Apart from warfare, atomic matter is also used for peaceful and useful purposes like in Medical Field to cure cancer and in energy field to generate electricity.
Power from nuclear plants makes up 13-4% of the world electricity. With United States, France and Japan make up for 56% of nuclear generated electricity. A report in 2007 by International Atomic Energy Agency also known as IAEA stated that there were 439 nuclear reactors operational in the world. Nuclear energy is not only used to generate electric power for civil consumers, but it is also used to generate power in military submarines and space ships. Nuclear fuel is used as nuclear marine propulsion in marine ships while it is used as space propulsion in space ships. Though nuclear power generated for civil use is on the decline, new researches are conducted to make the use of nuclear energy in space ships and marine ships safe and stable.
History of Nuclear Power Plants:
When it was discovered that radioactive elements, such as radium released immense amount of energy, the pursuit for nuclear energy to generate electric power started. But back then harnessing such energy was not practical, as such elements were short lived, but this still did not deter the dream for electric power to be generated by nuclear energy. And in the 1930s this dream became a reality with the discovery of nuclear fission. After many experiment by scientists like James Chadwick (1932), Frédéric, Irène and Joliot-Curie (1934), Enrico Fermi, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann (1938) and Leo Szilard the dream for a self-sustaining and stable nuclear chain reaction was nearing its final stages. When the results of these experiments were confirmed, the scientists petitioned their government to invest and give support to the field of nuclear science.
The first man made nuclear reactor was made by help of Fermi and Szilard in the abandoned stadium of University of Chicago and was known as Chicago Pile-1. Its criticality was achieved on 2nd December 1942. In those days the term “Pile” was used instead of “Nuclear Reactor”. The term “Nuclear Reactor” was not used until 1952. The Chicago Pile-1 or CP1 was part of the Manhattan Project. After the end of World War II the use of nuclear energy was not limited to just nuclear weapons but its use for peaceful purpose was advocated greatly. The reason for emphasis on use of nuclear energy in peaceful projects like nuclear electricity was because the spent fuel from the reactor could be used in weapons and thus nuclear reactors were kept under strict security by the responsible governments.
This decision paved the way for building of nuclear reactor for production electric energy. On December 20th 1951, electricity was generated for the first time from a nuclear reactor called Experimental Breeder Reactor I also known as BBR-I in Arco, Idaho. It produced 100kW electricity. The world’s first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a power grid was at Obninsk, Russia on June 27th 1954. On October 17th 1956, the world’s first electricity for commercial scale was produced at Calder Hall in England. Since then on nuclear power plants have increased their power production.
Current Nuclear Situation:
Though nuclear reactors have manual and automatic safety to shut down the reactor in case of emergency, it has been lately observed that such security measures have failed in some cases. Though small in number, the damage done is immense and almost uncontrollable. The purpose of having nuclear power plants was to have electricity generated without causing damage to the Eco-system like the smoke from coal power plants or like damage of erosion by Hydro Dams. Nuclear power plants were considered to be long lasting and not cause major pollution. But the nuclear fuel is not safe to handle and requires extensive maintenance during disposing it. One of the major factors in the decline of nuclear power plants is due to natural calamities like earth quakes.
Considering the earth quake of March 11 2011 in Japan, this caused extensive damage to Fukushima nuclear power plant. Since then many countries have reconsidered their nuclear power plant strategy. There have been many concerns over this issue in the European countries. Germany is one country which made the decision to phase out all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. But in countries like Pakistan, where power crises is a huge issue, nuclear power plants are badly needed to meet up with rising demands of electricity. But on the other hand, consideration must also be given to Alternative source of Energy like Wind or Solar Power. Though expensive, they don’t cause any sort of damage to the environment.