactive and has a shorter half-life, therefore it is easier to dispose. The fusion fuel, deuterium, is found in ordinary seawater and is cheap and abundant. However, existing technical problems make the reality of fusion technology a distant dream.

Cold fusion, if proven possible, eliminates much of the technological difficulties associated with hot fusion and does so at a very low cost. This would level the playing field and provide the less developed and poorer countries with an inexpensive source of energy. Because of its high costs, hot fusion will potentially be available only to rich and developed countries, giving these countries the power to monopolize the energy industry.



(1) Toossi Reza, "Energy and the Environment:Sources, technologies, and impacts", Verve Publishers, 2005

Additional Comments

(a) Special Eurobarometerm Radioactive Waste, commissioned by DG TREN, European Commission, September 2006.

Further Reading

Bodansky, Nuclear Energy Principles, Practices, and Prospects, Second Ed., Springer, 2004.

Seaborg, G., T., Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, University Press of the Pacific, 2005.

International Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Design, Direct Science Elsevier Publishing Company, devoted to the Thermal, Mechanical, Material and Structural Aspects of Nuclear Fission.

Journal of Fusion Energy, Springer Netherlands. It features articles pertinent to development of thermonuclear fusion.

External Links

Federation of American Scientists (

International Atomic Energy Agency (

DoE Office of Nuclear Energy, Science & Technology (

American Nuclear Society, (

World Association of Nuclear Operator (WANO) (