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Nuclear Energy: Will Nuclear Energy Be a Sufficient Source of Energy in the Future?

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Nuclear Energy: Will nuclear energy be a sufficient source of energy in the future?

Alex Schaeffer

April 4, 2017

Introduction        1

Nuclear Power        1

Fission        1

Fusion        2

Reactors        2

What is a nuclear reactor?        2

Parts of a nuclear reactor        3

Radiation        4

Cost        4

Fuel        4

Construction and O&M        5

Waste Storage        5

History        5

History of Nuclear Power        5

History of Uranium        6

History of Reactors        6

Benefits        7

Emissions         7

Supply        8

Medicine        8

Dangers        9

Radioactive Waste        9

Reactor Accidents        10

Chernobyl        10

Three Mile Island        11

Fukushima        11

Conclusion        11

Sources        12

Outline        13

[pic 1]


        What is nuclear energy?  Does nuclear energy produce greenhouse gases? Don’t nuclear reactors release tons of radiation?  The world's natural resources are being consumed at an alarming rate.   As these resources decrease, people will be searching for alternative sources to generate electricity for heat and light.   The only practical short term solution for the energy-crisis is nuclear power.   This then leads me to my thesis, “Will nuclear energy be a sufficient source of energy for the future?”  We will be looking at what nuclear power is, the history of nuclear power, the benefits and the dangers of nuclear power.

Nuclear Power

        So what is nuclear energy?  Nuclear energy is one of the most efficient sources of energy available.   It produces more energy than any other fuel.   Nuclear energy does not produce any air pollution or greenhouse gasses, which makes it safe for the environment.  Nuclear energy comes in two forms: nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.  Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and are still being refined to become more efficient.  


        Nuclear fission is a processes in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller nuclei.  When an atom of nuclear fuel ( usually uranium) absorbs a neutron, the uranium will fission into two smaller atoms (waste) and release one to three neutrons.  This process produces large amounts of energy and the heat from that energy heats the water which produces steam.  As the steam rises, the blades of the turbine spin the generator in order for the generator to produces electricity.  [pic 2]


        Nuclear fusion on the other hand occurs when the nuclei of hydrogen atoms combine together to form a larger nuclei.  Energy is released during this process which makes fusion the primary source of energy in the sun and stars.  For example, in the sun two hydrogen nuclei fuse to make a larger helium nucleus.  Fusion is currently not used as a commercial energy source yet, because extremely high temperatures are required and it is difficult to contain once it has begun.


What is a nuclear reactor?

        A nuclear reactor is a device that can start and control chain reactions of nuclear fissions.  The course of a chain reaction is determined by the probability that a neutron released in fission will cause another fission reaction.  However, if the amount of neutrons in a reactor decreased over a period of time, the frequency of fission will ultimately drop to zero.  In this case the reactor is in the “subcritical” state.  If over time the amount of neutrons stays at a  constant rate, the fission reaction rate will stay steady and the reactor will be in the “critical” state.  

Parts of a nuclear reactor

        All nuclear reactors contain a core, which is a central region that contains the fuel, moderator coolant, and control rods.  The core of the reactor is where radiation and radioactive wastes are produced while fission energy is generated inside the core.

        There are 4 main parts of a nuclear reactor core which include the fuel, moderator, coolant, and control rods.  Most reactors use U-235, also known as uranium.  This is then converted to Uranium Oxide pellets, which are arranged in tubes to form fuel rods.  The moderator is material in the reactor core used to slow down the neutrons released from fission so that they can cause more fission.  The moderator is mostly composed of water and graphite.

        The coolant is a fluid, either pressurized water, liquid sodium, or carbon dioxide gas, that circulates throughout the core to transfer heat to another unit where the electricity is produced.


        The control rods are mainly used as a safety feature, which have the ability to control and keep fission at a desired state.  The control rods contain a neutron absorbing material, such as boron, to control the power of a nuclear reactor.  By absorbing neutrons, the control rods prevent the neutrons from causing further fission reactions.



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