Nuclear Energy in North America

1138 Words5 Pages
Nuclear energy, a stable, emission free source of energy and has become a cornerstone for many countries energy needs. There are currently 463 commercial nuclear reactors producing 372,000 MWe in over 30 countries. North America produces 17% of their required energy from nuclear reactors, putting the USA 17th and Canada 21st in the world. Although this seems like a good portion, there are nine countries producing over 40% of their required power from nuclear energy. But why is a heavy energy dependent and environmentally conscious continent of North America producing such little percent of their power from a stable, emission free energy source; the very qualifications that North Americans desire in order to control the green house effect. A recent survey conducted by the Nuclear Energy Institute shows that only 42 percent of Americans associate nuclear energy with clean air even though nuclear energy is by far the cleanest air energy source. With the current President of the United States proposing to build more nuclear power plants and with the Province of Alberta proposing building a new nuclear reactor in the Grand Prairie region the unenthusiastic public opinion on nuclear reactors is being documented and demonstrated in the press. There are three major themes which underlie the public's opinion on nuclear reactors, all of which are rooted in either uneducated assumptions or facts not put into context. The most common theme among the three is safety and it appears in a variety of ways from questions deriving from the Chernobyl incident to references to atomic bombs. Secondly is nuclear waste; how to contain it, where to put it, and how to dispose of it safely. These are very important questions but if put in the right cont... ... middle of paper ... ...t ingredient to any nuclear fuel is an isotope of uranium called U-235. Naturally it occurs in about 0.72% of uranium reserves making it very rare. In order for uranium to be used in power plants we must concentrate the U-235 to about 0.9% for CANDU reators and 3% for most Light Water Reactors. Weapons grade uranium is set at a concentration of 85%. These numbers are magnitudes apart and yet the public opinion is that they are one in the same. With world energy needs anticipated to grow and with organic energy sources becoming increasingly expensive, nuclear energy stands alone as a untapped resource which countries can set as there cornerstone for energy needs. With proper education I hope that the public opinion of nuclear energy in North America will improve and nuclear power become the environmentally friendly alternative to conventional energy production.
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