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Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

nuclear power plant

Nuclear energy or atomic energy is the energy of the center of the atom where the nucleus is located and where we can find subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons.

The universe is formed by very tiny particles called atoms, and today we are generating cleaner electricity using the nuclear fission reaction, which unleashes the huge power lying inside the nucleus of the atom.

The Thermonuclear Reaction

Today, humanity can only unleash the power of the atom using the nuclear fission reaction, which generates low carbon electricity and a pretty impressive amount of nuclear waste, which is hazardous for all living beings including the environment.

We are not yet able to generate unlimited amounts of clean electricity using the nuclear fusion reaction (which takes place in the Sun every second) because the technology is not developed today at the level required to safely control the thermonuclear reaction.

The nuclear fusion reaction is cleaner and more efficient than the nuclear fission reaction because more clean energy and much less nuclear waste is generated by the thermonuclear fusion reaction.

The nuclear fusion reaction is cleaner

The nuclear fusion reaction is much better for humanity, but represents a more complex process, which requires a few more decades of technological development.

In the nuclear reactors of today, the nuclear fission reaction is the main process used to generate low carbon electricity, but because uranium (the main nuclear fuel used today) represents a finite resource, we cannot consider nuclear energy as a renewable energy source, but we can consider it a low carbon energy source.

Nuclear energy generated by the nuclear fission reaction can be considered a renewable energy source only if we find a fuel that is suited for this type of nuclear reaction and represents an infinite resource.

However, the nuclear fusion reaction generates more power than the nuclear fission reaction, much less waste and can use hydrogen as fuel.

Hydrogen represents a very abundant element in the known universe, so we can consider the nuclear fusion reaction as a renewable energy source.

Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

The answer is Yes and No. Why?

The answer to this question is directly related to the type of the nuclear fuel used in the nuclear reaction.

In the today’s nuclear power plants, uranium and plutonium represent the main fuel used in the nuclear fission reaction.

Lately, thorium it turned out to be a good replacement for uranium.


Thorium is a radioactive chemical element that can successfully replace uranium in the nuclear reactors because is more abundant in nature, has superior physical and nuclear properties as nuclear fuel, and generates less nuclear waste during the nuclear fission reaction.

Thorium is more abundant in nature (compared to uranium), but is still a finite resource.

By using these finite resources (uranium, plutonium, thorium) as nuclear fuel in the nuclear fission reaction, nuclear energy becomes a nonrenewable energy source.

In this case, the answer to the question if nuclear energy is renewable is No!

If we are talking about the nuclear fusion reaction, we can use hydrogen as nuclear fuel, and because hydrogen is a very abundant element in the universe, we can consider nuclear energy as renewable.

In this case, the answer to the question if nuclear energy is renewable is Yes!

So, again, to answer the question we need to know the nuclear fuel used in the nuclear reaction.

The nuclear fuel used in the nuclear reaction dictates if the energy produced is renewable or finite

If the nuclear fuel used represents a finite resource, nuclear energy becomes non renewable, and if the nuclear fuel used is abundant in the universe (hydrogen) we consider nuclear energy as renewable.

Judging after these statements, we realize that nuclear energy will become a renewable source of energy only when the humanity will master the nuclear fusion reaction.

This could happen by the middle of the century (by 2050).

However, to better understand what nuclear energy represents, we need to see a few facts about the amazing power of the atom.

