The sun and stars are seemingly inexhaustible sources of energy. That energy is the result of nuclear reactions, in which matter is converted to energy. We have been able to harness that mechanism and regularly use it to generate power. Presently, nuclear energy provides for approximately 16% of the world's electricity. Unlike the stars, the nuclear reactors that we have today work on the principle of nuclear fission. Scientists are working like madmen to make fusion reactors which have the potential of providing more energy with fewer disadvantages than fission reactors.
Changes can occur in the structure of the nuclei of atoms. These changes are called nuclear reactions. Energy created in a nuclear reaction is called nuclear energy, or atomic energy.
Nuclear energy is produced naturally and in man-made operations under human control.
Nuclear energy is produced in two different ways, in one, large nuclei are split to release energy. In the other method, small nuclei are combined to release energy.
For a more detailed look at nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, consult the nuclear physics page.
Fission of uranium 235 nucleus. Adapted from Nuclear Energy. Nuclear Waste*.
Amore in depth and detailed history of nuclear energy is on the nuclear past page.
The nations of the world now have more than enough nuclear bombs to kill every person on Earth. The two most powerful nations -- Russia and the United States -- have about 50,000 nuclear weapons between them. What if there were to be a nuclear war? What if terrorists got their hands on nuclear weapons? Or what if nuclear weapons were launched by accident?
Some people think that nuclear energy is here to stay and we must learn to live with it. Others say that we should get rid of all nuclear weapons and power plants. Both sides have their cases as there are advantages and disadvantages to nuclear energy. Still others have opinions that fall somewhere in between.
What do you think we should do? After reviewing the pros and cons, it is up to you to formulate your own opinion. Read more about the politics of the issues or go to the forum to share your own opinions and see what others think.