Nuclear Energy

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Fission vs. Fusion

  • During nuclear fusion the nuclei of hydrogen atoms fuse together to produce larger nuclei, this reaction creates energy
  • Nuclear fission is when the nucleus of an atom is split apart into two smaller pieces
  • During the process of nuclear fission a small amount of the mass of the nucleus is converted into a large amount of energy
  • Nuclear fusion is not an accessible source of nuclear power to us yet
  • Power is created through nuclear fission by the heat generated from the splitting nuclei boiling water that causes turbines to turn and create power

Pros & Cons

Pros


  • Nuclear energy is significantly less expensive to operate then opposing sources because it requires very little fuel that, in turn, produces large quantities of energy
  • An average nuclear reactor uses approximately 200 tons of uranium fuel annually to generate an amount of energy equivalent to that of 3 million tons of coal - 15,000 times less fuel is required for nuclear powers
  • Another major advantage is that nuclear power releases no pollutants into the air while a coal burning plant releases 500 tons of ash and 175,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide
  • In addition coal burning plants release radon gas which has been linked to cancer
Cons


  • Nuclear power plants cost more to build then plants that burn fossil fuel and have a short lifespan of 30 years by which they need to be shut down
  • Nuclear reactors generate harmful radioactive waste and portions of this waste can remain radioactive for thousands of years - "The peaceful use of nuclear energy without a fuel cycle is an empty proposition" - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  • The long term storage of this waste is a problematic and controversial issue
  • Many people fear the possibility of a nuclear which would include extremely harmful effects such as lethal amounts of radiation leaking in to the surrounding environment.
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Meltdowns & Disasters

Chernobyl

  • On April 26 at 1:24 A.M the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded due to several imperfections in the design, which were satisfied by a strict set of procedures of the plant; failure of plant management to enforce these procedures and the decision of the engineers to conduct a risky experiment. The engineers wanted to test if the plant's turbine generator could provide enough power to the reactor in case of a power shortage. The test called for the many safety devices to be disabled. This procedure failed and caused one of the most detrimental nuclear disasters ever.


Three Mile Island

  • In March 1979, near Harrisburg Pennsylvania, the reactor core of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor went out of control creating huge amounts of heat. The fuel and control rods melted and the cooling water was turned into steam and the container structure itself was threatened, but held together. Although equipment malfunctions and operator errors occurred, the vital safety systems remained functional and a public health emergency was averted. Only minimal amounts of radiation escaped, causing very little hazard to the surrounding environment.

Random Facts

  • Nuclear power has been in use since 1950
  • There are two types of nuclear power - fusion and fission, although fission is the only used
  • No nuclear plants have been built since the meltdown of the plant on 3 mile island in 1979
  • There are over 430 commercial nuclear power plants worldwide
  • There have only been 3 major nuclear power plant disasters ever. The Chernobyl meltdown, 3 mile island accident, and Fukushima.
  • The worlds first nuclear power plant that provided energy to a power grid was the U.S.S.R's Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant.
  • "If the third world war is fought with nuclear weapons the fourth will be fought with bows and arrows" - Lord Louis Mountbatten
  • "All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk" - Ronald Regan
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