Facts About Nuclear Energy

  • Nuclear energy is an affordable source of low carbon electricity because once the nuclear power plant is built, the electricity generation is a pretty cheap process, actually nuclear energy is the most affordable source of electricity among the other forms of electricity generation.
  • The U.S. is the main producer of low carbon electricity using nuclear power plants and with an output of 805 billion kWh has become the world’s number one consumer of nuclear energy.
  • Nuclear energy is a very popular energy source among the developed and the developing countries because in 30 of these countries of the world we can find a number of 449 nuclear reactors that are generating cheap low carbon electricity.
  • Nuclear power is considered an energy source of the future because 60 new nuclear power plants are under construction in 15 countries of the world.
  • Nuclear power has the highest energy density among all the energy sources (fossil or renewable) known today.
    With only 1 kg of natural uranium we can generate energy that is enough to power a 100 Watt light bulb for 25,700 years.
  • Nuclear energy generates new jobs every year in all the countries where nuclear power has an important share in the energy mix.
  • Nuclear energy is highly regulated in the U.S. and in all the other countries with nuclear power plants and other active nuclear facilities.
  • The inspectors of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S. are sent to monitor the nuclear power plants every time is required.
    All nuclear power plants and nuclear facilities in the world are monitored by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
  • Solar and wind power work well together with nuclear energy, and when the supply of solar and wind power is low, the nuclear power plant will increase its output to cover the energy demand, and will lower its output when renewable energy will become available again.
  • Nuclear energy is a constantly evolving energy source because new and cleaner radioactive elements are discovered (such as thorium that generates less nuclear waste), which can successfully replace the nuclear fuel (uranium) used today.
  • Nuclear energy is highly developed in countries such as the U.S., France and China.
  • These countries rely on nuclear energy pretty much (France 70%) and they are very interested to bring nuclear power to the next level.
  • If you live in a country that uses nuclear power plants to generate low carbon electricity is more than certain that a part of the energy used inside your home is produced by nuclear reactors.
  • Scientists coming from countries such as the U.S., China, Russia, Korea, Japan, India and the EU are involved in the project called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), and which aims to build a nuclear fusion reactor in Southern France.
  • ITER is bringing nuclear fusion closer to our time

    ITER is bringing nuclear fusion closer to our time.

  • Similar studies are talking place in many other places of the world, and this is showing that nuclear power has a bright future ahead.
  • Nuclear reactors are used to power some of the largest aircraft carriers and military submarines in the world.

Final conclusion

Nuclear energy produced using the nuclear fission reaction will either disappear along with the other forms of energy produced by burning fossil fuels, or it will be replaced by the clean energy produced by the nuclear fusion reaction that is a very good candidate to power mankind’s energy needs in the future.

Article written by:

I write about the renewable energy sector, electric cars and climate change issues. I love nature and good food, so I travel all over the world to see new places and meet new people. Magda Savin


  1. gregory ast

    One part of the nuclear paradigm that seems unexplored is the source of fuel. Since every known element is composed of atoms and nuclear fission is the bombardment of atoms by neutrons to release energy surely there must be elements other than uranium that can be used as that fuel. Thorium is not fissile but it is fertile which means it can be manipulated to become fissile. There is a huge amount of thorium in the world so who is to say there aren’t other elements, like thorium, that can use nuclear fission to become fuel? The efforts made during the Manhattan Project discovered uranium and it’s isotopes. Then those researchers stopped looking – they had their solution and time was short. With more expertise and funding who is to say that there might be other fuels waiting to be discovered.

  2. Merissa Murray

    Please let me know if you’re looking for an author for your clean energy based blog.

    You have pretty good articles here, and I feel like I have to bring my own contribute to your team’s work.

    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some articles for
    your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.

    Please shoot me an email if interested. Thanks!

  3. John ONeill

    ‘I write about the renewable energy sector, electric cars and climate change issues.
    I love nature and good food, so I travel all over the world to see new places and meet new people.’
    Unless you travel all over the world by yacht, you must be writing about how other people can lower their carbon footprints.

  4. Thorkil

    You must be blind and deaf to think wind and sun, together with som hydro will keep the modern society going.
    Not only this:
    – If we have not found something better, then coming generations will use our waste and have power for thousands of years – even until after the next ice-age.
    – Every ton of the much talked about waste represents millions of tons of saved CO2

    • Magda Savin

      So, by using the waste we can power the world for thousands of years?
      You don’t now that burning waste is also generating harmful emissions?

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