No one’s a fan of nuclear waste. What if we could just recycle it all?
General Physics Laboratory (GPL)
Even the biggest proponents of nuclear power can’t ignore 10,000 metric tons of spent fuel globally every year. What if we could recycle every last atom of nuclear waste?
You need to take a wider view to work out the true greenhouse emissions from nuclear power.
Teollisuuden Voima Oy/Wikimedia Commons
Nuclear power isn’t ‘zero-emission’, as many proponents claim. Factor in uranium mining, power plant construction, and other factors and it has similar emissions to wind power. But that’s still lower than fossil fuels.
Reactor pressure vessel during construction of Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, 1956.
U.S. Department of Energy, Naval Reactors Program
The basics of fission physics have stayed the same over the decades. But power-generating reactor designs have evolved, turning to new coolants, recycled fuel and other innovations.
Nuclear reactors in Tricastin, France.
Nuclear reactors via www.shutterstock.com
Few plants have been built in the West since the ‘70s, and the ones that have been built have suffered from cost overruns and delays.
Still chugging: the operation of existing nuclear plants in the US is being extended far beyond their expected life.
James Marvin Phelps/flickr
We cannot eliminate the inherent risks of nuclear power but it is rigorously monitored and has a proven performance of delivering zero-carbon electricity.
The Fukushima disaster was a dark chapter for nuclear power - but high-profile accidents are far from the only downside.
Is nuclear power worth it? No, says Mark Diesendorf – it’s never been a major world energy force, it has caused huge accidents, and its greenhouse emissions are higher than many people realise.
Kudankulam is one of seven new nuclear plants being built in India.
Asia and Eastern Europe are leading the way, but construction times for new projects are getting longer, and Europe’s dominant energy player, Germany, is turning its back on nuclear.
A nuclear-capable Pakistani missile during testing in 2011. The international community hopes other aspiring nuclear nations can develop nuclear power without the military muscle.
Through history, nuclear power has gone hand in hand with the nuclear arms race. But does it have to be this way? Closer international cooperation can help nations embrace nuclear power peacefully.
The Joint European Torus (seen here with a superimposed image of a plasma) is one of the machines helping to unlock fusion power.
Why don’t we have nuclear fusion power yet? Because it involves taming plasmas at temperatures far hotter than the Sun’s core. But the good news is that physicists are slowly but surely figuring out how.