By: Keara McLaughlin
Summary: With stay-at-home orders implemented in many states to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, the power industry is working in a critical capacity to make sure that the “lights stay on” while keeping the workers safe. Nuclear power is proving to be a critical contributor to life during this time for a number of reasons. The first being the fact that the day-to-day work of power production in a nuclear reactor is far less than that of other sources of energy. Coal and gas power need constant fuel replenishing and emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gasses whereas nuclear power fuel only needs to be replenished every 12-18 months and emits zero greenhouse gases. During a pandemic that requires people to limit contact with one another, power that requires less transportation of fuel, and other human to human contact is critical to keeping people safe. Because of the significantly lower day to day hands on operation required for a nuclear plant, the nuclear power industry has the advantage of being able to close mines, and limit personnel contact both in mines and in reactors without the stress of lacking fuel and power supply.
Nuclear technology and usage of the powerplants has a large impact on the medical needs during this pandemic. Nuclear derived testing kits and equipment have been provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Many nuclear reactors work to produce medical isotopes that are proving to be beneficial to the treatment and diagnosis of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Beyond security of power, and direct medical applications, nuclear reactors are being used to produce Cobalt 60 for mass medical equipment sterilization. In many places, irradiation facilities typically used for reactor equipment, are also being used to destroy the coronavirus along with other bacterium and viruses on medical equipment that must be reused due to shortages.
Nuclear power and the reactors themselves have always been a beneficial and critical part of society, but during a pandemic as severe and unknown as COVID-19, leaning towards the advantages of nuclear power is proving to be extremely beneficial to the medical community and those simply requiring power, all while keeping their employees and communities safe through taking proper precautions and limiting unnecessary person to person contact
Why we should care? Nuclear power has been a heavily debated topic over the years, but in the midst of a pandemic, it has proven to be a clean, safe and secure saving grace that should be regarded higher well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
I found this article to be interesting because it outlines why nuclear power is becoming a critical force in the power industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The article clearly articulates the advances that nuclear reactors are helping to make regarding the diagnostic and sterilization techniques as well as what they are doing to protect their employees. It is clearly conveyed in this article that nuclear power has many applications that are often overlooked in the debate of the pros and cons. In an emergency such as this pandemic, the stressors of lack of fuel and protecting employees by limiting contact has a far less significant impact on the security of power output. The advantages of nuclear power are clarified in this article and serve to show that nuclear power has a significant place in society for power production and medical advancements far beyond a pandemic.
Science in Action.
Dr. Hussein S. Khalil is the Director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Nuclear Engineering research program.
Dr. Hussein S. Khalil’s research focus’ are the optimization of fast-reactor core designs and the improvements of reactor physics, dynamics and fuel cycle analysis. He has been on the forefront of research on small modular reactors which are proving to be the future of nuclear reactors. His current work primarily focuses on the security and economics of nuclear power while expanding commercially.
His work relates to this topic because what has become clear during the COVID-19 Pandemic is the need for energy security. His work on fuel cycle analysis has been beneficial for many nuclear energy systems to optimize the fuel efficiency of the reactors. His current research is beneficial and relevant to this topic because the above article articulates the benefits of nuclear power and Dr. Khalil’s research is important to help grow nuclear power commercially.