What Is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy can be created naturally or it can be man-made. Natural nuclear energy is produced from the sun and the stars. Man-made nuclear energy can be created in two very different ways- nuclear fission and fusion- where both ways use Uranium atoms. In nuclear fusion, two Uranium atoms are combined or "fused" together under immense heat, which is where the name of the process comes from. The fusion of the two atoms creates a great amount of energy that could be used for electricity. However, nuclear fission is the most common way of creating the energy. In nuclear fission, the Uranium atom is split by a machine. Once the atom is split, it realeases heat. The heat is then collected in water to help produce steam which is used as energy for electricity.

This video was taken from YouTube.com. It is an informative video showing step-by-step how a nuclear power plant works and recycles its materials.

What Problem is it Trying to Address? When is it Useful?

Nuclear energy is an alternative energy source that does not release harmful emissions. It is useful in place of energy sources like oil, gas, and coal because the energy is not created at the expense of burning these fossil fuels that release harmful chemicals back into the air which pollute it or trap heat.

How Does Nuclear Energy Relate to the Nutrient Cycles?
When creating nuclear energy, the only resources needed are Uranium and water. Because of this, nuclear energy relates mostly to the water cycle. Nuclear energy uses water to absorb the heat created from splitting atoms and forms steam which is evaporation. Then the water as steam is transported to turn a rotor to generate electricity where cool water alows the steam to become liquid again which is condensation. Finally, the water is transported back to the beginning of the cycle where it can be reused which is runoff. The only part of the cycle not present is precipitation which is because no rain, snow, sleet, etc., was created.
This type of energy also indirectly affects the carbon cycle because of the carbon dioxide emissions it saves from being released into the air. "Today, nuclear energy supplies 16% of the world's electricity, avoiding the emission of about 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year that would otherwise be generated by fossil fuel solutions, such as supercritical pulverized coal" (GE Energy 2009).
This Picture shows the water cylce which is completed when making nuclear energy.

Is It A Viable Solution?
Nuclear energy is a viable solution to energy sources. The water released from in nuclear plants is extremely clean and healthy to wildlife. Also, nuclear plants take up much less space for the same amount of energy as other sources like wind. The energy is created without harmful emissions that either pollute the environment or cause global warming which other energy sources sometimes do.

Possible Consequences:
One possible consequence of nuclear energy is the disposal of nuclear waste. However, used nuclear fuel is placed with water inside airtight canisters in nuclear power plants. This storage is only used temporarily until the goverment discovers a way to recycle this material by using the unused energy somehow.wet_storage_hor.jpg
This picture is an example of an airtight canister containing used nuclear fuel and water.

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Lipper, Ilan, & Stone, Jon. (n.d.). Nuclear Energy & Society. Retrieved from http://www.umich.edu/~gs265/society/nuclear.htm
(2009). Nuclear Energy. Retrieved from http://www.ge-energy.com/prod_serv/products/nuclear_energy/en/index.htm
(2009). Nuclear Waste Disposal. Retrieved from http://www.nei.org/keyissues/nuclearwastedisposal/