NUCLEAR ENERGY (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – SCI & TECH)

News-CRUX-10     12th September 2023        

Context: Recently, India and France have been actively discussing the option of nuclear power as a tempting path towards achieving carbon neutrality, despite the pressing concerns of potential meltdowns and the challenges associated with waste disposal.

Nuclear Energy

  • About: It is the energy stored in the nucleus of an atom. It can be used to produce electricity. But, before it can used, it must be released.
  • Global: Nuclear energy accounts for approximately 10% of global electricity production, generated by around 440 power reactors.
  • Nuclear energy stands as the second-largest contributor to low-carbon power worldwide, comprising 26% of the total in 2020.
  • In India: Nuclear power ranks as the fourth-largest electricity source, following thermal, hydroelectric, and renewable energy sources.

o Roughly 2.5% of India's total energy needs are satisfied by nuclear energy.

o India currently operates 22 nuclear reactors situated within 7 nuclear power plants, boasting an aggregate installed capacity of 6780 MW.

o Nuclear energy can help India meet the INDC target under the Paris Climate Treaty.

Nuclear Fusion: In fusion, nuclei of two lighter elements are made to fuse together to form the nucleus of a heavier atom.

  • Best Example: It is the same nuclear process that powers the Sun and other stars.

Nuclear Fission: It occurs when a neutron slams into a larger atom, forcing it to excite and split into two smaller atoms, known as fission products. Additional neutrons are also released that can initiate a chain reaction.

  • Result: When each atom splits, a tremendous amount of energy is released.
  • Best Example: Nuclear power reactors where uranium and plutonium are most commonly used because they are easy to initiate and control.