By Saihaj Gill
Junior Category (Grades 7-8)
Study | Chemistry, Energy and Natural Resources, Physics
I chose nuclear energy for my project because I wanted people to see different ways of driving humanity forward, and wanted to learn more about this myself. For years, we’ve been using fossil fuels for many of our needs, and by doing so, we’re destroying the environment. Nuclear power has been an alternative source for a long time, but many people are afraid of the consequences, without looking at the benefits or the risks. In doing this project, I wanted to know if using nuclear power is worth the risk.
The problem I devised was: “is there a way for us to safely use nuclear power as an energy source to reduce the use of fossil fuels?” I hypothesized “if we use nuclear power to produce energy, we may be able to reduce the use of fossil fuels, especially if we use new technology such as the Thorium reactor. Therefore, we can reduce the effects of global warming, coal mining accidents and numerous health issues caused by fossil fuels. However, it would take drastic measures for nuclear fission to be completely safe, and to avoid meltdowns such as the ones during the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear accidents.”
I began by researching the basics of nuclear energy. For example, how we use uranium to produce nuclear power, what components there are in a nuclear reactor, and how much power nuclear energy can produce. I began to go further in-depth with my research and eventually started sorting some of my information into the pros and cons of using nuclear energy. I referred back to past nuclear accidents, such as Fukushima and Chernobyl, and what went wrong in the nuclear reactors to cause these devastating accidents. I also looked at the amount of fossil fuels nuclear power has saved us, and its efficiency. In the end, I believe that we should keep using nuclear power. It produces lots of energy, and it reduces our carbon footprint. However, we should take our time in building nuclear reactors, and should not allow them to operate if they aren’t built safely or with new technology. We should explore newer and more futuristic ways of building reactors. One accident could do a great deal of damage, as radiation lasts thousands of years.
Using fossil fuels has devastating consequences as well, but these consequences usually cannot be avoided. Nuclear accidents, on the other hand, are almost always caused by either machine malfunction or mistakes made by humans. For example, the Chernobyl nuclear accident happened when a maintenance check failed. The operators were going against regulations and turned off crucial control systems, which caused an explosion, fire, and release of radiation. If we take more care with both building and operating the reactors, nuclear power can be a safer and greener option. I believe that nuclear power could be a large source of energy if we made the process of producing it safer.