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Brock Buozis
3rd Hour
Mr. Fralic

Pros and Cons: Nuclear Energy


Nuclear Energy is a form of energy currently in use by countries all around
the world. It is a form of steam engine powered by water. Nuclear power is produced by
controlled (i.e., non-explosive) nuclear reactions. Commercial and utility plants currently
use nuclear fission reactions to heat water to produce steam, which is then used to
generate electricity. (Wikipedia) When working at optimal efficiency, and without error
nuclear energy is very safe and quite productive.
Some people are thrown off by the idea of nuclear energy, but the idea is
not rare. In 2009, 1314% of the world's electricity came from nuclear power. Also a few
hundred naval ships and submarines are powered by nuclear reactions. It is a common
type of power. Not to be feared if used correctly. Everyone from comic book writers to
theoretical physicists have characterized the splitting of the atom as the ultimate act of
man playing God, so it's easy to forget that nuclear fission happens naturally every day.
Uranium, for example, constantly undergoes spontaneous fission very slowly. This is why
the element emits radiation, and why it's a natural choice for the induced fission that
nuclear power plants require. (How Stuff Works) Nuclear Power will also be abundant
for the next 200 years, and will experience a growing market and will expand. The
world's leading countries will take up nuclear energy and use it to grow themselves. As
the need for power rises to supplement India's growth, the country is planning to launch

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six more nuclear reactors in the next two to three years. Four reactors, including two units
each in Kakrapar and Rawatbhata, are in an advanced stage of construction and will help
in increasing the installed nuclear capacity to 7000 megawatt (MW). (EcoWorld)
As the world slowly drains itself of fossil fuels we will need something
else to create the electricity we use everyday. Renewable sources such as water, wind,
and solar energy will be of great use, but do not catch on as quickly as nuclear energy,
which is already spanning the globe. Nuclear energy uses the radioactive element
Uranium as a power source. Uranium decays on its own, shooting out neutrons and
giving out energy. Nuclear power plants simply take advantage of the radioactivity, and
contain it. When contained the energy is used to boil water, which turns to steam, which
then turns turbines, just like a traditional coal power plant. Nuclear energy is more
efficient than plants that burn coal, and is better for the environment. Unlike burning
coal or other fossil fuels, fissionthe breaking apart of atomic nuclei, the process
underlying nuclear energyemits no carbon dioxide. A nuclear reactor generates power
from a cluster of fuel rods inside its core, each filled with uranium oxide. Every time an
incoming neutron bombards one of the uranium atoms, the atom splits in two, expelling
energy and releasing more neutrons, which in turn collide with other atoms and establish
a chain reaction. The fission of an atom of uranium is 10 million times as potent as
burning an atom of carbon from coal, making nuclear power efficient and inexpensive
in principle, at least. (Discover) There are really no downsides to nuclear energy if it is
handled properly, but many issues can arise if the reactors are not cared for.

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Harm can also come about if nuclear energy is misused purposely, such as
in bombs, history tells us that this is a bad idea. During the final stages of World War II
in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945 and the second on August
9, 1945. These two events are the only active deployments of nuclear weapons in war to
date. (Wikipedia) Roughly 210,000 people were killed in these bombings, which helps
to show that nuclear energy can be an extremely potent weapon if used. Only about one
hundred thirty pounds of uranium was used to create the bomb, and as common
knowledge tells, that was the largest explosion in history. Many people say, that because
of the potential of uranium based energy sources, they should be discontinued or
destroyed.
Problems with nuclear fission, which is used now, include the waste that it
produces, and the availability of water to cool it down. It also takes years to develop an
area and plant to use. The problem of radioactive waste is still an unsolved one. The
waste from nuclear energy is extremely dangerous and it has to be carefully looked after
for several thousand years (10'000 years according to United States Environmental
Protection Agency standards). The time frame needed for formalities, planning and
building of a new nuclear power generation plant is in the range of 20 to 30 years in the
western democracies. In other words: It is an illusion to build new nuclear power plants
in a short time. (Timeforchange.org) The waste from fission plants is stored in highly
secure canisters and is buried deep into the ground where it is not to be disturbed. A
current location for these to be stored is deep within the Yucca Mountains in Arizona.

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When it is stored there, they cover it with gravel and soil, the dirt mixture helps to soak
up the radiation that leaks out of the capsules. It is nearly impossible to halt radiation
leakage unless you have a medium to be irradiated. If a human is exposed to radiation of
a certain amount they can become fatally ill. Radiation sickness has many side effects,
including headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, loss of hair and it can ultimately cause death
if too much radiation is absorbed without treatment.
Nuclear fission is not the only type of nuclear energy production that can
be harnessed, but it is the only one we can use as of now. Nuclear fusion also produces
energy, but nobody in the world is able to achieve the high temperatures needed for the
process. Synthetic fusion as a result of human actions has also been achieved, although
this has not yet been completely controlled as a source of nuclear power. In the
laboratory, successful nuclear physics experiments have been carried out that involve the
fusion of many different varieties of nuclei, but the energy output has been negligible in
these studies. In fact, the amount of energy put into the process has always exceeded the
energy output. Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join
together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the
release or absorption of large quantities of energy. Large-scale thermonuclear fusion
processes, involving many nuclei fusing at once, must occur in matter at very high
densities and temperatures. (Wikipedia) Every star in the sky, including our sun
produces light and energy through nuclear fusion, a star is the only place hot enough for
the reaction to take place.

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In summary, nuclear energy is a sustainable and extremely useful form of
energy production. It has many pros, and a few cons. It creates a lot of energy quickly, it
does not pollute, and it is already in use. The downside is that it is not renewable, isn't
infinite, and could be dangerous due to the radioactive waste produced. It is a very good
form of energy to use as a stepping stone as we move forward to renewable and
sustainable forms of energy such as wind, hydroelectric and solar.

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Works Cited
Brian, Marshall. "HowStuffWorks "Nuclear Fission"." Howstuffworks
"Science". N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.
<http://science.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-power1.htm>.
"Pros and cons of nuclear power | Time for change." Time for change |
For whom enough is too little - nothing is ever enough. N.p., n.d.
Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <http://timeforchange.org/pros-and-cons-ofnuclear-power-and-sustainability>.
Roul, Avilash. "Nuclear Power in India | Ecoworld." Environmental News,
Articles & Information | Global Warming News | EcoWorld. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <http://www.ecoworld.com/energyfuels/nuclear-power-in-india.html>.
Svoboda, Elizabeth. "

New Tech Could Make Nuclear the

Best Weapon Against Climate Change


| DISCOVER Magazine

."

| Alternative Energy

Science and Technology News,

Science Articles | Discover Magazine

. N.p., n.d. Web. 6

Mar. 2011. <http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jun/08-newtech-could-make-nuclear-best-weapon-against-climate-change>.


Wikipedia. "Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_an
d_Nagasaki>.
Wikipedia. "Nuclear power - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia."
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_energy#Breeding>.
Wikipedia. "Nuclear fusion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2011.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion#Requirements>.