Nuclear energy is one of the
renewable energy sources being developed today because of the positive benefits it gives especially to the environment. This
alternative energy is produced in two ways -- when atoms come together in a fusion process and when atoms split apart in a fission process.
The discovery Enrico Fermi is considered a major figure in the discovery of nuclear energy. This physicist born in Rome, Italy was the first scientist to split the atom and his research later led to nuclear power generation. Together with Leo Szilard, Fermi discovered the first nuclear reactor that caused nuclear chain reactions.
Fermi obtained his degree from the University of Pisa in 1922 after which he worked as a lecturer at the University of Florence for a period of two years. He later moved to Rome where he taught theoretical physics.
It was in 1934 when Fermi achieved success in his beta ray emission theory in radioactivity. He then pursued further study to determine the creation of artificially radioactive isotopes through the bombardment of neutron. His research on the bombardment of uranium with slow neutrons is now what we call atomic fission.
This led Fermi to continue his research together with Leo Szilard. Together, they worked on building an atomic pile which could produce a controlled release of nuclear energy initially at Columbia and later on at the University of Chicago. They completed this project in 1942.
For his research on nuclear power, this scientist received a Nobel Prize for physics in 1938. By 1945, Fermi worked as a professor at the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Chicago. That was the same year he obtained his American citizenship.
Challenges and rebirth
The nuclear power industry suffered some setbacks from the late 1970s to the year 2002. There were fewer orders of new reactors despite the increased capacity and output of 60 percent owing to the improved load factors. From the mid-1980s, nuclear energy? share in electricity output worldwide remained at the same level of 16 to 17 percent.
From the 1970s, many orders for reactors were also cancelled resulting in the drop in uranium price and a rise in secondary supplies. What happened next was that oil companies that had ventured into the uranium field backed out. Fortunately, the potential of nuclear power gained a new attention in the new century as the demand for electricity worldwide notably in developing countries is foreseen to go up. Other factors that led to the harnessing of this renewable energy are the essence of energy security and the need to prevent global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. With these concerns came the availability of newer nuclear power reactors which are now used in the different parts of the world including Finland, France and the U.S.
Nuclear energy has been used since 1953 and it has been instrumental in producing electricity since 1955. Currently, 16 percent of the world? electricity is produced through nuclear power. The U.S. is a major producer of nuclear power with 103 power plants that generate electricity spread over 31 states. France, meanwhile, is the top user of nuclear power followed by Lithuania, Belgium, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine.