Nuclear Energy

Friend or Foe?

Nuclear Energy

As fossil fuels start to run out the world has been looking for other ways to get energy. One controversial energy force is nuclear power plants. states that "nuclear energy is energy released by reactions within atomic nuclei, as in nuclear fission or fusion. "The idea of nuclear energy has been around since the 1950's. Using this type of energy has been a controversial topic since it was discovered. Earth could use nuclear energy because of the low supplies of fossil fuels, but what one nuclear energy accident can do can change the earth for forever.
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This is a diagram of how nuclear plants work.

Nuclear Fission

Nuclear fission is the process by which a nucleus splits and neutrons and energy are released.This is the main way we create energy today. Fission has the ability to create nuclear accidents."The amount of energy released during nuclear fission is millions of times more efficient per mass than that of coal considering only 0.1 percent of the original nuclei is converted to energy. " -Chemwiki
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Nuclear Fusion

This occurs when two or more nuclei collide at high speed and collide resulting in energy being produced.Scientists have not figured out how to control nuclear fusion ,but it is expected to be available in about 10 years. The sun makes its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen and helium. The Sun makes 620 million metric tons of hydrogen each second. "Fusion emits no pollution or green houses [and] there is no threat in nuclear melt down like there is with the nuclear fission reactors of today"-American Security Project. There will be no accidents in the reactor due to the chain reactions that occur in fissions. The waste generated will be much less radioactive.

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  • The nuclear power plant cost a lot less to operate, but a lot to make. After 30 years of use the power plants have to be shut down, but the radiation is still there. The power plants need to be shut down because of the radioactivity that is being used. Radioactive waste travels and can not be seen by the human eye. The waste is very harmful and can leave to deformities not only to humans but plants and animals as well.
  • The biggest disadvantage is that if a nuclear power plant is to explode it can cause widespread damage. There have been nuclear power plants that have had nuclear accidents before. The two most famous nuclear accidents were Chernobyl and Fukushima.
  • Terrorists or other enemies can target the areas with power plants and cause major accidents and explosions. It’s an easy way to kill millions of people. Conserve Energy Future says, “Security is a major concern here. A little lax in security can prove to be lethal and brutal for humans and even for this planet.” This makes a good point in because even if nuclear accidents are rare and somewhat preventable we can’t control attacks from other countries or enemies."

    · Nuclear energy is not easy to store or dispose. It can stay radioactive for thousands of years. The safest way to dispose of nuclear energy is to bury it deep in the ground, but the problem with this is that it still puts people at risk. If there is an earthquake, any form of volcanic activity, or any other alter caused by nature then the dangerous radiation could escape and kill thousands of people or more.

    · Nuclear energy is a nonrenewable energy source. Even though uranium is found all over the world, nuclear plants usually use a type of uranium, U-235, that is not common. This means that nuclear energy is not a permanent solution and the U.S. and other places in the world will have to face alternative sources of energy eventually so why not now so the world can avoid putting people, plants, and animals at risk.

    · The first time nuclear power was used was when it was used to create two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. This was also the first time that nuclear power was used in a military attack. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prevents nuclear power from being used but if nuclear energy becomes more common and more countries get comfortable around it then a nuclear weapon is more likely to be made.

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The Soviet Union nuclear power plant accident happened in 1986. In reactor 4 of the plant the workers tested a way to cool down the plant in case of an emergency. What they didn't know is that the reactor was going to explode. A writer from PBS states ."Without question, the accident at Chernobyl was the result of a fatal combination of ignorance and complacency."The explosion was chemical. Reactor 4 contained 190 metric tons of uranium dioxide fuel and fission products. Most of the chemicals are still there and will be there for a long time. The explosion damaged not only the people near the reactor and Chernobyl but, it also affected countries around the area. Belarus, Ukraine, Russia were affected heavily by the explosion. Over 63,000 square miles of land was contaminated and affected.A lot of people started evacuating 36 hours after the explosion occurred. overall it is estimated that 350,000 people have evacuated since. People who left still have signs of the affects of radiation in them today. After the explosion the Soviet union tried to do everything they could do which included decontaminating settlements, most food was thrown away and wasted because it was contaminated, and trying to keep animals healthy. Over 7 million people were affected. The accident caused thyroid cancer, other cancers, disorders of the nervous system, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases,diabetes, and disorders of the bone, muscles, and connective tissue. These affects change peoples lives for forever. The affects still last in mothers' offspring. Many children are born with mutations like where there head is very large or they can have extra or less arms or legs as well as fingers and toes. This is only a few of the lasting mutations, but there are many many more.

