Answer to Question #22982 in Biochemistry for shanice
Despite its negative image, nuclear energy may be the most efficient and realistic means of meeting the rapidly-growing demand for power. Why?
1)Thermal power plants generate electricity by burning fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas. This combustion process is the source of CO2 emissions, which causes global warming.Nuclear power generation, in contrast, harnesses the heat energy produced by nuclear fission. Because there is no combustion involved in the process, nuclear power generation does not emit CO2 in principle.
2)Furthermore, indirect CO2 emissions from processes such as mining/transportation of fuels and development/operation of power stations are miniscule. While a natural gas-fired combined cycle plant, which is the most efficient power generation option, emits approximately 474g of CO2 to generate 1kWh of electricity, a nuclear power plant emits only about 20g of CO2 and can generate the same amount of electricity.
3)For comparison, fossil-fuelled power stations (and nuclear, for that matter) have an efficiency of about 33%. In other words, about 1/3 of the heat energy released from the fuel gets turned into electricity. The other 2/3 of the energy ends up as waste heat - it just warms up the power station and its surrounding environment.
The maximum theoretical thermal efficiency of a power station is around 64% (look up 'Carnot Cycle'), but in real life the best thermal efficiency is around 42%. Various other random heat losses eventually give you around 33% overall 'generation' efficiency.
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