nuclear power

consequences of nuclear power

Nuclear power is clean. It does not pollute the air. However, the use of nuclear energy does create other environ- mental problems. Uranium must be mined (Figure 1.3). The process of splitting atoms creates radioactive waste, which remains dangerous for thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. As yet, there is no long-term solution for storing this waste. The development of nuclear power plants has been on hold for three decades. Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, Ukraine verified peoples worst fears about the dangers of harnessing nuclear power (Figure 1.4). Recently, nuclear power appeared to be making a comeback as society looked for alternatives to fossil fuels. After all, nuclear power emits no pollutants, including no greenhouse gases. But the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan may have resulted in a new fear of nuclear power. The cause of the disaster was a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which compromised the plant. Although a total meltdown was averted, the plant experienced multiple partial meltdowns, core breaches, radiation releases, and cooling failures. The plant is scheduled for a complete cold shutdown before the end of 2011. Damaged building near the site of the Chernobyl disaster. Nuclear power is a controversial subject in California and most other places. Nuclear power has no pollutants including carbon emissions, but power plants are not always safe and the long-term disposal of wastes is a problem that has not yet been solved. The future of nuclear power is murky.



nuclear energy use

Nuclear power plants, such as the one seen in Figure 1.2, use uranium, which is mined, processed, and then concentrated into fuel rods. When the uranium atoms in the fuel rods are hit by other extremely tiny particles, they split apart. The number of tiny particles allowed to hit the fuel rods needs to be controlled, or they would cause a dangerous explosion. The energy from a nuclear power plant heats water, which creates steam and causes a turbine to spin. The spinning turbine turns a generator, which in turn produces electricity. Many countries around the world use nuclear energy as a source of electricity. In the United States, a little less than 20% of electricity comes from nuclear energy.



nuclear energy

When the nucleus of an atom is split, it releases a huge amount of energy called nuclear energy. For nuclear energy to be used as a power source, scientists and engineers have learned to split nuclei and to control the release of energy (Figure 1.1).

instructional diagrams

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nuclear energy as it is currently used in nuclear power plants is the result of

a) fusing protons and neutrons together.

b) stripping electrons from atomic nuclei.

c) fusing hydrogen into helium.

-->  d) splitting atomic nuclei.

which element is mined, processed, and concentrated into fuel rods to be used at nuclear power plants?

a) helium

b) potassium

-->  c) uranium

d) thorium

the number of tiny particles allowed to hit the uranium fuel rods must be unpredictable and spontaneous.

a) true

-->  b) false

nuclear energy is a source of electricity.

-->  a) true

b) false

uranium mining is an important part of generating nuclear power.

-->  a) true

b) false

the only major accident so far at a nuclear power plant was caused by an enormous earthquake and tsunami in japan.

a) true

-->  b) false

the energy in a nuclear power plant creates __, which causes a turbine to spin.

a) electricity

b) water

c) radiation

-->  d) steam

which is an environmental benefit of nuclear power?

-->  a) nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gases.

b) the radioactive waste created from the nuclear power process is used to power cars.

c) advanced technology has eliminated the possibility of explosions.

d) all of the above.

negative environmental consequences of nuclear power include

a) air pollution, including carbon emissions.

-->  b) waste that is radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

c) ozone depletion.

d) all of the above.

to generate power, uranium atoms in fuel rods

-->  a) are hit by tiny particles so that they split apart.

b) are safe as long as the uranium stays in the rods.

c) fuses into lead, which releases energy.

d) all of the above.

diagram questions

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