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Nuclear Power: “Too cheap to meter” Ready Kilowatt Nuclear Fuel Cycle Uranium production in the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Cycle What is “nuclear fission”? U-235 + 1 neutron = U-236 U-236 splits into: 2 neutrons + byproducts + ENERGY Light Water Reactors Boiling Water Reactor

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Presentation Transcript

What is “nuclear fission”?

  • U-235 + 1 neutron = U-236
  • U-236 splits into:
      • 2 neutrons + byproducts + ENERGY

Light Water Reactors

Boiling Water Reactor


Light Water Reactors

Pressurized Water Reactor


Heavy Water Reactor

Nuclear fission reactors used in Canada use heavy water as the moderator in their reactors. Since the deuterium in heavy water is slightly more effective in slowing down the neutrons from the fission reactions, the uranium fuel needs no enrichment and can be used as mined. The Canadian style reactors are commonly called CANDU reactors.


Moderator = graphite blocks

  • Problems:
  • Instability
  • of graphite
  • Lack of
  • containment
  • at Chernobyl


  • 1946 Atomic Energy Act passed creating AEC
  • 1957 Price Anderson Act passed
  • 1960-80 Many US nuclear plants constructed
  • 1970s: increasing anti-nuclear activism
  • :
    • Three Mile Island accident
    • China syndrome
  • 1986: Chernobyl


  • Since TMI decline of nuclear power in U.S.; cancellation of plants, etc. Business in rest of the world is mixed, at best.
        • Politics: Seabrook / MUSE
        • “prudency reviews” / TMI, Ginna
        • Evacuation plans and licensing
  • Decommissioning
  • new designs
  • Licensing Process:
      • US
      • Elsewhere


  • Since Chernobyl, caution about nuclear power has grown, but the change is not as abrupt as elsewhere. Why?
    • Germany
    • UK
    • Japan/France

Radioactive Wastes

  • Low-Level Waste (LLW) - includes radioactively contaminated protective clothing, tools, filters, rags, medical tubes, and many other items
  • High-Level Waste (HLW)- "irradiated" or used nuclear reactor fuel; some fuel processing wastes
  • Uranium Mill Tailings - the residues remaining after the processing of natural ore to extract uranium and thorium

Waste Disposal

  • Low-level wastes: LLRWPA/compacts
  • High level wastes:
    • NWPA: Indiana case
    • Yucca Mountain

What is the future of nuclear power?

What factors point toward its resurgence?

What factors point toward its continued dormancy?

What about nuclear power in the developing world?


Fast Breeder Reactors

Under appropriate operating conditions, the neutrons given off by fission reactions can "breed" more fuel from otherwise non-fissionable isotopes. The most common breeding reaction is that of plutonium-239 from non-fissionable uranium-238. The term "fast breeder" refers to the types of configurations which can actually produce more fissionable fuel than they use. France has made the largest implementation of breeder reactors with its large Super-Phenix reactor and an intermediate scale reactor (BN-600) on the Caspian Sea for electric power and desalinization.