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Is Nuclear Power Safe?
Transcript of Is Nuclear Power Safe?
Short term nuclear power is an alternative power source rather than burning coal. It uses nuclear fission of uranium to create heat and thereby, through a heat transfer mechanism and turbines, creates electricity.
What is nuclear fission?
How is it controlled?
What happened to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant?
What were the effects to the environment and to people after the Fukushima meltdown?
Do other countries use nuclear power?
Should Australia use nuclear power?
Do the workers at the power plant get affected in any way from working there?
By George Parousis
Yes. There are many other countries that do use nuclear power rather than burning fossil fuels, including Japan, France, Belgium, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungry, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden, South Korea, Armenia and USA. There are also many countries using nuclear power for the wrong reasons, making nuclear weapons and threatening other countries around the world.
Do we get affected by radiation on a daily basis? Is there a safe level?
What are the safety aspects of a nuclear power plant?
What are control rods and why are they so important?
Well yes, most people in the world do get affected by radiation every day. Some of the things that we use daily, such as mobile phones and laptops, emit radiation. There is considerable, on-going debate as to the long term safety of these technologies. We are exposed to levels of radiation when we have x-rays and some types of medical treatment. Excessive exposure to these treatments can be harmful but this needs to be balanced with the need for treatment. Some would say there is no safe level.
Nuclear fission is the process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts. It happens when a neutron collides with a uranium-235 atom. The uranium atom becomes very unstable. It then splits into two smaller atoms and three or four neutrons, and releases a huge amount of energy. The neutrons released collide with other uranium nuclei, which release more neutrons. These then collide with even more nuclei, and so on, which causes a chain reaction.
A nuclear power plant controls the chain reaction and the heat that is released can be harnessed to generate electricity.
Why do most nuclear power plants look the same?
What are the types of radiation?
Gamma rays- are not particles but a type of electromagnetic radiation. They have very high energy and can travel kilometers in the air but they can be stopped by thick objects like concrete. Gamma rays are often released with alpha or beta gamma rays
Most nuclear power plants look the same because they have to be built with solid concrete and other materials to stop the levels of radiation from leaking out. They also all have the same parts and technology.
Control rods are used to capture some of the released neutrons and so control the rate of fission of uranium and plutonium in a nuclear power plant.
The control rods are so important because if they weren't in place, a nuclear meltdown would result.
Yes. Australia should have nuclear power because it means that Australia will be using green energy rather than burning fossil fuels which are very limited.
But one of the big problems is where should it be put? Many people would protest against the plant to be put near where they live because of the risk of meltdowns.
Alpha particles- they are helium nuclei, which are made up of two protons and two neutrons. They have a positive charge and move at speeds of up to one tenth the speed of light . They travel in the air but can be stopped by a few sheets of paper.
Beta particles - are high speed negatively charged electrons. They travel through the air but can be stopped by objects such as a sheet of aluminum or a cm of wood.
The most recent nuclear power plant meltdown was at the Fukushima plant in Japan. It was caused by the earthquake and the tsunami in March 2011. The earthquake caused the shut down of all of the boiling water reactors and then emergency generators came online to power the cooling systems. However, the following tsunami quickly flooded the low lying rooms in which the emergency generators were kept, causing them to go offline, which cut power to the critical pumps needed to stay on. Then the cooling systems went down and then the reactors overheated, causing the meltdown.
This disaster left 37 workers with physical injuries and 2 with radiation burns. All of the workers were exposed to high levels of radiation. Residents were not allowed to return to their homes.
The meltdown caused a huge amount of radiation to leak that can cause many health problems later in life for humans. This is known as radiation poisoning. The meltdown also had an effect on animal life. All of the plants that were around the power plant died.
No, they don't because they have to wear protective clothing designed to block the radiation. They are also usually working behind solid concrete walls where radiation cannot penetrate.
Nuclear fission is controlled by the control rods which are in the nuclear reactors. They are made of chemicals which are capable of absorbing neutrons without fissioning themselves. They are placed into the core and are raised and lowered to change the reaction. If you needed to generate heat, you raise the rods out of the core to let more neutrons split more atoms. To slow the reaction, you lower the rods into the core to absorb more of the neutrons before they have a chance to come into contact with the uranium.
In emergency cases, the rods are automatically lowered all the way into the core using gravity, hydraulics or a mechanical spring, causing the chain reaction to stop.
Is Nuclear Power Safe?
So is nuclear power safe?
Well the answer is YES, as long as all of the safety aspects are in place and the nuclear plants are monitored and maintained.
There are many different safety aspects of a nuclear power plant to make sure that nothing can go wrong. The main safety invovlves controlling the radioactivity, maintenance of core cooling and maintenance of barriers that prevent the release of radiation. There are also many other strict rules that nuclear power plants have to follow made by governments to prevent radiation leaks.
Nuclear waste is the biggest issue surrounding nuclear power. What is Nuclear waste and why is it an issue?
Nuclear waste contains radioactive material, and is the by products of nuclear power generation and of applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology. Radioactive waste is hazardous to most forms of life and to the environment. Radioactivity naturally decays over time, so radioactive waste has to be isolated and confined in appropriate facilities for a sufficient period of time until it no longer poses a hazard. The period of time can range from a few days to 1000's of years depending on what type of isotopes they are. The most common way we dispose of nuclear waste is by burying it in large pits for a long period of time.
My personal reflection
What have I learned?
Having never before researched the topic, I have learned a great deal about nuclear power.
I found it very interesting and would be keen to learn more about nuclear power in the future.
How do advances in nuclear science significantly affect people's lives?
There are many different ways that advances in nuclear science can change people's lives significantly. One of the main ways is with nuclear medicine.
Almost every hospital in the world has some different type of nuclear medicine machines. But what is nuclear medicine? Nuclear medicine involves the use of small amounts of radioactive materials (or tracers) to help diagnose and treat a variety of diseases. Nuclear medicine determines the cause of the medical problem based on the function of the organ, tissue or bone.
Nuclear medicine is used to help with the diagnosis. Nuclear medicine imaging, radiopharmaceuticals are taken internally to show the inside of the human body without cutting it open. This is done when you have an MRI or x-rays. The other handy thing about MRI's, is that they make a 3D image of the human body which you can break apart to look further. This can show if you have got a problem with your bones, lungs, heart and brain. It can also show if you have some types of cancers and tumors before it becomes a huge problem.
Nuclear medicine is also used to treat disease like cancer with radiation therapy. It works by using a certain type of energy to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. It damages a cancer cell's DNA, making it unable to multiply. Cancer cells are highly sensitive to radiation. Used correctly and responsibly, nuclear medicine can save millions of lives!
What are the issues surrounding nuclear power?
Nuclear power is green because unlike burning fossil fuels it doesn't produce green house gases. Nuclear power produces a small amount of steam that gets released into the air. So that means that we are reducing a cause of global warming!
How does nuclear power effect peoples lives?