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Nuclear Power

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The benefits and drawbacks of Nuclear Power Nuclear Power is power that is generated by a controlled chain-reaction from nuclear fission in which a uranium-235 atom splits up into two daughter nuclei (Krypton-91 and Barium-143); the uranium also releases three neutrons when it splits. In nuclear reactors these neutrons are controlled by boron control rods so that only one neutron can get through to the next enriched uranium rod and initiate further nuclear fission, this process is called a chain reaction. In a nuclear power plant the vast amount of heat energy that is released from a chain reaction is carried to the heat exchanger, where the heat will be transferred into a water pipe, turning the water into steam (there are variations but the diagram above shows the major system). As in coal powered power stations this steam is then used to turn a turbine which in turn will turn a generator so an electrical current can be induced. Currently in the UK there are only 19 operational nuclear reactors generating 11852 megawatts of electricity, however the government wants to expand the UK's nuclear program so they can meet the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol of reducing the carbon emissions to 40% by 2050, nevertheless people are unsure about the environmental and social impacts of nuclear power. This report will explain the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power using the statements provided by Susie and Alan. Nuclear power is a clean source of energy compared to the fossil fuels we use today. One of the substantial problems we have in the world today is the increase in the rate of global warming which is caused by carbon dioxide that is released from fossil fuels. This carbon dioxide that is releases by power stations using fossil fuels adds to the greenhouse gases which in turn increases global warming, over time this has increased to a point where we could start seeing major disasters around the world because of global warming. ...read more.


This table shows that between 1970-92 there have been only 31 immediate deaths due to the production of nuclear power and they were all workers compared to the 6400 workers killed by producing coal. However this data is not totally valid for two reasons; firstly, there are fewer nuclear power stations than of power stations that use fossil fuels so the chance of death in a fossil fuel power station is greatly increased. Also this table only takes into account IMMEDIATE death and the major factor of a nuclear disaster is the radiation emitted, this radiation will not cause IMMEDIATE death in most cases but mutations which could lead to death as time passes. An even more unlikely event is nuclear explosion is even more unlikely as for a nuclear explosion to take place the reactor core would have to go into meltdown. A meltdown occurs when the chain reaction becomes uncontrolled and nuclear fission happens simultaneously at a high speed, however with new technology nowadays, it is highly unlikely a power plant will go into nuclear meltdown as the control rods would stop this and the uranium is highly purified. As long as the power plant is maintained well, there should be no problems such as leakages and explosions; if there were to be an explosion like in Chernobyl there would be massive radiation release and immense heat that would almost certainly cause death in the power plant which is why there were 47 deaths in the Chernobyl incident. In terms of something going wrong and nuclear waste Alan is correct as nuclear waste and nuclear disasters can 'cause lots of damage to the environment when something goes wrong and is dangerous to humans'. Here is a table showing nuclear power plants that have had to be repaired or shut down: This table shows all the nuclear cores that had to have major repairs or had to be de-commissioned. ...read more.


In my opinion nuclear power is the way forward, as France have proven, because it is a 'clean', reliable and efficient source of energy by producing 78% of its electricity by nuclear power as do a few other countries. There is plenty or uranium to provide the whole world with energy; the problem of disasters are also becoming minimal as new technology makes the chances of a nuclear leakage or meltdown slimmer and slimmer. The government will need to switch to nuclear power to meet their carbon emission target of a 60% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, the new technology being developed everyday and the robust security systems make a nuclear leakage very unlikely, it statistical terms very near impossible as out of the 250+ nuclear stations in western Europe none have created a massive health problem. The only major problem is the disposal of the spent fuel rods which are classified as high-level waste; if this problem can be solved indefinitely then nuclear power would be the perfect source of energy for years to come. For the government to solve the nuclear debate they will have to educate the public in an unbiased way and let them choose if nuclear power should be used or not because current figures show that nearly half of the public are undecided on whether or not nuclear power is the way forward. Many members of the public are afraid of a nuclear explosion but it should be emphasized that a commercial-type reactor can under no circumstances explode like a nuclear bomb. However recent research, as mentioned before, has revealed that around 12 million people will die due to likely floods if global warming continues compared to the 4000 that could die in a major nuclear disaster. ?? ?? ?? ?? Jaimit Dattani 11x1 05 January 2008 GCSE Additional Science (2103) Unit P2 (5023) Topic 12 - Power of the atom Project 1 | Page ...read more.

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