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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SEatWtC Part 21: Nuclear

South Texas Project Nuclear Plant
Image from Getty Images
South Texas Project Nuclear Plant


According to online sources, “Nuclear power is any nuclear technology designed to extract usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions. The most common method today is through nuclear fission, though other methods include nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. All utility-scale reactors heat water to produce steam, which is then converted into mechanical work for the purpose of generating electricity or propulsion. Today, more than 15% of the world's electricity comes from nuclear power.”[15]

The two biggest issues with nuclear energy are safety and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. No one wants a nuclear reactor in their backyard as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have shown what dangers lay there. Nuclear energy has become much safer over the years to the point where portable nuclear reactors the size of shipping containers were featured on CNN as a potential temporary source of energy for developing nations. Nuclear energy is clean, in that there are no emissions into the atmosphere in the generation of nuclear power. However, nuclear plants are not entirely carbon emission free, as significant CO2 is emitted during the construction of the reactors and supporting plant. Also, while nuclear waste cannot really be considered as an 'emission', it is very dangerous stuff and great care must be taken to properly dispose of it. Other options inlcude reprocessing the waste, but no one in the US currently does this.


Tune in Friday for Part 22 of SEatWtC!

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