Nuclear Power Plant
Nuclear Fission

Why Is Nuclear Energy Not Renewable?

Nuclear energy is a non-renewable energy source. Although it does not emit greenhouse gases, nuclear fuel is not unlimited and it does not regenerate.

Why is nuclear energy not renewable?

Nuclear energy is the energy obtained from the division (nuclear fission) or from the union (nuclear fusion) of an atom. Despite the existence of a large number of applications related to nuclear energy (medicine, industry, transport, etc.), the main application of this technology is the generation of electrical energy.

Electricity of nuclear origin is generated in nuclear power plants. At present, all nuclear power plants operate using nuclear fission reactions.

The nuclear fuel they generally use is uranium or plutonium (through an artificial process). 

Nuclear Power Plants

Currently all nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to function. Nuclear fusion is a technology that has many advantages, but it is not yet in a position to use it, mainly for technical reasons.

Nuclear power plants are responsible for transforming the energy stored in the nucleus of atoms to convert it to electrical energy.

How Does a Nuclear Center Work?

The most important part is done in the nuclear reactor. Nuclear fuel rods (generally uranium or plutonium) are deposited in the nuclear reactor and, by projecting a neutron, a series of physical and chemical chain reactions are generated that release a large amount of thermal energy.

The thermal energy generated in the nuclear reactor is used to heat water and convert it into high pressure steam. The steam obtained will be in charge of driving large turbines, which connected to a dynamo, will generate electricity.

Once this electricity has been generated, it goes through transformers that adapt it so that it has the necessary conditions to be supplied to the electricity grid.

What Is the Substance Used by Nuclear Power Plants? Nuclear Fuel

The nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants is uranium or plutonium.

Uranium is a mineral, not very abundant, that is extracted from the Earth. It has a very unstable structure and it is very easy for it to change its atomic structure. This property is ideal for use, since precisely what is intended is to change its atomic structure. Even before using it in a nuclear power plant, it goes through a nuclear fuel processing plant where it becomes rich and becomes even more unstable.

The amount of energy obtained per gram of uranium is very high, but even so, the Earth has limited reserves of uranium that are not regenerated. For this reason, nuclear energy is considered a non- renewable energy source.

The other material used is plutonium. Plutonium is not found in nature, it is an artificially obtained material. It is a residue from nuclear fission reactions with uranium.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

Advantages of the unification of this non-renewable energy resource:

  • A large amount of electrical energy can be obtained with very little nuclear fuel.
  • It does not emit greenhouse gases abroad, thus it does not contribute to global warming of the planet.
  • All the energy generated by nuclear energy implies a reduction in the energy produced by thermal power plants. Hence, a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
  • Weather conditions do not influence the production of electrical energy obtained. Thanks to this, an electrical production planning can be established.

Disadvantages of using nuclear energy:

  • Although there are few accidents, the accidents that occur are extremely dangerous for the environment and public health.
  • The nuclear fuel used is limited.
  • Nuclear power plants are potential targets for attacks.
  • The management of the nuclear waste they generate is not very well resolved and it takes millions of years to lose its radioactivity.

Published: May 25, 2016
Last review: June 12, 2019