Renewable and clean energy sources have been the focal point of scientists for a few decades now, due to the Carbon footprint of fossil fuels and their devastating effects. The need for renewable and clean energy sources has skyrocketed ever since the Global Energy crisis of 2021.
The pandemic has left the energy markets to tighten up due to the rapid economic recovery. Natural gas prices hit record highs, which had an impact on electricity prices in several markets. The price of oil reached its highest point since 2008 (Global Energy Crisis, 2022).
So, what are renewable and non-renewable resources? And why is nuclear energy a debatable topic in the search for sustainable energy sources? We will get into that later but first, we should explore the source of nuclear energy.
Where Does Renewable Energy Come from?
Renewable energy comes from resources that are naturally replenished, such as solar and wind power. Non-renewable energy, on the other hand, comes from resources that are not sustainable and will eventually run out.
So, is nuclear energy renewable or non-renewable? The answer is a bit complicated. Nuclear power comes from a resource called uranium, which is a naturally occurring radioactive ore and can be found in abundance all over the world Canada, Brazil, the United States, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Mongolia, Australia, Niger, Namibia, and South Africa. The process of obtaining and using uranium is also not sustainable. In other words, it’s not a renewable resource in the way that solar and wind are.
That said, some people argue that we can sustainably use nuclear power if we’re careful about how much uranium we use.
Exploring the Concept of Renewable Energy
When you think about renewable energy, what comes to mind? Solar power, maybe? Or wind energy? These are just two of the many renewable sources of energy available today.
But what exactly is renewable energy? Renewable energy comes from natural sources that replace themselves more quickly than they are used up. Examples of such sources that are continuously replenished are the sun and the wind.
There are many different types of renewable energy available to us other than solar and wind, like hydro, geothermal, tidal (ocean energy), and biomass. Energy derived from renewable sources have far less Carbon footprint than energy from fossil fuels.
So, is nuclear energy a renewable source of power? The debate about whether or not nuclear energy is renewable is a controversial one.
Some people say that the radioactivity in nuclear fuel rods makes it a non-renewable source of energy and that the nuclear fuel -Uranium- is widely distributed around the world, it is not limitless.
In the mines, it is not replenished. While others argue that the radioactive material can be reprocessed and reused, making it a renewable resource.
Understanding Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy is a source of power that comes from the splitting of atoms. It’s considered a non-renewable energy source because once used, uranium can’t be replaced. That said, it’s still unclear whether or not nuclear energy can be considered renewable.
The main issue is that, while uranium can be replaced, it’s not a renewable resource. That means we can’t simply create more uranium whenever we need it- once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. However, some experts argue that nuclear energy is renewable because the power plant itself can be rebuilt.
So, what’s the final verdict? Is nuclear energy renewable or non-renewable? The jury is still out on that one. But one thing is for sure- understanding the difference between the two is essential for making an informed opinion on the matter.
Nuclear Power and Clean Energy
The debate of whether nuclear energy is renewable or non-renewable will probably go on for some time depending on how a person defines “renewable” and whether nuclear energy fits their definition or not. But one thing is for sure and everyone would agree that nuclear energy is one of the cleanest forms of energy.
Clean energy refers to the sources of energy that generate “carbon-free” electricity. Clean energy is distinct from “green” energy and “renewable” energy, despite the considerable overlap between the categories.
Nuclear energy is the second most clean energy source, making it one of the most reliable and efficient sources of low-carbon electricity production.
Nuclear energy has been responsible for cutting down CO2 emissions by 60 gigatonnes, which is equal to two years’ worth of energy-related CO2 emissions, in the past 50 years (Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System, 2019).
Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power
Let’s dig into some of the pros and cons of nuclear energy, maybe then it will be easier for us to decide whether to consider nuclear energy as “renewable” or “non-renewable”.
Nuclear power plants do not produce greenhouse gasses, making them a much cleaner option than other types of power plants. They also require less land than other renewable energy sources, like solar and wind farms. Nuclear fuel has a very high density which is why the quantity of nuclear fuel used is not as large as you might believe.
A football field’s worth of used nuclear fuel produced by the nuclear energy sector in the United States during the previous 60 years would only extend around 10 yards beneath the surface (3 Reasons Why Nuclear is Clean and Sustainable, 2021).
On the other hand, nuclear power plants are expensive to build, and the waste they produce is radioactive and difficult to dispose of safely. There is also the risk of a nuclear meltdown, which could cause environmental damage and put people’s lives at risk.
So, what’s the verdict? Is nuclear energy renewable or not?
The truth is, there is no easy answer. The definition of renewable energy can be interpreted a number of different ways, and different people have different opinions on what should and shouldn’t be included.
In general, most people would say that nuclear energy is not a renewable resource, because the uranium it relies on eventually runs out. However, some people argue that the fuel can be recycled, which means it can be used over and over again, so it should be considered a renewable source.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what you believe. But now that you know the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy, you can make an informed decision about the future of nuclear power.
- 3 Reasons Why Nuclear is Clean and Sustainable. (2021, March 2021). Retrieved from energy.gov: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/3-reasons-why-nuclear-clean-and-sustainable
- Global Energy Crisis. (2022). Retrieved from IEA: https://www.iea.org/topics/global-energy-crisis
- Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System. (2019, May). Retrieved from iea: https://www.iea.org/reports/nuclear-power-in-a-clean-energy-system