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Cynthia Hatch Br. Hepner FDENG 201 10/20/2011 Utilization of Nuclear Power Exordium: The research that lead to the discovery of nuclear fission was headed by Enrico Fermi in the 1930’s. After nearly a decade of research the idea of producing energy by breaking apart an atom was suggested.(Raymond L. 217-228) Nuclear fission is the process of splitting an atom by bombarding it with neutrons.(Darrow 514-516)The process provides two nuclei of similar sizes and a vast amount of energy. The United States officially became involved in World War II shortly after the process of nuclear fission was defined in 1938; this lead to a surge in research for nuclear weaponry. During this time scientists learned much about the refining process and other qualitative information involving fission. When the war ended and the need for nuclear weaponry severely declined, scientists explored other options for their nuclear energy. In Arco, Idaho, 1955 was the first town powered by a nuclear reactor, thus proving that nuclear power could be used as an alternative power source. (Yeates 1) Over the past several decades nuclear power has become increasingly more common and wide spread in the world. There are now 436 nuclear power plants in operation today in 30 different countries. Just about 20 percent of the United States electrical power is supplied by

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nuclear energy.(Idaho National Laboratory 1) Nuclear energy has gradually become more dominant in our power supplies, and has the potential to become a staple in our energy resources.

Narratio: Due to the increasing need of electrical power in the world, and the declining supply of fossil fuels, nuclear power can be used to fill the energy gap. Divisio: With the declining supply of fossil fuels and the increasing energy consumption of the world an alternative power supply is needed. Nuclear power is a viable resource for providing energy on a large scale. Nuclear power is an abundant and sustainable source of power that has proven reliable in the past several decades. Over the years the process has been refined and adjusted to be more safe and efficient, and there is continual research being done to improve the process. Finally nuclear energy is a cleaner means of supplying energy than the current fossil fuels. Confirmatio: Fossil fuels have provided more than 80 percent of the United States energy for the past 30 years. Now the supply of those fuels is slowly depleting, and will be all but depleted in the next two centuries. (NA 9) The amount of available uranium is projected to supply another five centuries worth of power and alternatives to uranium, such as Thorium, are also being explored which are even more abundant. (Tamada 1) Unlike fossil fuels, uranium can be used multiple times before it stops providing adequate energy in the fission process. These make nuclear power a fore runner in alternative energy resources.

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Another reason nuclear power should be more readily considered in spanning the energy gap is reliability. For just over five decades nuclear power has been used in the United States, which has 106 operational nuclear power plants, with only two reactor melt downs.(Idaho National Laboratory 1) Not only have nuclear power plants been running for years, but they are efficient. For the last 30 years the average efficiency of nuclear power plants has been 90 percent with a distribution of 5 percentage points.(U.S. Energy Information Administration 14) As a comparison, internal combustion engines are only 25-30 percent efficient, meaning that most of the fuel is lost in exhaust. As an example of how well nuclear energy can sustain a large electrical demand; more than 70 percent of France’s electricity comes from nuclear energy.(Idaho National Laboratory 1) In addition to the current efficiency of reactors, new plans are being designed for selfconsistent nuclear reactors. (Takagi et al. 471-476) These new designs combine refinement of the uranium and the fission process into one combined system. Normally after the first fission process, the uranium is removed and refined before being used again. The new self-consistent reactors “clean” the uranium in the same chamber as the fission process. Finally, nuclear energy is a moderately clean power source. Nuclear power plants use the energy released by fission to heat water and create steam, which turns turbines and produces electrical energy.(Gordon ) Unlike fossil fuel plants, there is no actual burning involved. The only pollution is that of nuclear waste. Law requires that highly radioactive material be permanently isolated after use.(U.S. Department of Energy office of Environmental Management 1) This limits the amount of contamination to a minimum and meeting the new standard for a cleaner environment. Confutatio:

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Some concerns have been raised about nuclear reliability, particularly with the cases of Idaho’s SL-1 melt down, and Three Mile Island, and more currently with the reactor in Japan. The accident at SL-1 in 1961 was due to human error. One of the men on the shift pulled out one of the fuel rods and caused a minor explosion. This is the only recorded death caused by a nuclear meltdown.(McKeown ) In the case of Three Mile Island, the meltdown was due to an electrical failure. There was a delay in shutting down the reactor because of mixed signals from the system. The environmental contamination was insignificant. Since this accident some measures were taken to ensure better safety in the future. For example: the reactors were redesigned to be stronger, and the alert systems were changed to be easier to understand for the technicians, and stricter regulation of nuclear facilities. The Three Mile Island incident was a costly accident, but the lessons learned from if lead to a better design and structure for nuclear reactors that has made a large difference today.(McKeown ; U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comission ) The events of Three Mile Island directly connects with the Japanese nuclear reactor meltdown. The partial meltdown in Fukushima Dai-ichi, Japan, brought about by the combination of an earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake was one of the largest recorded in history, at a magnitude of 8.9 and the tsunami peaked at around 30 feet. The reactor faired well through the earthquake, despite its magnitude, but the added tsunami caused more damage than had been prepared for. In spite of the partial meltdown, reports said that impact on the environment were again negligible.(Associated Press ) All three of these cases are rare and exceptional circumstances, outliers as it were. They do not hold against the hundreds of functioning nuclear power plants and in all these cases there was little or no impact on the community by way of safety.

