Nuclear Power

Friend or Foe?

Nuclear Power, Our Foe

Although nuclear power can create a lot of energy, it is not safe and it's not worth the risk. There are other alternatives that are safe that could replace coal without using nuclear power. Solar energy and wind power are a few examples.

What is Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy is energy in the nucleus of an atom. There is a lot of energy in the bonds that hold atoms together. Nuclear energy can create electricity, but first the energy needs to be released. It can be released from atoms in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. What's the difference? Nuclear fusion- energy is released when atoms are combined to form a larger atom. Nuclear fission- atoms are split apart to create smaller atoms, releasing energy. Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to create electricity.

Nuclear Fission

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How Does Nuclear Fission Work?

Scientists combine a large isotope with a second, smaller one - commonly a neutron. The combining of the isotopes caused the larger isotope to break apart into two or more elements. Reactions of this type release a lot of energy. This method is like a domino effect; the fissions keep reoccurring. The reoccurring process is called chain reaction.

Chain Reaction

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Reactors Used in Power Plants

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  • Radioactive Waste- waste produced must be disposed safely since they are extremely hazardous.
  • Nuclear Radiation- it can be very harmful if introduced in nature.
  • High Cost- they cost a lot of money to build and they take 5-10 years to build. Not every country can afford building a nuclear power plant, so it's not an alternative source for most countries.
  • Impact on Human Life- radiation does not go away quickly; if an accident occurred, people would be seriously affected for a very long time.
  • Fuel Availability-uranium is a scarce resource that only a few counties have.
  • National Risk- accidents happen, and if an accident occurred in a nuclear power plant everyone in the country would be seriously affected.

Radioactive Waste

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Chernobyl Disaster

CAUSE- While running a test, the unit 4 reactor had a power surge and the automatic shutdown was disabled causing an explosion.

EFFECTS- It caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment. It also caused serious social and economic disruption. It was responsible for nearly 7,000 cases of thyroid cancer among individuals younger than 18.

How Radiation Affects the Ecosystem

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CAUSE- An earthquake caused a 15-meter tsunami, which caused the reactors to melt.

EFFECTS- Really high amounts of radioactive material were released in the few following days of the accident. Over 100,000 people had to evacuate their homes. Over 1,000 people died from maintaining the evacuation. The lives of the people in Fukushima are still affected today.

Fukushima Accident

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  • " The Chernobyl 4 reactor contained about 190 metric tons of uranium dioxide fuel and fission products. About 30% escaped into the atmosphere." -NEI
  • "Radioactive wastes take almost 10,000 years to get back to the original form." -CFF
  • "The sun produces energy by nuclear fusion." -NNR
  • "Matter disappears during nuclear fission." -For Dummies
  • "Over 100,000 people had to evacuate their home ( Fukushima accident )." -WNA