5.8 Energy Sources: Nuclear Energy

Author: Laura Oliveira

ABSTRACT: Nuclear is a low carbon energy source that uses nuclear reactions and radioactive elements to generate energy and produces little greenhouse gas emissions.


After the first drop of an atomic bomb in WW2, interest in nuclear energy and power grew and technology began to advance alongside the fear of nuclear use for warfare. Juan José Cadenas explains, “It can’t be denied that the peaceful use of nuclear energy has always suffered from the stigma of being associated with warfare” (2012). However, it has been proven that the use of the nuclear power plants reduces CO2 emissions significantly and has the potential to be a widely used energy source that can help with the carbon crisis.

Compared to the energy produced from 1 ton of coal, the Uranium used in a nuclear reactor is 3000 times more energy efficient (Cadenas, 2012). The most common reactor, the Light Water Reactor (LWR), uses Uranium235, a Uranium isotope, in a radioactive fission reaction that heats water and creates steam and energy. This reaction is controlled by water as the name suggests. Other reactors have since been developed to make nuclear more efficient but nuclear power plants are costly and contain embodied carbon. In Canada, nuclear accounts for about 15% of the country’s energy and 20% of the USA’s (Mueller, 2020).

Disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl have contributed to the controversy surrounding nuclear energy for good reason (Nuclear Energy, n.d). Although nuclear has its benefits, some say that the possibility of nuclear meltdowns is not worth it, while on the other had it can be argued that carbon pollution itself causes more harm compared to nuclear as a whole. “Using nuclear power in place of fossil-fuel energy sources, such as coal, has prevented some 1.8 million air pollution-related deaths globally” (Schrope, 2013).


Gomez Cadenas, J. J. (2012). The nuclear environmentalist: Is there a green road to nuclear energy? Springer Milan.

Mueller, M. (2020, April 22). Nuclear power is the most reliable energy source and it’s not even close. Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/nuclear-power-most-reliable-energy-source-and-its-not-even-close

Nuclear energy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/fighting-climate-chaos/issues/nuclear/

Schrope, M. (2013, April 2). Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes. Retrieved March 02, 2021, from https://cen.acs.org/articles/91/web/2013/04/Nuclear-Power-Prevents-Deaths-Causes.html


Laura Oliveira is a fourth-year fashion design undergraduate at Ryerson University in Toronto. Through her studies she has taken interest in sustainable design and continues to explore how she can change the way people think about sustainable fashion. She has worked both in fashion retail and fashion product development as well as entrepreneurship. She hopes to graduate and grow her own small business surrounding recycled and repurposed materials.

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