Nuclear Power is a foe

By Kaitlyn L.

The 2 types of power plants and how they work

The picture below shows a pressurized water reactor. This is one type of nuclear power plant .A pressurized water reactor puts water under pressure so it will heat up but won't bring it to a boil. When the water is heated it goes through tubes in steam generators which allows the water to turn to steam. When the water is turned to steam it turns the turbine generator. To make sure the water form the reactor and the water that is turned into steam don't mix they are kept in separate systems.
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The 2nd type of power plants

The second type of nuclear power plants are the boiling water reactors. Boiling water reactors work by heating the water to a boil and turning it into steam to turn the turbine generator.
In both generators the steam is turned back into water and can be used again in the process. Also both generators use uranium to heat up the water.
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Uranium transportation, radiation, and waste disposal

Mining and purifying uranium is not a clean process. Transporting it can also pose contamination risks. Radiation and heat will eventually cause corrosion of any container that it is held in. Also, it takes tens of thousands of year for nuclear fuel decays to reach safe radioactive levels. Currently nuclear industires let the waste cool for years before mixing it with glass and storing it in massive coolded concrete structures.

Dangers of nuclear power plants

  • If a breakdown were to occur and radioactive material was released it has the potential to kill cells and cause DNA mutations.
  • Radioactive iodine can be absorbed by the thyroid gland and cause thyroid cancer. Children at the most risk of getting thyroid cancer after exposure to radioactive material because their thyroid glands are 10 times smaller than those of an adults so the radioactive iodine would be more concentrated in them. In following years the incidence of thyroid cancer among those exposed as children increased in Ukraine and in near by countries showed up between 4 and 10 years after the incident. Even though radioactive is short-lived and is only around for about 2 months it is still dangerous to anyone who lives near a nuclear power plant when it breaks down.
  • Radioactive cesium can stay in the environment for more than a century but does not concentrate in one part of the body like radioactive iodine does.
  • Natural disasters can cause dangers to nuclear power plants.Earthquakes and tunamis have been known to distroy nuclear power plants.
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Pig with mutation from radiation.
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Girl with thyroid cancer after the Fukushima accident.

Examples of nuclear disasters

Chalk River- December 12, 1952

In Canada an emloyee accidently opened 4 valves that regulate pressure. When the valves

opened the changed pressure caused controle rods to partially come out of the reactor. Safty measures were attempted but a wrong button was pushed. Power output in the reactor increased and the lid blew off. Large amounts of water contaminated with radioactive waste leaked into facility. Crews came in to the contain and clean up the radioactive material.

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Mayak Plutonium Facility- September 29, 1957

The Mayak plutonium facility in the South Ural Mountains of Russia is considered to have been worse than Chernobyl by some. The equipment to cool down the nuclear waste broke down causing the waste to explode. Approximately 270,000 people and 14,00 square miles were exposed to radiation. Prior to the accident, the facility has a history of dumping radioactive waste into nearby water sources. Today, the radiation levels in the area are among the highest in the world, with the water sources still contaminated with radioactive waste.
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Windscale Nuclear Power Plant- October 10, 1957

Just 11 days after the disaster of the Mayak Plutonium Facility, in England faulty equipment gave inaccurate temperature readings. The temperature readings showed the equipment was cooler than it was Employees' action to the inaccurate reading caused the reactor to overheat and graphite in the plant to burn. The burning graphite cause a fire that was not fully put out until the next day. Filters installed chimneys with prevented some of the radiation from escaping into the environment. Even with the precautions taken it couldn't prevent the widespread contamination that occurred.
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Lubmin Nuclear Power Plant- December 7, 1975

A fire at a power plant in East Germany caused safety systems to fail. Employees quickly acted to release a coolant in the facility and prevented a meltdown.

Three Mile Island- March 28, 1979

A malfunction in the cooling system was the result of the accident in Pennsylvania. The reactor shut down due to the malfunction. The pressure caused a relief valve at the top of the pressurizer to open. The valve poured water into the pressurizer but did not shut when it was supposed to. Employees did not realize the valve was open and decided to increase pressure in the pressurizer by reducing coolant flow. Without any gauges that measured the core coolant level or the position of the valve caused the employees to wrongly assume that the high water levels in the pressurizer sensed by the gauges meant that the coolant level in the core was too high. The employees reduced the coolant causing the system to overheat and destroy the fuel rods which leaked radiation into the cooling water. Once the employees realized what had happen, they were able to release a flow of emergency water into the system to cool it down and prevent any other mistakes,

Women and small children were evacuated from the area for health concerns. Today there are studies investigating the increased cancer and thyroid problems and infant mortality that occurred at the time. Health risks are still debated but new research is beginning to show the real dangers of radiation contamination.

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Chernobyl- April 26, 1986

Chernobyl is one of the most well know nuclear power plant accidents. The power plant in Ukraine was caused by a faulty reactor design and the mistakes made by the employees. a surge of power destroyed one of the reactors releasing large amounts of radiation. Helicopters dropped boron and sand onto the reactor to prevent more radiation from leaking into the environment. 600 employees were present at the time of the explosion, 134 were exposed to high levels of radiation. Two employees died with in hours where as 28 died within the next 4 months. Also 600,000 people who cleaned up the radiation were exposed to levels of radiation that were deemed unsafe. The radiation spread far and exposed approximately 5 million people living in contaminated areas.
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Tokaimura, Japan- Sptember 10,1999

Employees used too much uranium in the uranium nitric acid mix the plant used to make nuclear fuel. The employees add 33 pounds of uranium to the mix that contained the nitric acid instead of 5.2 pounds. The improper mix caused a nuclear fission chain reaction explosion to occur. They coundn't get near enough boron to spread it. They decided to break water pipes that led to the tank to flood the area and stop the nuclear reaction. After approximately 20 hours the nuclear reaction was stopped. About 36 employees were exposed to measurable levels of radiation. 3 were exposed to high levels, 2 of which eventually died as a result.

Fukushima- March 11, 2011

The biggest earthquake and a 30-foot tsunami was too much for the reactor in Fukushima to handle. A seires of ongoing equipment failures in several units of the plant caused the plant to release radioactive material into the environment and the seawater.
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Quotes about nuclear power

  • "Every dollar spent on nuclear is one dollar less spent on clean renewable energy and one more dollar spent on making the world a comparatively dirtier and a more dangerous place, because nuclear power and nuclear weapons go hand in hand." Mark Z. Jacobson
  • "Once presented, the fact will speak for themselves." -Helen Caldicott
  • "It's ridiculous that time and time again we need a radioactive cloud coming out of a nuclear power-station to remind us that atomic energy is extraordinarily dangerous."- Pierre Schaeffer

  • “The best way to solve any problem is to remove its cause.”- Martin Luther King
  • "There is not the slightest indication the (nuclear) energy will ever be obtainable"- Albert Einstein