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Chapter 11: Nuclear Energy: Benefits & Risks Fact: 7% of energy consumed worldwide comes from nuclear power The Nature of Nuclear Energy Two types: Fusion and Fission Fusion Two or more lighter nuclei combine to form heavier nucleus + energy, e.g., hydrogen fusion to helium

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chapter 11 nuclear energy benefits risks

Chapter 11: Nuclear Energy: Benefits & Risks

Fact: 7% of energy consumed worldwide comes from nuclear power

the nature of nuclear energy
The Nature of Nuclear Energy
  • Two types: Fusion and Fission
  • Fusion
    • Two or more lighter nuclei combine to form heavier nucleus + energy, e.g., hydrogen fusion to helium
      • Takes place inside core of Sun
      • Takes place in an H-bomb
      • Not feasible as a controlled energy source, too hot to contain
the nature of nuclear energy5
The Nature of Nuclear Energy
  • Fission
    • heavy nucleus splits into smaller particles + energy
      • Example: First atomic bombs, like those dropped on Hiroshima & Nagasaki
      • Can be controlled and used as a source of commercial energy: Nuclear power plants
nuclear reactors power generation
Nuclear Reactors & Power Generation
  • Several types, most use Uranium-235 (some Pu-239) as fuel
  • Energy is released, which is used to heat water to make steam, which is used to turn a turbine to generate electricity
  • Figure 11.4 =>
nuclear fuel cycle fig 11 9
Nuclear Fuel Cycle fig 11.9
  • U-235 is a nonrenewable resource (just like fossil fuels), it is mined (expensive)
  • Typical uranium ore contains only 0.2% Uranium
  • Of that 99.3% is U-238 (not usable) and 0.7% U-235
  • So, ore must be enriched (expensive) and made into fuel rods
  • Fuel rods used in reactors last about 3 years, but still have radioactivity left: spent fuel rods => radioactive waste
  • Disposal of this waste is a major problem
nuclear waste disposal
Nuclear Waste Disposal
  • Fuel rods placed in sealed casks, then:
  • High-level (of radiation) waste disposal
  • Or, burial in geologically stable area
  • “NIMBY” problems
yucca mountain nv fig 11 18
Yucca Mountain, NV-- fig. 11.18
  • http://www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca/
nuclear power concerns
Nuclear Power Concerns
  • No fear of nuclear explosion (like a nuclear bomb)
  • Greatest fear: if proper safety measures aren’t followed (human error!), reactor can overheat and cause a steam explosion, which throws radioactive material a long distance
    • Ex: Chernobyl disaster of 1986, pp. 234-235
    • Ex: (almost happened) Three-Mile Island, PA ‘79
nuclear power concerns12
Nuclear Power Concerns...
  • Exposure to radiation (see table 11.3, p. 237)
    • Note: Not from nuclear power plants!
    • Concern is from handling ore, fuel rods, waste
  • Thermal pollution
    • water used to cool reactor gets returned to natural water system (lake, river, ocean)
    • some species are sensitive to temperature
    • fossil fuel plants also release hot water, but not as much as nucs (1/2 waste heat instead of 2/3)
nuclear power concerns13
Nuclear Power Concerns...
  • Decommissioning costs
    • All power plants have a finite life: 30-40 years
    • Must then be “decommissioned”, or taken apart in a systematic and careful way: quite expensive to do right ($50 million - $3 billion)
  • Waste disposal
    • already discussed
nuclear power benefits
Nuclear Power Benefits (?)
  • Produces no air pollution!
    • No CO2 (global warming), CO, no nitrogen or sulfur oxides, no volatile organic compounds, no particulate matter
  • Mining is safer than (underground) coal mining
  • Very successful in France, where it supplies 73% of its electricity and costs 20 - 30% less than generating electricity by coal
    • reason: government and public support
nuclear power benefits15
Nuclear Power Benefits (?)
  • A good possible transition fuel as fossil fuels become more scarce (until better renewable sources can be developed, recall nuclear energy is not renewable)
  • Comment: Part of the lack of success of nukes in the U.S. is the propaganda against it, especially after Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl (both of which were caused by human incompetence, not nuclear technology)
read the nuclear legacy of the soviet union

Read “The Nuclear Legacy of the Soviet Union”

P. 231, Notice how “we” are blamed for this too!