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Lindsey Garst Jay Nargundkar Jonah Richmond
Nuclear Power Today
• Provides almost 20% of world’s electricity (8% in U.S.) • 69% of U.S. non-carbon electricity generation • More than 100 plants in U.S.
– None built since the 1970s
• 200+ plants in the Europe
– Leader is France
• About 80% of its power from nuclear
Early History of Nuclear Power in the U.S.
• After World War II, development of civilian nuclear program • Atlantic Energy Act of 1946 • 1954: first commercial nuclear power program
• “It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes [nuclear generated] electrical energy too cheap to meter.”
– Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1954)
Secret government project to create atomic weapons during World War II
• After the war, the government encouraged “the development of nuclear energy for peaceful civilian purposes.” • This led to the technology used in nuclear plants today
• Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) established by Congress in 1946 as part of the Atomic Energy Act • AEC authorized the construction of Experimental Breeder Reactor I ( EBR-1) at a site in Idaho in 1949 • in August of 1951, criticality (a controlled, selfsustained, chain reaction) was reached using uranium • A football sized core was created and kept at low power for four months until December 20, 1951
• power was gradually increased until the first usable amount of electricity was generated, lighting four light bulbs and introducing nuclear generated power for the first time • In 1953, the EBR-1 was creating one new atom of nuclear fuel for every atom burned, thus the reactor could sustain its own operation • With this creation of new cores, enough energy was created to fuel additional reactors • A few years later, the town of Arco, Idaho became the world's first community to get its entire power supply from a nuclear reactor • This was achieved by temporarily attaching the town’s power grid to the reactor’s turbines
Atoms for Peace
• Began in 1953 and was designed by Eisenhower specifically to promote peaceful, commercial applications of atomic energy after the Manhattan Project and atomic bombings on Japan • Public support for nuclear energy grew, federal nuclear energy programs shifted their focus to advancing reactor technologies • With this came the support of utility companies, which saw nuclear energy as a cheap and environmentally safe alternative energy choice
Shippingport Atomic Power Station
• Department of Energy and the Duquesne Light Company broke ground in Shippingport, Pennsylvania in 1954 for the first commercial electric-generating station in the U.S. to use nuclear energy • Opened on May 26, 1958, as part of Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program • Three years later, it began supplying electricity for the Pittsburgh area • It was by far the world’s largest commercial nuclear power plant, surpassing those already in place in the Soviet Union and Great Britain
There are three main methods:
• Underground mining • Open pit mining • In Situ Leaching (ISL)
The Case of the Olympic Dam Mine
• Olympic Dam mine is located in South Australia • Most of the mine’s profit actually comes from the copper that they mine as well • Tunnels are dug into the earth, where ore is extracted • The ore is crushed into a powder, then soaked in a lake. The impurities precipitate and the rest is dried by heat.
Ya Got Trouble….
• Lake uses an intense amount of water • Rabbit popluation has crashed as a result of drinking from the lake
The Western Mining Corporation (WMC) is owned by BP
In Situ Leaching
• Wells are drilled into aquifers, the water is removed, and a solvent, such as hydrogen peroxide, is pumped in • The peroxide dissolves the uranium, and the solution is pumped back up • An ion exchange system causes the uranium to precipitate in the form of UO42H2O (uranium peroxide)
In Situ Leaching
ISL has its woes
• Ground water supply has radioactive residues • There are ISL mines in Texas, Wyoming, and Nebraska that share the same aquifers as residents
From Where Does It Come?
• Australia has 30% of the world’s uranium below its topsoil, and it is all for export • Canada (mostly Saskatchewan) is the next largest source • The True North, strong and free, has 20% of the world’s supply
Nuclear Governance in the U.S.
• Energy Reorganization Act of 1974
– Created NRC and DoE
• Nuclear Regulatory Commission
– Regulates reactors; use of nuclear materials; movement, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste
• Department of Energy
– Oversight of nuclear weapons; public relations side of nuclear energy
Int’l Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
• Part of U.N.
