What is nuclear power
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What is Nuclear Power?. It is simply electricity made from fissioning uranium and plutonium. Fission. If a uranium nucleus absorbs a neutron, it can break up and release: -Energy (Heat) -More neutrons -Other radiation. Also Plutonium. Nuclear Reactor (simplified).

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What is nuclear power
What is Nuclear Power?

  • It is simply electricity made from fissioning uranium and plutonium.


If a uranium nucleus absorbs a neutron, it can break up and release:

-Energy (Heat)

-More neutrons

-Other radiation

Also Plutonium

Why should you care about nucler power

  • Because it offers huge environmental benefits in producing electricity

    • It releases zero carbon dioxide

    • It releases zero sulfur and nitrous oxides

  • Because it saves thousands of lives yearly when substituted for electricity from coal

  • Because it is our only economical source of base-load electricity except coal power (hydro is unavailable)

Why are some people concerned about it


  • Safety: the uranium rods in the reactor become intensely radioactive, and people could be harmed if the radiation escaped

  • Waste Disposal: since the spent (or used) uranium rods remain radioactive for thousands of years, can they be disposed of safely?

  • Costs: is nuclear electricity too expensive?

  • Proliferation

    Let’s examine each.


  • Phenomenal Safety Record

    • Began 1960; 440 plants worldwide; 100 plants in US

    • ONLY accident public harmed - Chernobyl 1986- 2005 Study by several UN Agencies (World Health Org., IAEA, --)- 50 known deaths from radiation- Study "estimated" eventually 9,000 - 10,000- "Corrected" study gives 1,000 - 3,000 eventually

  • Contrast:

    • 90,000 coal miners died "instantly" US alone 1901-2000

    • 250,000 US miners "drawing" black lung compensation

Safety continued
SAFETY – Continued

In fact, the nuclear power we have (20% of US electricity) saves thousands of lives in WI and elsewhere in US yearly

  • Coal plants emit particulates

  • Harvard, ACS, EPA estimate thousands of premature deaths yearly from them

  • Nuclear plants emit no particulates

Spent fuel waste disposal

Nuclear wastes offer a huge benefit over fossil wastes

  • U rods = Solid, like rock/glass, 5,000o melting pt.

  • Encase in concrete/metal casks, bury underground

  • Size of ~25 autos per year per plant

    Contrast: Same size coal plant each year

  • Burns the coal in a 250 mile long railroad train

  • Emits 7,000,000 tons of CO2 - greenhouse warming

  • Emits 1,000 tons of SO2

  • Emits 1,400 tons of deadly particulates

  • Leaves 700,000 tons of ash including 90 tons of arsenic, lead, chromium, others - frequently, metals into ground

Waste disposal continued

Yucca Mountain standards established by EPA

  • Isolated, desolate, uninhabited land in Nevada

  • No person at site boundary 24 hours/day, 365 days/year 10,000 years from now permitted more radiation than 1.5 chest X-rays (one-sixth as much workers in US Capitol)

  • Sensible/reasonable limit when we face potentially-catastrophic climate change?

Waste disposal continued1


  • We have a limit on nuclear power in WI until "waste disposal problem solved." We have a practical solution for nuclear waste; we do NOT have a solution for coal wastes. I believe the limit should be on coal plants.

  • A few miles from Yucca Mt., DOD has exploded hundreds of atomic and hydrogen bombs underground. Has left tons of plutonium and other radioactive residue totally unprotected in the caverns. Much more severe.

    Note: We can destroy the nuclear wastes so YMs would not be needed. Research under way to reduce cost.


  • The electricity you buy today averages about

    • 1.72 cents/kWhr from nuclear

    • 2.21 cents/kWhr from coal

    • 7.51 cents/kWhr from natural gas

  • Electricity from new nuclear plants would be a modest percentage higher than from new coal plants. If Congress imposed a reasonable tax on CO2 emissions, nuclear electricity would become cheaper.


A Diplomatic Problem

  • I do not know of any case (India?) where a nuclear power program has significantly assisted in the development of weapons - the latter came first

  • US, UK, USSR, China, France

  • N. Korea, Iran, Israel, India, Pakistan

  • Easier way to obtain plutonium than n.p.p.

    - Simple plant - N. Korea

  • U-235 via centrifuges - N. Korea, Iran

Environmentalists others

  • James Lovelock, British chemist - 1997 Blue Planet Prize: "We are headed toward a warmer Earth where most life on the planet will have to move to the Arctic basin, to a few islands, ... My justification for nuclear power is that even the results of an all-out nuclear war pale into insignificance compared to what is going to happen.“

  • Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace: "In the 1970s, I equated nuclear energy to holocaust. Now, my views have changed. Nuclear energy may be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster - catastrophic climate change. ... Wind and solar can't replace coal, nuclear, and hydro. Natural gas is too expensive. Nuclear is, by elimination, the only viable substitute for coal. It is that simple.“

  • Rep. John Dingle, D-Michigan: "If we are to maintain our standard of living, even with massive conservation ... we have no choice but to utilize the nuclear option - absolutely no choice but to do so.

In closing my dream
In closing - MY DREAM:

Nuclear plants in place of coal plants for electricity


battery-driven automobiles (such as General Motors expects to sell in five years) charged by nuclear electricity.

Or fuel-cell automobiles with hydrogen separated by nuclear electricity (unless a better means evolves).