For many people, when they hear someone say nuclear power, they picture nuclear bombs going off and all of the destruction that follows it. However, nuclear power is far less dangerous than many people believe. In fact, it is very similar to power plants fueled by coal. Nuclear power plants function the same way that a coal burning power plant functions. They both heat water, which then produces steam that turns a turbine generator. The only real difference between the two power plants is their water heating process.
History of Nuclear Power
In 1942, Enrico Fermi was able to conduct a safe nuclear chain reaction. It was conducted in a demonstration reactor that was called Chicago Pile 1. In 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission, or AEC, began to investigate atomic energy to see if there would be use for it in times of peace. The first experimental nuclear reactor produced energy in 1951. It was enough energy to power 4 light bulbs. 4 years later in 1955 the AEC started a program to fund nuclear power plants. Then, in 1956, the very first nuclear power station was constructed. The stations name was Calder Hall Power station, and it was built on the coast of Cumberlands.
Then in 1956, the first large-scale nuclear power plant became operational. By 1973 there were 41 nuclear power plants. Today there are more than 100 nuclear power plants in the USA alone. The United States produces more than 30% of the total nuclear energy on the planet. However, this may all be changing soon.
Future of Nuclear Power
Due to the Fukushima accident in Japan, the increased cost of nuclear power could lead to the removal of use of nuclear power in the USA. The USA is authorizing new safety regulations and considering even more due to the disaster. If more regulations are enacted, then nuclear power may no longer be cost efficient.
The government support of nuclear power has begun to diminish, and currently disaster insurance for nuclear power plants in the USA makes it very cost inefficient to operate a plant. This is all occurring as a result of the Fukushima partial meltdown. The problem is that this would lead to more coal power plants, which are far more dangerous that nuclear power plants overtime. In fact, coal pollution kills many more people than nuclear power ever has. Overall, nuclear power is a very effective, and previously cost efficient, method of generating energy.