To put it into really basic terms, most power is made by turning turbines in generators, which harnesses the kinetic (movement) energy of the turbines, making it into electrical energy. What differs is how the turbines get turned.
With Nuclear energy, again to simplify it as much as possible, special unstable atoms (in radioactive substances like Uranium-235) are split apart by pelting them with neutrons, releasing huge amounts of energy which causes a lot of heat. Water is run past in pipes, the heat turns it into pressurised steam, and the steam pushes turbines to make electricity.
Some say that nuclear power is a good choice for the future, having some advantages over fossil fuels in that it is considered to be more efficient and doesn’t produce CO2 emissions. At present, there’s a lot more uranium around as well, so we won’t run out as quickly as we are going to with coal and oil. Added to that, some consider that new nuclear reactors have been designed more carefully and therefore less unlikely to explode like in the Chernobyl disaster of the mid 1980’s. However, ultimately it isn’t a sustainable energy source and at Natracare we think money and resources should be going into truly clean, renewable sources like wind and solar (for more information, see our article on renewable energy).
There are different sorts of radioactive waste produced which are classified as high, medium or low level waste. The major concern with nuclear energy is the type of radioactive waste, produced after energy has been generated in a nuclear reactor power station, particularly from the fuel Plutonium-239 which remains hazardous to humans and other living beings for hundreds of thousands of years. Therefore, these wastes must be shielded for centuries and isolated from the living environment for millennia.