10 AUGUST 2022

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What is nuclear energy, and is it a renewable energy?

Nuclear energy

Is the energy contained in the nucleus of an atom. Atoms are the smallest particles into which a chemical element can be split while maintaining its properties.

It can be used to produce electricity. But first the energy must be released. This energy can be obtained in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission:

  • Nuclear fusion: energy is released when nuclei of light atoms combine together to form a heavier stable nucleus. The energy produced by the Sun has this origin.
  • Nuclear fission: nuclei of heavy atoms, impinged with neutrons, break down into smaller, lighter nuclei, releasing the energy that holds together the neutrons and protons that form them and emitting two or three neutrons.

When one of these two nuclear reactions (nuclear fission or nuclear fusion) takes place, the atoms experience a slight loss of mass. This lost mass is converted into a large amount of heat and radiation energy.

Nuclear energy in Spain took its first steps in 1969, and today, more than 20% of the electricity consumed in Spain comes from nuclear energy generated in these plants.

This has some advantages, such as the fact that it does not emit greenhouse gases, that large amounts of energy can be obtained with a small amount of fuel and that it can be used for breadmaking, since electricity production is continuous, but it also has disadvantages, mainly related to the management of nuclear waste.

But is considered a renewable energy? The answer is… No! Is not a renewable energy. It could be said that is clean, at the moment it is being generated, since the only thing that its reactors emit into the atmosphere is water vapour, but not 100%, since it generates radioactive waste that must later be managed in the so-called nuclear cemeteries.

Therefore, although there are no CO2 emissions, it does generate waste that is difficult to manage.

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