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Regardless of whether you look at nuclear engineering as a profession or as a potential carbon free energy source, it has many advantages and disadvantages. Ever since the Manhattan Project, which first developed the nuclear bomb, nuclear power has been criticized by groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and from environmental groups. Despite this, nuclear energy is still a high priority in many countries.
Nuclear engineering is a tough profession to get into due to the level of education required, but it does give some exciting benefits. As a rule, it is a high-paying profession. In the private sector, the profession involves working for major multinational energy companies that pull in millions in profits each year. The nature of the work is also exciting, as nuclear power goes far beyond power plants and can lead to work on rockets and weapons.
The obvious professional disadvantage is the expense incurred in qualifying as a nuclear engineer. Top results will need to be attained all the way through the person’s education to ensure entry into a top higher education institution. As with many scientific jobs, the degree attained is a vital part of future success. There are some ethical disadvantages as well, largely based on general opposition to nuclear energy. Many people may have moral objections to working on nuclear weapons, for example. In terms of a career, there are equally as good job opportunities in other renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
Energy Source Advantages
Nuclear power as an energy source is carbon neutral and is seen as a suitable alternative to carbon-based fuels. Despite the controversy that continually surrounds nuclear energy, it is still seen as a major part of the general alternative energy strategy.
Energy Source Disadvantages
Nuclear energy has some major drawbacks which has stopped it from becoming the central part of alternative energy plans. The fuels used are not renewable and still need to be mined, destroying ecosystems. Mining of plutonium and uranium also requires harsh chemicals and lead to the emission of radon. Nuclear reactors are also not cheap to build and use a lot of water for cooling. There are also still major question marks surrounding what to do with radioactive nuclear waste.
Considerations on Military Use
When nuclear energy is mentioned, most people instantly think of nuclear bombs and mushroom clouds. There are fears of nuclear proliferation around the world, especially from rogue states and terrorist groups. This has led many nuclear states - particularly the United States and Russia - to start reducing nuclear arsenals.