The nuclear energy Can have different uses: produce heat, electricity, conserve food, find new resources or use as medical treatment.
This energy is obtained from the reaction that occurs in the nucleus of atoms, the minimum units of matter of the chemical elements of the universe.
These atoms can have different forms, called Isotopes . They are stable and unstable, depending on the changes they experience in the nucleus.
It is the instability in the content of Neutrons , Or atomic mass, which makes them radioactive. It is the radioisotopes or unstable atoms that produce nuclear energy.
The radioactivity they give off can be used, for example, in the field of medicine with radiotherapy. One of the techniques used in the treatment of cancer, among other uses.
Next, I bring you 10 uses of nuclear energy. You can also see 14 advantages and disadvantages of using nuclear energy .
List of 10 examples of nuclear energy
1- Electricity production
Nuclear energy is used to produce electricity in a more economical and sustainable way, as long as it is put to good use.
Electricity is a fundamental resource for today's society, so reducing the costs of nuclear energy can favor more people's access to electricity.
According to data Of the year 2015 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), North America and South Asia lead the world production of electricity through nuclear power. Both exceed 2000 terawatts per hour (TWh).
2- Improvement of harvests and increase of world resources
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states in its report By 2015 that there are"795 million undernourished people in the world".
The good use of nuclear power can contribute to this problem by generating more resources. In fact, FAO is developing collaborative programs with the IAEA for this purpose.
According to World Nuclear Association (World Nuclear Association), atomic energy contributes to increasing food resources through fertilizers and genetic modifications in food.
The use of nuclear power allows a more efficient use of fertilizers, a rather expensive substance. With some isotopes like Nitrogen-15 or the Phosphorus-32 It is possible that the plants take advantage of the maximum amount of fertilizer possible, without being wasted in the environment.
On the other hand, transgenic foods allow a greater production of food through the modification or exchange of genetic information. One way to achieve these mutations is by ion radiation.
However, there are many organizations that oppose this type of practices because of their detriment to health and the environment. This is the case of Greenpeace , Which advocates organic farming.
3- Pest Control
Nuclear energy allows the development of an insect sterilization technique, which serves to avoid pests in crops.
Is the Technique of sterile insects (SIT). According to a 1998 FAO report, it was the first method of pest control that used genetics.
This method involves the breeding of insects of a particular species, which is usually detrimental to crops, in a controlled space.
Males are sterilized through small molecular radiations and released into the plagued area to mate with the females. The more sterile male insects bred in captivity there will be fewer wild and fertile insects.
In this way, economic losses in the field of agriculture can be avoided. These sterilization programs have been used by various countries. For example, Mexico, where according to the World Nuclear Association, was a success.
4- Food preservation
The control of pests from radiation with nuclear energy, allows better conservation of food.
The techniques by irradiation avoid the massive waste of food, especially in those countries with a warm and humid climate.
In addition, atomic energy serves to sterilize the bacteria present in foods such as milk, meat or vegetables. It is also a way to extend the life of perishable foods, such as strawberries or fish.
According to proponents of nuclear energy, this practice does not affect the nutrients of products or have detrimental effects on health.
The same is true of most ecological organizations, which continue to defend the traditional method of harvesting.
5- Increased drinking water resources
Nuclear reactors produce heat, which can be used for desalination of water. This is especially useful for those countries that are dry and lack potable water resources.
This irradiation technique makes it possible to convert sea salt water into clean, drinkable water.
In addition, according to the World Nuclear Association, hydrological techniques with isotopes allow a more accurate monitoring of natural water resources.
The IAEA has developed collaborative programs with countries such as Afghanistan to seek new water resources in this country.
6- Use of nuclear energy in medicine
One of the beneficial uses of radioactivity for nuclear energy is the creation of new treatments and technologies in the field of medicine. It is what is known as nuclear medicine.
This branch of medicine allows professionals to make a faster and more accurate diagnosis to their patients, as well as treat them.
According to the World Nuclear Association ten million patients worldwide are treated with nuclear medicine every year and more than 10,000 hospitals use radioactive isotopes in their treatments.
Atomic energy in medicine can be found on x-rays or in treatments as important as radiation therapy, widely used in cancer.
According to him National Cancer Institute ,"Radiation therapy (also called radiation therapy) is a cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and reduce tumors."
This treatment has a drawback; Can cause side effects in cells in the body that are healthy, damaging them or producing changes, which are usually recovered after healing.
7- Industrial applications
The radioisotopes present in nuclear power allow greater control of the pollutants emitted to the environment.