– Oversees global energy security, scientific concerns
– Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” – Formed in 1957 – Promote peaceful nuclear use
– Forum for scientific cooperation – Institutes safety measures – Promotes non-proliferation – Featured prominently in recent news
• Iraq inspections
– Mohammed El Baradei
• Head of IAEA • 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Major Problems of Nuclear Energy:
•Cost •Safety •Proliferation •Waste Disposal
• More expensive than coal and natural gas, but could be made cheaper with carbon credits • New nuclear plants could generate power at $31-$46/MWh • It would take 3-4 new plants to absorb the the early costs of these new plants
• Public remains wary of nuclear power due to Chernobyl and three mile island accidents • Nuclear plants vulnerable to terrorist attacks • Safer, more efficient, and more secure plants planned for the future
Three Mile Isle
March 28, 1979, 4:00 am
• Secondary cooling loop stops pumping. • Rising temperatures caused emergency valve to open to release pressure, but indicator light malfunctioned • Due to loss of steam, water level drops, water overheats and burns out pump • Reactor core overheats and begins to melt (a “meltdown”)
March 28, 1979, 6:30 am
• Overheated water contains 350 times normal level of melted down radioactive matter • A worker sees the open valve and closes it • To prevent an explosion, he reopens it, releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere
March 28, 1979, 8:00 am
• Nuclear Regulatory commission is notified • White House is notified • TMI is evacuated • All small children and pregnant women within a five mile radius are evacuated • A fifteen-year clean up project awaits
• Yucca mountain • Use breeder reactors instead • Alternative storage site
The Future of Nuclear Waste Storage
Current Waste Disposal
• At this time, radioactive wastes are being stored at the Department of Energy’s facilities around the country • High level wastes are stored in underground carbon or stainless steel tanks • Spent nuclear fuel is put in above-ground dry storage facilities and in water-filled pools
• Storage sites becoming full, waste may be transported to Yucca Mountain • Located on government land, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the Nevada desert • It is a 6 mile long, 1,200-foot high flat-topped volcanic ridge • Will be able to house 70,000 tons of radioactive material
Problems with Yucca Mountain
• The nuclear waste currently sitting around is enough to fill the repository • At the earliest, the repository will be open in 2010, which seems unlikely • NRC has found 293 technical issues with the repository that must be fixed • Danger to the public with the transportation of the waste to yucca mountain
Still More Problems
• Possible health risks to those living near Yucca Mountain • Eventual corrosion of the metal barrels which the waste is stored in • Located in an earthquake region and contains many interconnected faults and fractures • These could move groundwater and any escaping radioactive material through the repository to the aquifer below and then to the outside environment
• At right is a map of the Yucca Mountain site • The area within the dotted line is the burial site • Two faults run directly through the site
• The Government maintains that Yucca Mountain will open on time, in 2010 • Those in the nuclear energy industry put that date closer to 2015 or not at all • It has been suggested that the construction of concrete and steel cask fields will add additional waste storage space to nuclear plants • This would allow several additional decades for the government to put together a permanent nuclear waste storage facility
• Fuel cycles that involve the chemical reprocessing of spent fuel to separate weapons-usable plutonium and uranium enrichment technologies are of obvious concern • Once-through cycle sends discharged fuel directly to disposal, thus allowing the used fuels to be broken down, leaving no options for proliferation
Nuclear Power Countries
Threat of Proliferation
• North Korea (DPRK) part of “Axis of Evil” • 2003 admission of nuclear weapons • Kim Jong-Il* justifies nukes as defense Kimmy Neutron against the U.S. • Other potential *Not to be confused with Jeong Kim, namesake of the beautiful new threats? Engineering building at UMD
Decline of Nuclear Power
• The public began growing fearful of possible meltdowns, especially after the disaster at Three Mile Island • Nearly 2/3 of all orders for new plants were cancelled in the late 1970’s • No new plants having been built in the past twenty-five years
The Anti-Nuclear Movement
• Rachel Carson started it all in Silent Spring • She was the first to bring to light the harmful externalities of nuclear energy, including the risks of genetic mutations
November 1974: Silkwood
• Karen Silkwood was a worker at the KerrMcGee plant in Cimarron, Oklahoma, where the workers were not being protected from the radioactive materials • When she raised a stink about this problem, she was mysteriously struck by a car • As a result, NOW (National Organization of Women) and OCAW (Oil, Coal, and Atom Workers) joined the struggle against the corruption in the nuclear industry
July 16, 1979: Church Rock
• One hundred million gallons of nuclear waste were accidentally spilled on the Navajo Indian reservation in Church Rock, New Mexico • The waste ran into the Rio Puerco • The towns of Gallup, Lupton, and Saunders had to truck in drinking water, and all of the grazing livestock were slaughtered • Very little media coverage due to Three Mile Island
The Seabrook Occupation
Seabrook: Sunday, April 30, 1977
• 18,000 people protested the building of a nuclear reactor in Seabrook, New Hampshire • National Guard and State Troopers called in by Gov. Meldrim Thomson • 1,414 of them were arrested and denied due process • They refused to pay bail, and were incarcerated for a week • This was a struggle between the people and the corporate/government structure
Words: Pat DeCou, Music: Tex LaMountain, ©1977, ASCAP
Look across the sky from your home, Can you see the tower blinking while you sit a spell at home? Can you see the branches growing? Can you feel the awesome power? Can you sense its evil purpose and its doom? It grows in ways we all can understand, And its limbs are spreading all across the land. The leaves they look like dollars and the sap it ain’t so sweet. It rests upon the profits hungry people cannot eat. With promises of quiet, comfort, and peace, The hanging tree can lure to its side. But the darkness of its shadow gives us warning of the greed That tries to sell us more electric power than we need. No nukes for me, ‘cause I want my air to be Free from radiation poison falling over me. These reactors that they’re building are a giant hanging tree. Don’t you build a hanging tree over me. People soon will stop this money tree, And we’ll stop its hangin’ people, you and me. And as we struggle all together all the powers that be will go down with their own hanging tree. And out of this struggle we can plant a seedling tree, A tree that lets the sunlight share its space. A tree in tune with living, whose branches lift the soul, When you’re watching from a distance and you’re sitting all alone.
Case Study: Different Attitudes on Nuclear Power
• Stigma of “unsafe” after Three Mile Island • NIMBY attitude toward siting
• • • • • Impact of “oil shock” during 1970s Advantage of strong centralized gov’t Huge lobbying campaign Trust in technology Today, France is energy exporter!
The Future of Nuclear Power
Nuclear Power 2010 Program
• A joint government-industry cost-shared effort that will be used to identify new nuclear power plant sites, develop advanced nuclear plant technologies, and to evaluate the business case for building new nuclear plants • In early 2005, it was announced that two sites and Mississippi and Alabama have been selected as locations for these advanced power plants
Energy Policy Act of 2005
• Signed by the president in August 2005 • Government would cover cost overruns due to delays, up to $500 million each for the first two new nuclear reactors, and up to $250 million for the next four reactors • Delays in construction due to vastly increased regulations were a primary cause of the high cost of some earlier plants.
• A production tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatthour for the first 6,000 megawatt-hours from new nuclear power plants for the first eight years of their operation • Would put nuclear energy on par with other sources of emission-free power, including wind and closed-loop biomass
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