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Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is one of the world’s leading energy resources. It provides us with about 15% of the world’s energy (Gilani). Nuclear power plants produce about 20% of the United States’ power (11 facts about nuclear energy.). This form of energy was discovered by Henri Becquerel, a French physicist, in 1896 (How does a nuclear power plant work?). Nuclear energy isn’t a very complicated process; however it is one of the most debatable forms of energy. Many people think that nuclear energy is very safe, yet other people are against the idea. Nuclear energy is not a very good source of energy in my opinion because of all the drawbacks.

The energy in the nucleus of an atom can be released in two ways, fission and fusion (nuclear energy). Right now we only use fission because in fusion the mutual repulsion of the atoms must be overcome, and we have yet to discover how (College of Engineering University of Wisconsin). To produce nuclear energy you need uranium first. This uranium comes in a small ceramic pellet with more power in each pellet than an entire ton of coal (Nuclear Power Plants Don't Burn Fuel in the Conventional Sense). These pellets are arranged into long rods and put into bundles into a huge basin of water (Nuclear Power Cycle). Control rods are placed in the bundles to control heat in the reactor; they are lowered to reduce the heat, raised to increase heat, or dropped all the way to shut the reactor down (Nuclear Power Cycle). In the process of fission the nucleus of an atom is split apart causing a chain reaction and producing immense heat. This heat will heat the water until it becomes steam (Asaravala). The steam follows a pipe to the huge turbines and pushes on them which forces coils of wire to interact with a magnetic field producing power (Asaravala).

There are several benefits to using nuclear energy. One is the safety factors at the reactors. They are contained in concrete structures that are four feet thick (Burgess). Another benefit of using nuclear power is that it does not contribute to global warming as much as a fossil fuel burning facility. Nuclear power plants emit relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide (Pros and cons of nuclear power). They also give off less radiation than coal burning plant (How does a nuclear power plant work?). One of the best things about using nuclear power is that it is up to $0.04 cheaper per kilowatt hour than coal, and it also cost less than half of what it costs to build a wind farm to build a nuclear power plant (Reynolds). Lastly, something that many people can benefit from is that building and opening a nuclear power plant opens up many job opportunities (Burgess).

As with other types of energy, nuclear energy also has a few major drawbacks. Some reactors have had meltdowns like the accident at Three Mile Island, the Chernobyl disaster, and the recent Fukushima disaster in Japan. The most recent disaster has convinced the Germans that nuclear power is dangerous and has begun shutting down all of their nuclear power plants (Power ranges, 2012). Another huge drawback is that the supply of uranium is estimated to last only about 30-60 more years (Pros and cons of nuclear power). One of the environmental drawbacks is that to get the water needed to make steam there are filters in reservoirs of water that large animals could get trapped under and drown (Burgess). The final major drawbacks are that once uranium is used it becomes radioactive waste that will be on earth for a very long time, and that accidents do happen and meltdowns do occur which means entire countries can be contaminated.

I feel this form of energy is not a very good source of energy. Although it is a lot cheaper and employs many people, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. It’s not a reliable source and will not be around for very much longer. What will be around for a long time though is radioactive waste which can be very bad for the environment and people living here in the future. It would be more worthwhile to invest in renewable sources of energy such as wind or solar.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
11 facts about nuclear energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-nuclear-energy

Asaravala, A. (n.d.). How Nuclear Power Works. Retrieved from Wired: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2005/07/68074?currentPage-all

Burgess, J. (n.d.). 10 pros and cons of nuclear energy. Retrieved from Discovery: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/10-pros-cons-nuclear-power.htm

College of Engineering University of Wisconsin. (n.d.). Nuclear Energy. Retrieved from http://reactor.engr.wisc.edu/tour/fission.htm

Gilani. (n.d.). Positive uses of nuclear energy. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/list_6470769_positive-uses-nuclear-energy.html

How does a nuclear power plant work? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://wierdfacts.com/fun-facts-a-stuff/3235-nuclear-power-facts.html

nuclear energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/article-9276131/nuclear-energy

Nuclear Power Cycle. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.eng.fsu.edu/~azadini/group/website

Nuclear Power Plants Don't Burn Fuel in the Conventional Sense. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dteenenergy.com/nuclear/fuelAndFission.html

Power ranges. (2012). Retrieved from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/content/power-ranges

Pros and cons of nuclear power. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://timeforchange.org/pros-and-cons-of-nuclear-power-and-sustainability

Reynolds, L. (n.d.). Is nuclear energy cost effective? Retrieved from eHow: http://www.ehow.com/about_4614577_nuclear-energy-cost-effective.html



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