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Nuclear and renewable energy: the point about the pro and con

Nuclear and renewable energy, that needs an important first clarification.

Increasingly, in this particular period of history, the debate about renewable energy is of interest at different levels to a little bit of everyone: insiders on the one hand and ordinary people or users on the other.

It is so much a part of the common language, that somewhat like those names that become familiar are shortened, we speak more succinctly of “renewables.”

Nuclear power has always generated a great deal of hubbub, polarizing opinions around the world: on the one hand, it promises powerful and constant energy production; on the other, it raises concerns related to safety, the environment, and pollution.

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of nuclear energy, highlighting pros and cons, as well as clarifying the question about whether or not it is a renewable source.

Nuclear and renewable energy: an essential clarification

Nuclear and renewable energy for some are two sides of the same coin, for others they are not: who is right?

This is one of those cases where we cannot hope that the truth lies in the middle, and in fact, to dispel doubts, European legislation has intervened and ruled that it cannot be a renewable source.

The reason is quite simple, if we do not go into overly technical aspects: although nuclear power plants are considered highly efficient, the splitting of uranium involves the production of radioactive waste, which must be stored for very long periods of time so that it loses its radioactive charge.

In the interest of intellectual honesty, we report that if we dwell only on the fuel fission stage in the nuclear reactor, this does not actually release CO2.

Except for this aspect, the entire nuclear power supply chain, if we can call it that, on the contrary, requires a large use of fossil fuels, with the well-known climatic consequences.

Nuclear and renewable energy: where does nuclear fusion stand?

The only way to obtain clean nuclear energy is through nuclear fusion, since unlike fission this process does not generate radioactive waste.

In concrete terms, we are therefore talking about the European Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) built in the South of France, thanks in part to the participation of 35 countries including Italy: an ambitious project that is encountering not a few difficulties in terms of cost and timing.

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy

Having clarified some aspects about the nuclear and renewable energy issue, let us try together to understand what the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy may be.

That the topic fascinates and triggers real “catilinaries” we have already specified in part: supporters and detractors of nuclear power have been interfacing for years, each bringing their own truth.

Below, we, too, will examine in detail the main pros and cons of nuclear power. Advantages of nuclear power:

High energy efficiency: nuclear energy is extremely efficient compared to traditional energy sources. A small amount of nuclear fuel, such as uranium, can produce disproportionately more energy than can be generated through fossil sources, such as coal or natural gas. This makes nuclear power a powerful solution for meeting growing global energy needs with fewer resources.
Stability of energy production: nuclear power plants can produce energy constantly, 24 hours a day, regardless of weather conditions or seasonal changes. This characteristic makes them a stable and reliable element within a country’s energy mix.
Lower greenhouse gas emissions: one of the main environmental benefits of nuclear power is its ability to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. During operation, a nuclear power plant does not emit CO2, thus contributing to the fight against climate change.

Nuclear disadvantages:

Radioactive waste management: nuclear power generation generates radioactive waste that remains hazardous for up to hundreds of years (if it is medium-level waste, for example). The safe management and proper disposition of these materials is a major challenge, with significant risks to the environment and public health in case of inadequate management.
Safety risks and nuclear accidents: despite safety measures, nuclear accidents, although rare, can have catastrophic consequences, as the Chernobyl and Fukushima events demonstrate. These accidents have raised global concerns about nuclear power plant safety and its potential impact.
High initial costs: the construction of a nuclear power plant requires a very high initial investment due to stringent safety regulations, long construction time and technological complexity. These factors, together with the costs associated with waste management and decommissioning of power plants, make nuclear power one of the most expensive energy sources.
Nuclear nonproliferation issues: nuclear material can be used not only for civilian purposes but also for the production of nuclear weapons. This raises international concerns about nuclear nonproliferation and the need for strict controls and international agreements to prevent the misuse of nuclear material.

These are just some of the intervening elements in the nuclear power debate that will certainly continue to affect national and international politics.

How much does a nuclear power plant cost?

Answering the question, “How much does a nuclear power plant cost?” requires some complex assessments, which we will try to make as simple as possible.

The necessary technology and safety systems that a nuclear power plant has to be equipped with are certainly far more important than those of any other power generation entity.

A nuclear plant, for the same installed capacity will therefore have a significantly higher overnight cost than any other technology.

Overnight cost means the cost net of its construction, that is, without considering two other items:

  • the usually high interest rates because the lead times for realizing a power plant are long and force equally long waits, before being able to return the invested capital.
  • the living costs i.e., all the items spent necessary to operate the plant but also the costs associated with the disposal of radioactive waste and the plant itself, at the end of its ” career.”

What, if any, is the possible savings? On raw material costs…

A nuclear power plant requires a hundred thousand times less raw material than a fossil power plant; in essence although 1 kg of uranium costs more than 1 kg of coal, this still does not obscure the advantage given by its energy density, that is, the amount of energy that can be derived from a given material and in this specific case from uranium itself.

Why there are no nuclear power plants in Italy: a bit of history.

Many factors explain why there are no nuclear power plants in Italy, and the first of these has to do with the nature of the land itself.

Italy, in fact, is subject to a high seismic risk, and the construction of nuclear power plants could lead to serious consequences in case of earthquakes.

Added to this is a more political issue, because with the three referendums (starting in 1987) a path to repeal began, complicit of course in the Chernobyl disaster.

Between 1988 and 1990 the still active power plants were shut down, but perhaps not everyone remembers that none of the three referendums, however, categorically vetoed the possible construction of nuclear sites in Italy.

It is now 2004, when precisely as a result of the repeal of one of the three referendums (along with the high cost of fossil fuels) Enel is getting back into this type of technology, contributing to several constructions, in the nuclear field, in both Slovakia and France.

In 2011, the Fukushima disaster (a tsunami damaged three nuclear reactors) affected the fate of a new referendum on the nuclear issue: in fact, the victory of the no vote was overwhelming.

Certainly Italy has a long narrative talking about nuclear power, thanks to its distinguished academic tradition: Fermi and Amaldi, first and foremost and in pioneering times, and the various contemporary universities (Polytechnic of Milan and Turin, La Sapienza and the University of Pisa) still talk about nuclear and renewable energy, even today.

As proof of this, our article is also a concrete sign of how the debate is still alive and burning.

Nuclear debate: Tubiflex on the side of energy

While there is the debate on nuclear power on one side, there is the reality of Tubiflex SPA, which places constant research at the center of its corporate mission to make products to maximize the efficiency and sustainability of power generation plants.

Among the applications of its products:

Flexible Hoses to protect electrical cables and fiber optics
Assembled hoses for connecting solar panels
Assembled hoses for cooling wind generators
Expansion hoses for biogas generation plants
Assembled hoses for high-pressure and temperature fluids to power gas turbines

For more information visit our website and go to the contact page.


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