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The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power and fossil fuels and which is the better source of energy for the near future? Is it a long-term solution? Is there a better solution currently under development?

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Introduction

The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power and fossil fuels and which is the better source of energy for the near future? Is it a long-term solution? Is there a better solution currently under development? This report aims to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the two main methods of electricity production, and to decide on which method seems to be the best for large scale electricity production in the future, based on each method's economical and environmental implications. The most widely used fuel in power plants is coal.1 Research into alternative fuel sources stems from concerns about the global environment The problem about choosing whether or not to completely 'go nuclear' or carry on using fossil fuels stems from many environmental and economic factors. The ideal power source will produce the largest amount of energy achievable at an affordable cost, with as little environmental pollution as possible. In this report, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels and nuclear power, and which comes the closest to fitting this 'ideal' power source model. From this I will speculate on the best way forward for large-scale energy production. When I have drawn conclusions concerning these two methods of energy production, I will then discuss the energy production ideas that are currently being researched and developed by physicists, and whether or not these ideas are better than current ideas and potentially the energy resource that fits the 'ideal' model perfectly. Background information Most power plants around the world are steam-electric plants. This means that the energy created is produced by great deals of steam turning the blades of a giant turbine, which spins the shaft of a huge generator. Inside the generator, coils of wire and magnetic fields interact, and electricity is created.1 All steam-electric power plants produce electricity in just this way. What changes is whether using coal, natural gas, oil or nuclear energy to heat the water to produce the steam. ...read more.

Middle

Finally, fossil fuel use also produces particulates, including dust, soot, smoke, and other suspended matter, which are respiratory irritants. In addition, particulates may contribute to acid rain formation. There is also the problem of thermal pollution. During the electricity-generation process, burning fossil fuels produce heat energy, some of which is used to generate electricity. Because the process is inefficient, much of the heat is released to the atmosphere or to water that is used as a coolant. Heated air is not a problem, but heated water, once returned to rivers or lakes, can upset the aquatic ecosystem. Nuclear Power While nuclear power does not pollute the air anything like fossil fuels, there are still many environmental concerns. The main fear appears to be that radiation can cause cancer. While this is true, the general public do not seem to understand they are exposed to radiation all the time. There is a natural level of radiation known as "'background radiation" which comes from everywhere. Radioactive substances are often left to decay until their activity matches this background level of radiation. At this point, they become safe to handle. This graph shows the decrease in radioactivity for Carbon-14 over time. Every radioactive material follows an exponential curve very much like this. The blue line indicates background radiation levels. Radioactive decays follow a simple pattern. You cannot predict which nucleus will decay next, or when a particular nucleus will decay, but if you have a large sample of nuclei of the same type, then a certain proportion of them will decay every second, on the average. This proportion is called the decay constant and is usually symbolized with the Greek letter lambda. Substances with a small decay constant send out relatively little radiation: substances with a large decay constant send out more (per unit mass of substance) and are thus more radioactive. If we measure the number of decays n in a sample of a substance with N atoms (and nuclei) ...read more.

Conclusion

While not entirely relevant, it was the source that originally introduced me to the concept of "mass defect." I later found out more on Mass Defect from my Teachers and www.howstuffworks.com * Advanced Physics - Adams / Allday - ISBN: 0199146802 4 A reliable textbook written to compliment a-level specifications. Recommended by my teachers. * http://www.howstuffworks.com/ This was the source I mainly used to cross reference my other sources. It is a very widely respected and used website with a very good communications set up, designed so people can rectify mistakes in their articles. They also supply links to more information on your selected topic. Information on this site is always very accurate, and in any cases where mistakes or discrepancies occur they are usually rectified within days. It is not uncommon for professors and experts to browse this site and send in any changes. Where this does happen the site gives information on anyone who sends in any changes including their credentials. * http://www.eia.doe.gov 5 * http://www.ucsusa.org/ 6 A website which allows scientists to debate and discuss discrepancies in a variety of scientific topics. They provide links to case studies and statistics to support their articles. Although often a little biased, this is a very reliable site. * http://pw .netcom.com 10 A facts and figures website that presented information on SI units. * http://www.nirs.org 9 A scientist-owned website dedicated to publishing accurate detailed information. * http://www.newscientist.com11 I used this website mainly to check anything I discovered on http://www.ucsusa.org/. New Scientist is slightly better at discussing both sides of an argument so provided a less biased view and was always very accurate scientifically. * http://www.tennesseevalleyec.com12 A site which provides a service that links remote reports from other websites about any current news and information about energy and energy production. Often links to internationally renowned news services such as CNN so is reasonably reliable in terms of accuracy. * http://www-formal.stanford.edu 13 Contained a report written by a University professor that suggested the Chernobyl power plant was built incorrectly. This report was, however, dis * http://www.anawa.org.au/15 * http://www.citycollegiate. ...read more.

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