Why is nuclear so safe?

Nuclear energy is a clean energy source with no emissions. It generates energy through fission, which is the process of splitting uranium atoms to produce energy. The heat released by fission is used to create steam that turns a turbine to generate electricity without the harmful by-products emitted by fossil fuels. Study after study in major scientific journals found that nuclear power plants are by far the safest way to produce reliable electricity.

So why are we so afraid of them? Nuclear power sources are dangerous because they emit particles of radiation and energy released from unstable molecules that try to calm down. Those radioactive missiles can impact the human body and damage cells or DNA, says David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A sufficient amount of radiation will cause cancer or, possibly, even transmit genetic mutations to your children. Too much can kill you directly.

Despite public concerns, the data clearly show that nuclear energy is a much safer source of energy than fossil fuels. Recent innovations could soon reduce risks even further. Critics of Nuclear argue that this increase is temporary and that the expansion of wind energy will eventually replace Indian Point production. Environmental groups, fearful of nuclear crises and the proliferation of weapons, began to pressure governments to stop building new power plants.

The distinction between these two aspects of environmentalism is the cause of a gap within the scientific community around nuclear energy. Nuclear power, which is much cleaner than oil, gas and coal, is a natural option, especially when hydroelectric capacity is limited. Turning nuclear energy into sustainable energy requires the use of reproductive reactors and nuclear fusion to sustain us for the foreseeable future. Unlike power plants powered by fossil fuels, nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide while they are in operation.

X-Energy, one of several companies building safer and less expensive Gen IV nuclear reactors, hopes to reverse that trend. Nuclear power plants are base-load power plants, which means they operate at full capacity for months and guarantee a country's energy supply at all times. An uncontrolled nuclear reaction in a nuclear reactor could cause widespread air and water pollution.