Three Mile Island

In 1979 a reactor in Pennsylvania leaked.This was the worst US nuclear accident. It didn't have major affects, but Americans discovered more dangers in nuclear energy. "Nevertheless, in the eyes of many Americans, the accident highlighted one of the dangers of nuclear power. Partly because of the Three Mile Island accident, the building of nuclear reactors was halted in the United States in the late 1970s."- Opposing View Points. The accident only released a small amount of radiation, but it still took 12 years and 973 million dollars to clean up.


In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan causing a nuclear accident at three Fukushima Daiichi reactors. This caused the release of radioactive materials. More than one hundred thousand people were evacuated from their homes. The area around the nuclear accident was highly contaminated and can’t have any people on it for many years. The effects of the nuclear accident will be around for a long time. A screening program a year later in 2012 found that more than a third (36%) of children in Fukishima have mutations and abnormal growth defects. As of August 2013, there have been more than 40 children newly diagnosed with thyroid cancer and other cancers in Fukishima as a whole. There were also mutations in food as well. Fukishima was terrible and is one of the top three nuclear accidents that have happened.

Solar Power

This is an alternative energy source that is commonly used. Solar energy made by using the suns rays and cresting it into energy. National Geographic states "On a much larger scale, solar thermal power plants employ various techniques to concentrate the sun's energy as a heat source. The heat is then used to boil water to drive a steam turbine that generates electricity in much the same fashion as coal and nuclear power plants, supplying electricity for thousands of people." On a world wide scale the idea of solar power is that it is clearly an idea for the energy crisis. Solar power is very much like all of the other energy sources, but the main disadvantage is that it doesn't work at night without a storage device.
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Wind Power

Wind power uses wind in our atmosphere and coverts it into mechanical energy and then electricity. This form of energy has been used for a long time. Wind turbines take the winds kinetic energy by having three blades and range in size from 80ft tall to over 260ft tall. Smaller turbines can power a single home where as the big turbines can produce enough power to covert enough energy to power hundreds of homes. Wind turbines are having a 44 percent year on growth and have a total of 369553 MW of operating wind capacity today. China uses the most amount of energy produced by wind followed by the United States. As of the end of 2014 America had about 48000 wind turbines. This energy was used to power 16.7million homes. The United States gets 4.4 percent of its electricity from wind. It is Clean (no pollution) and renewable so it also has no fuel costs.Wind farms are also noisy and spoil the view. The wind turbine can also kill birds flying by. The main disadvantage is that wind is not always available; therefore it is not as reliable as water.

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There are many other alternative energy sources that can be used besides fossils fuels and hydroelectricity is just one of them. The USGS states that hydroelectricity is very similar to using fossil fuels. "Hydroelectric and coal-fired power plants produce electricity in a similar way. In both cases a power source is used to turn a propeller-like piece called a turbine, which then turns a metal shaft in an electric generator, which is the motor that produces electricity. A coal-fired power plant uses steam to turn the turbine blades; whereas a hydroelectric plant uses falling water to turn the turbine. The results are the same." There are many advantages of hydroelectricity such as:

  • It creates a smaller amount of pollution because fuel is not being burned
  • Water comes from nature and will not run out
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Lower operation cost and maintenance
  • Reliable

This source of energy is very costly to make; though it does not cost a lot to operate or maintain. Many dams are built in the process of making a plant and these dams can last for a long time. The water that is formed behind the dam can be used for irrigation , leisure, and water activities. There are many points of view on this energy source ,but we believe it is the most affective. We believe that all though it is expensive to build a power plant it would be the most affective because it produces little waste and is reliable. Water will never run out and no nuclear accidents will happen.

Works Cited

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