The dangers of a nuclear reactor

Opinion What is the most dangerous nuclear power plant? The answer is neither. It is the one closed prematurely. Some Swedes are agonizing about the new reactor planned in Finland.

The dangers of a nuclear reactor

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is extremely likely that the rising global temperature trends since the midth century is dominantly due to human activity. No scientific organization of national or international standing disputes this.

Furthermore, the US Department of Defense has officially stated that climate change poses a serious national security threat. In light of all of this, the United States recently ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, which means we are committed to significantly reducing our carbon emissions.

How do we do that? The main alternatives are solar, wind, and nuclear. The first two are certainly alluring, attracting the investment of a lot of government money worldwide.

However, they are also variable. However, it is a challenge to replace the constantly running fossil fuel power plants with sources that are intermittent. In this context, nuclear energy is the main alternative energy source that works. Yet, unlike its fickle counterparts, nuclear energy is subjected to hostile attitudes adopted by a number of governments in the world which restrict the building or continual operation of power plants.

Fear for Chernobyl and Fukushima-type catastrophes exacerbate the unpopularity of going nuclear. Yet there has historically been a strong anti-nuclear movement in the US, and the sentiment is still somewhat present today, as demonstrated by closures of nuclear power plants and stances held by prominent political figures such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

In order to assess whether such notoriety is deserved, we need to learn about the physics of nuclear power and compare the statistics of its supposed dangers with that of existing energy sources.

What is Nuclear Energy?

The dangers of a nuclear reactor

Nuclear energy and fossil fuel energy have similarities in the way they are extracted. The basis behind running a fossil fuel power plant can be illustrated by examining a typical fire. In this instance, organic matter such as wood or natural gas is burned and converted into CO2 see Figure 1.

In this case, we change which atoms bond to each other and harvest the energy that is released when they reach a more stable configuration as CO2.

In a nuclear power plant, we are doing the same thing: We change the atoms themselves, and the energy released is enormous. In both combustion and nuclear fission, the particles that make up atoms and molecules are rearranged into a more stable form, which causes a release of energy.

How do the atoms change? In a nuclear reaction, the nucleus of the atom breaks into several pieces and releases an immense amount of energy. This process is known as nuclear fission.

If nuclear is our safest energy source, it means that whenever we close a nuclear power plant prematurely or do not build a new one because of political (and therefore financial) risks, another, more dangerous source will be used instead. Despite these claims by industry proponents, a thorough examination of the full life-cycle of nuclear power generation reveals nuclear power to be a dirty, dangerous and expensive form of energy that poses serious risks to human health, national security and U.S. taxpayers. How does a nuclear reactor work? The core of a nuclear reactor contains both water and fuel rods made of zirconium and pellets of nuclear fuel, such as uranium, that set off a controlled nuclear.

The nucleus we break apart for energy in most nuclear power plants is that of the uranium atom, specifically uranium that number indicates the total number of neutrons and protons in the nucleus. To start a fire, which is an ongoing chemical reaction, we merely need some friction.

Ongoing nuclear reactions do not begin so easily. To initiate the chain of reactions that supply us with energy in a nuclear power plant, we must bombard the uranium rod with high-energy neutrons.

How Nuclear Power Works | Union of Concerned Scientists

After we do this, the uranium breaks into two smaller nuclei e. This chain reaction provides a lot of energy, and the best part is that it does so without emitting any CO2. How does this compare to other energy sources? A kWh is a standard unit of energy used in billing by electrical utilities.

This is the lowest of all commercial baseload energy sources see Figure 2.Even in the absence of a nuclear accident, nuclear power inevitably produces dangerous materials: radioactive waste. This waste, composed of mostly unconverted uranium along with intermediate products plutonium and curium, stays radioactive for extremely long periods, too, presenting a major problem in regards to storage.

At a basic level, nuclear power is the practice of splitting atoms to boil water, turn turbines, and generate electricity. Interested in your local nuclear reactor? Use our database to research nuclear safety issues in your area.

First, cost overruns revealed the true cost of nuclear plants. Once utilities began building the plants as their. The inner workings, and dangers, of nuclear reactors, including how meltdowns occur and what happened in Japan.

Proponents of nuclear power argue that in comparison to any other form of power, nuclear power is the safest form of energy, accounting for all the risks from mining to production to storage, including the risks of spectacular nuclear accidents. Despite these claims by industry proponents, a thorough examination of the full life-cycle of nuclear power generation reveals nuclear power to be a dirty, dangerous and expensive form of energy that poses serious risks to human health, national security and U.S.

taxpayers. How does a nuclear reactor work? The core of a nuclear reactor contains both water and fuel rods made of zirconium and pellets of nuclear fuel, such as uranium, that set off a controlled nuclear.

Reconsidering the Risks of Nuclear Power - Science in the News