There’s more to nuclear energy than just power

by Admin-Phmp

When it comes to nuclear energy, what comes into your mind immediately?

For sure you are thinking of a doomsday scenario. Primarily, a nuclear weapon is what most people think – yes that explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission (fission bomb) or a combination of fission and fusion reactions (thermonuclear bomb), producing a nuclear explosion.

In both bomb types, large quantities of energy are released from relatively small amounts of matter.

The classic example was the nuclear weapons which the United States deployed twice in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during World War II.

Let’s not talk of nuclear energy as a weapon of mass destruction.

Science tells us nuclear energy is a form of energy released from the nucleus, the core of atoms, made up of protons and neutrons. We knew all that during our high school days, right?

This source of energy can be produced in two ways: fission (when nuclei atoms split into several parts) or fusion (when nuclei fuse together).

Nuclear energy can be a source of power. All nuclear power plants use nuclear fission – and most nuclear power plants use uranium atoms. “During nuclear fission, a neutron collides with a uranium atom and splits it, releasing a large amount of energy in the form of heat and radiation,” explains the US Energy Information Administration.

Nuclear energy is one of the most environment-friendly sources of power for electricity generation. In fact, it is described as “a zero-emission clean energy source.” Because nuclear power plants do not burn fuel, they do not produce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The heat released by fission is used to create steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity without the harmful by-products emitted by fossil fuels,” said the US Department of Energy.

An article featured by S&T Post, a quarterly publication of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), stated: “Nuclear power is the second largest source of low carbon electricity today. With almost 500 operating reactors globally, providing ten percent of global electricity supply, nuclear power is as safe as wind and solar…”

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST line agency, believes the adoption of nuclear power is the fastest option and would make electricity costs more affordable in the country.

PNRI Director Carlo A. Arcilla said that including nuclear power in the country’s energy mix would be beneficial to consumers as it would bring down the “expensive” electricity rates and provide a stable electricity source of power.

Gayle Certeza, convenor of Alpas Pinas – a group that educates and advocates for nuclear energy – agrees. A Daily Tribune feature quoted her as saying: “We believe that nuclear energy will positively impact the lives of Filipinos because it will mean lower electricity rates that will better allow for more savings.”

During the time of the presidency of Rodrigo R. Duterte, Executive Order 164 was signed, thus including nuclear power in the country’s energy mix. Under the new policy, it stated that the country “shall ensure the peaceful use of nuclear technology anchored on critical tenets of public safety, national security, energy self-sufficiency, and environmental sustainability.”

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), in support of EO 164, issued this statement: “Nuclear power is envisioned to bring down the cost of electricity and to contribute to energy security considering the various limitations now being encountered in the other sources which includes natural gas, geothermal, hydro, and coal.”

There’s more to nuclear energy than just power generation. In fact, nuclear energy is also needed in medical diagnosis and treatment. Not too many Filipinos know it but in the United States, approximately one-third of all patients admitted to hospitals are diagnosed or treated using radiation or radioactive materials.

“Nuclear medical imaging, which combines the safe administration of radioisotope with camera imaging, helps physicians locate tumors, size anomalies, or other problems,” says the US Office of Nuclear Energy (ONE).

When it comes to cancer, nuclear power is very useful. It is especially true in the US. “Doctors also use radioisotopes therapeutically to kill cancerous tissue, reduce the size or tumors, and alleviate pain,” ONE says.

I am sure in the Philippines, radioisotopes are also used by Filipino doctors.

Filipino farmers need to know this. Nuclear energy is also necessary in farming. Again, in the US, farmers there use radioisotopes to control insects that destroy crops as an alternative to hazardous chemical pesticides.

“In this procedure, male insect pests are rendered infertile,” ONE says. “Pest populations are then drastically reduced and, in some cases, eliminated.”

When it comes to the food we take, nuclear energy is also needed as it can harness to preserve our food.

“When food is irradiated, harmful organisms are destroyed without cooking or altering the nutritional properties of the food,” ONE says. “It also makes chemical additives and refrigeration unnecessary, and requires less energy than other food preservation methods.”

by Henrylito D. Tacio

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