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Another argument against nuclear energy is that of using renewable resources. Whereas these are cleaner and inexhaustible resources, they are not sustainable. The amount of energy and money that goes into solar panels, wind turbines, and dams outweighs the energy output they produce. To install solar panels on an energy efficient house costs between $16,000-$20,000. Though most states offer incentives to those that install solar panels, it varies from 75 cents per KW, and it does not cover the costs of installation.(Perry 2) It takes an average of five years for the system to make up for the cost of installation.(Black 4) As for the cost of building nuclear reactors, the government has proposed a new design that will greatly diminish the costs of building and running the plants. These designs dropped the price of electricity down to 1.68 cents per KWHr.(Tamada 1) Another setback for renewable resources is that they do not sustain large scale electrical needs, they do not produce enough power. Currently renewable resources provide about 8 percent of the country’s electricity.(U.S. Energy Information Administration 14) They simply do not produce enough energy. In summary, nuclear energy is currently the most sustainable, clean, and abundant power source. Peroratio: Nuclear energy is a safe and efficient source of energy that can sustain large power grids. Over the past five decades it has proven reliable, with few exceptions. The cost of using nuclear power is decreasing, and the radioactive waste is safe stored in isolation. There is also continual work being done in the field of nuclear science and new designs for nuclear reactors are being developed. As the depletion of fossil fuels continues, nuclear energy can fill in the energy gap.

Works Cited

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Associated Press. ""Partial" Meltdown at Japan Nuclear Reactor." The New York Post, sec. World News:Print. Mar. 13, 2011 2011.

Black, Andy. "Whats the Payback? How to calculate the return on your solar electric system before you buy." June 2006 2006.Web. <http://www.ongrid.net/papers/SolarTodayPayback2006.pdf>.

Darrow, Karl K. "Nuclear Fission." Science. 91 Vol. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1940. 514-516. Print.

Gordon, Hon Bart. Opportunities and Challenges for Nuclear Power. Tran. Commitee on Science and Technology. Ed. Committee on Science and Technology of the United States House of Representatives. 2nd ed. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, Apr. 23, 2008. Print.

Idaho National Laboratory. "Nuclear Power Plants." Idaho National Laboratory. 2011.Web. International Atomic Energy Agency. <https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/nuclear_energy/277/nuclear_power_pl ants/7055>.

McKeown, William. Idaho Falls: The Untold Story of America's First Nuclear Accident. Toranto: ECW Press, 2003. Print.

NA. "Fossil Energy Study Guide: Coal." U.S. Department of Energy. Nov. 1, 2011 2011.Web. <http://search.doe.gov/search?q=cache:_HhTsjDlTRsJ:fossil.energy.gov/education/energyle ssons/coal/Elem_Coal_Studyguide_draft1.pdf+power+generated+by+fossil+fuels&access=

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Perry, Pam. "Solar Panel Costs." 2005.Web. Trusty Guides. <http://www.trustyguides.com/solarpanels2.html>.

Raymond L., Murray. "Chapter 15 - the History of Nuclear Energy." Nuclear Energy (Sixth Edition). Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2009. 217-228. Print.

Takagi, R., et al. "A Fuel Cycle Concept for Self-Consistent Nuclear Energy System." Progress in Nuclear Energy 29, Supplement.0 (1995): 471-6. Print.

Tamada, Masao. "Availability of Usable Uranium." nuclearinfo.netEverything you want to know about Nuclear Power. 2011.Web. The university of Melbourne. <http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/WebHomeAvailabilityOfUsableUranium>.

U.S. Department of Energy office of Environmental Management. "Spent Nuclear Fuel." U.S. Department of Energy. 12/14/2010 2010.Web. U.S. Department of Energy. <http://www.em.doe.gov/pages/spentfuel.aspx?wmdiid=1>.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Monthly Energy Review." U.S. Energy Information Administration. Oct. 27, 2011 2011.Web. <http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/#nuclear>.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comission. "Backgrounder on the Three Mile Island Accident." March 15, 2011 2011.Web. <http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mileisle.html>.

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Yeates, John A. "A first-hand account of the lighting of Arco, Idaho." August 12, 1955 1955.Web. Idaho National Laboratory. <https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/about_inl/259/arco_lighting/7194>.