On the other hand, the atomic energy is quite efficient, it does not leave residues and it is much more economic than other energies of industrial production.
The instruments used in nuclear plants generate a much greater benefit than they cost. In a few months, they can save the money they cost at an initial time, before they are amortized.
On the other hand, the measures that are used to calibrate the amounts of radiation also usually contain radioactive substances, usually gamma rays. These instruments avoid direct contact with the source to be measured.
This method is especially useful when it comes to substances that can be extremely corrosive to humans.
8- It is less polluting than other types of energy
Nuclear power plants produce clean energy. According to the National Geographic Society , Can be built in rural or urban areas without having a major environmental impact.
Although, as we have seen, in recent events such as Fukushima, lack of control or an accident can have catastrophic consequences for large hectares of territory and for the population of generations and years.
Compared with the energy produced by coal, it is true that it emits less gases into the atmosphere, avoiding greenhouse effect .
9- Space missions
Nuclear energy has also been used for expeditions into outer space.
Nuclear fission or radioactive decay systems are used to generate heat or electricity through radioisotope thermoelectric generators commonly used for space probes.
The chemical element from which nuclear energy is extracted in these cases is the Plutonium-238 . There are several expeditions that have been carried out with these devices: the Cassini mission to Saturn, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the New Horizons to Pluto mission.
The last space experiment that was carried out with this method was the launching of the vehicle Curiosity, within the researches that are being developed around the Planet Mars.
The latter is much larger than the previous ones and is capable of producing more electricity than can produce the solar panels, according to the World Nuclear Association.
10- Nuclear weapons
The war industry has always been one of the first to be updated in the field of new techniques and technologies. In the case of nuclear power was not going to be less.
There are two types of nuclear weapons, those that use this source as a propulsion to produce heat, electricity in different devices or those that directly seek the explosion.
In that sense, it is possible to distinguish between means of transport like the military airplanes or the well-known one atomic bomb Which generates a sustained chain of nuclear reactions.
The latter can be made from different materials such as uranium, plutonium, hydrogen or neutrons.
According to the IAEA, the United States was the first country to build a nuclear bomb, so it was one of the first to understand the benefits and dangers of this energy.
Since then, this country as a great world power has established a policy of peace in the use of nuclear energy.
A program of collaboration with other states that began with the president's speech Eisenhower In the 1950s before the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Negative effects of nuclear energy
Some of the dangers of using atomic energy are:
1- The devastating consequences of nuclear accidents
One of the biggest risks that run with nuclear or atomic energy are accidents, which can happen in reactors at any time.
As has already been demonstrated in Chernobyl or Fukushima, these disasters have devastating effects on life, with high contamination of radioactive substances in plants, animals and in the air.
Excessive exposure to radiation can lead to diseases such as cancer, as well as malformations and irreparable damage to future generations.
2- Harmful effects of transgenic foods
Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace criticize the method of agriculture advocated by nuclear power promoters.
Among other qualifiers, say that this method is very destructive because of the large amount of water and oil it consumes.
It also has economic effects such as the fact that these techniques can only afford them and have a few access, ruining the small farmers.
3- Limitation of uranium production
Like oil and other energy sources used by humans, uranium, one of the most common nuclear elements is finite. That is, it can be exhausted at any time.
That is why many advocate the use of renewable energy rather than nuclear energy.
4- Requires large facilities
Nuclear production may be cheaper than other types of energy, but the cost of building plants and reactors is high.
In addition, you have to be very careful with this type of constructions and with the personnel that will work in them, since it has to be highly qualified to avoid any possible accident.
The biggest nuclear accidents in history
Throughout history, there have been numerous atomic bombs. The first took place in 1945 in New Mexico, but the two most important, undoubtedly, were those that erupted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Their names were Little Man and Fat Boy Respectively.
It took place at the nuclear power plant in the city of Pripyat, Ukraine on 26 April 1986. It is considered one of the most serious environmental catastrophes next to the Fukushima accident.
In addition to the deaths it produced, almost all workers at the plant, there were thousands of people who had to be evacuated and never could return to their homes.
Today, the city of Prypiat remains a ghost town, which has been plundered, and has become a tourist attraction for the more curious.
It took place on March 11, 2011. It is the second most serious nuclear accident after Chernobyl.
It came as a result of a tsunami in eastern Japan that exploded the buildings where the nuclear reactors were, releasing a large amount of radiation to the outside.
Thousands of people had to be evacuated, while the city suffered severe economic losses.
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