Michael Good, Associate Professor, School of Sciences and Humanities, at Nazarbayev University, walks us through the topic of nuclear energy and its role in our lives

Nuclear energy and nuclear technologies offer vital contributions and improvements to our daily lives. Nuclear energy is energy derived from the nucleus of an atom, and nuclear energy technology is the process of using the nucleus of an atom to produce heat and electricity.

This type of energy has the potential to produce virtually unlimited amounts of power without directly generating carbon emissions or other air pollutants.

This makes it a valuable tool in the fight against polluting our own environment. Nuclear energy is also a primarily clean, safe, and reliable form of energy that can provide baseload power to communities worldwide.

This makes it an essential source of energy to help meet our needs and contributes to a sustainable and secure energy grid.

Besides using nuclear power to generate mostly clean and reliable electricity, the nucleus is at the heart of many technologies that improve our lives. Additionally, nuclear science is used to develop new materials and to create new medicines and cancer detection technologies.

Nuclear science applications

The principles of nuclear science and physics of radiation have been especially significant in medical diagnosis and integral in saving lives, particularly for their use in medical imaging, such as X-rays, PET scans, CAT scans, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This is accomplished, in part, by understanding the nature of light and the frequencies of light that are invisible but all around us.

Nuclear science is even used to explore the universe’s origins, unlocking the secrets of the atom, and helping to explain the initial stages of the universe’s evolution. In addition, nuclear astrophysics, the application of nuclear physics to astrophysics, has been crucial in explaining the inner workings of stars and the origin of chemical elements.

Nuclear science is even used to explore the universe’s origins

Scientists and engineers continue to play a crucial role in understanding the nature of the atomic nucleus and work to develop new ways to use this knowledge to improve people’s lives. Through research and experimentation, ups and downs, they both seek to uncover the properties of the atomic nucleus and explore ways to use it to benefit us.

At the most basic level, research on the atomic nucleus can help improve energy efficiency by developing more efficient nuclear power plants. By studying the properties of the nucleus, scientists and engineers can also develop safer, more efficient and more powerful nuclear reactors, as well as recent and exciting developments in novel applications of nuclear energy related to an alternative approach to nuclear fission: nuclear fusion. This could provide power for our grid in due time.

Nuclear energy has untapped potential

Nuclear energy is underutilised as a clean, safe, reliable source. However, it has tremendous untapped potential to contribute to a more sustainable and secure energy future.

Since nuclear energy technologies can be used for various applications, from medical treatments to exploring the universe’s origins, it must be understood that the development of new technology exploiting nuclear physics is an ever-evolving process, like science itself, requiring funding and permission from the public.

The scientists and engineers working to make our lives safer, healthier, and more affordable, with nuclear energy, for example, are immensely grateful for the public’s support of scientific research.

Nuclear science is a powerful and beneficial force in our modern lives. From the energy we use to power our homes to the medical treatments that save lives, nuclear science is at the heart of many technologies we use daily.

woman working on an EHR in a hospital
© Maocheng

A glimpse into nuclear sciences in the U.S.

The nuclear sciences and technologies play a vital part in “improving people’s lives and preserving the planet,” according to the American Nuclear Society (ANS). ANS is an excellent example of an organisation devoted to progressing the application of nuclear sciences and technologies for the good of society. (1)

But what is nuclear science? It concerns “the study of one of the smallest things we know – the atomic nucleus”, ANS helpfully explain. It’s fascinating to read that the tiny nucleus (100,000 times smaller than an atom) has a tremendous influence on our world. Indeed, nuclear technology and science foster power for space missions, cancer treatments, safer medical supplies, new crop varieties, plus clean and green ways to generate electricity.

ANS details the array of uses for nuclear science and its impact on sectors like the environment, energy, healthcare, and food. (2) Find out how nuclear science is central to many technologies that improve lives. (3)

Discover classroom resources which seek to heighten understanding of the nuclear energy field plus its applications. (4) How is a national expansion of K-12 nuclear science and technology education being achieved? (5) Learn the answers to these and other intriguing questions on the ANS website.

Or perhaps discover more about nuclear energy, “released both when larger atoms split apart, undergoing fission, and when smaller atoms combine together, known as fusion,” as ANS puts it. Did you know that Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) are the most common reactors today, globally? (6) With all the above in mind, let’s not forget that nuclear sciences and technologies play a crucial role in preserving our world and improving the lives of its inhabitants. (1)

1. https://www.ans.org/about/

2. https://www.ans.org/nuclear/

3. https://www.ans.org/nuclear/science/

4. https://www.ans.org/nuclear/navigatingnuclear/

5. https://www.ans.org/nuclear/stemacademy/

6. https://www.ans.org/nuclear/energy/

Contributor Profile

Associate Professor
School of Sciences and Humanities, Nazarbayev University
Phone: +7 7172 706688
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