Sunday, March 11, 2007

Nuclear Power: Energy of the Future or As Bad As Fossil Fuels

Nuclear Power is the controlled use of nuclear reactions to release energy for work including propulsion, heat, and the generation of electricity. Human use of nuclear power to do significant useful work is currently limited to nuclear fission and radioactive decay. Nuclear energy is produced when a fissile material, such as uranium-235 (235U), is concentrated such that nuclear fissionb takes place in a controlled chain reaction and creates heat — which is used to boil water, produce steam, and drive a steam turbine. The turbine can be used for mechanical work and also to generate electricity. Nuclear power is used to power most military submarines and aircraft carriers and provides 7% of the world's energy and 15.7% of the world's electricity.

Nuclear power: Its opponents decry it as the most dangerous power source on Earth. But is it really that bad?

Nuclear Accidents
“We’re all gonna die!” they say. “Remember Chernobyl and Three Mile Island!” Opponents of nuclear power claim nuclear power plants aren’t safe; there could be an explosion or waste could leak out, they say. Besides Chernobyl, only ~213 people have died from a nuclear accident. Meanwhile, diesel exhaust causes 21,000 deaths a year, asthma, and cancer according to a report by the Clean Air Task Force. Nuclear power is not dangerous to the public. Most of the fears regarding nuclear power are overblown.

Nuclear Power: Just As Bad As Fossil Fuels?

Uh-oh, more science! Creationists cover your eyes! Nuclear power works like this: Nuclear fission produces heat, which is used to boil water to create steam and drive a steam turbine.
Steam is water vapor, the most common greenhouse gas on Earth. So, do nuclear power plants contribute to global warming and the enhanced greenhouse effect? The simple answer is no.

The air can only hold so much water. This is called “saturation”. Water vapor contributes to 60% of the natural greenhouse effect. Because the atmosphere can only hold so much water, water vapor does not contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Therefore, nuclear power does not directly contribute to global warming. Indirectly, it does. For example,
electric generators used in nuclear power plants require gasoline.

So, Is Nuclear Power Good or Bad?
Nuclear power, if used carefully, could power most of the world’s energy needs. Of course, it wouldn’t be able to power all needs (i.e. cars). France can be a role model—80% of energy consumed there is nuclear. In contrast, 20% of energy consumed in the U.S. is nuclear. Nuclear energy, along with other non-fossil fuels could power the future.

What do you think?

More Alternative Energy Series:

Why Corn Ethanol is Bad
The Temporary Solution: Coal
Nuclear Power: Energy of the Future or As Bad As Fossil Fuels
5 Reasons Solar Power Works
The Wind Power and Solar Power Combination
Another Look at Nuclear Power - Nuclear Waste
What's So Special About Hydropower and Hydroelectricity?
Top 5 Advantages of Geothermal Power


Anonymous said...

"Uh-oh, more science! Creationists cover your eyes! Nuclear power works like this:"
Separate your scientific explanations from idiotic irrelevant put-downs. They only make you look stupid. Your comment is actually a "straw-man" fallacy. Have you not heard of Newton, Pasteur, Pascal, Kepler, Linnaeus, Faraday, Agassiz, ...?
If you are writing about creationism then do just that.

Simmons said...

Sorry if one little creationist joke just spoiled your day. Sheesh.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I think nuclear power has a great deal of potential, but it’s no magic bullet. It remains critically important to improve energy efficiency and to pursue the mass localization of power generation. Huge amounts of energy are wasted in long-distance transmission, and there’s just no reason to use such a solution for many applications. But, for many industrial and transportation activities, renewables just don’t cut the muster.
I see a suite of nuclear, mass-localized renewables, increased public transport infrastructure, and passenger vehicles powered by biodiesel and/or ethanol hybrid engines as a strong solution to the carbon problem.


PS Take it easy on the creationists RE: nuclear power. If you want to ding them on energy, point out the hypocrisy of using automobiles; the petroleum industry doesn’t work with out a small army of industrial paleontologists.

Anonymous said...

I really love that way you mixed humour with science.

I've met many anti nuclear campaigners and they have the annoying habit of starting talking at you and never stopping or letting you interrupt. I guess this is becuase, deep down, that if they stop for a second, everyone will question what they're saying. Becuase it's wrong.

Chernobyl was caused by incompetent reactor design and poor staff training. The reactor was built in America, nonetheless, and sent to Ukraine to be assembled. It was the assembly team that cut corners in the protection system, such as missing out lead sheets and casing. Also, the reactor was not operated in a safe way, in which all the automatic control rod infastructure control was handed over to the incompetent crew. This, along with a minor technical fault in design (RMBK was Russian Designed) complete with it's Positive Void Coefficient.

The only upside to this, is that now most of the Petroleum powered pumps are only used for a few hours ONCE during the commisioning of the reactor. As long as the plant operates, the pumps can run of the electricity produced. Notable, Chernobyl pioneered this system. But they had to turn off the cooling systems off. Silly fools.

Also, Three Mile Island is a perfect example of how efficient nuclear power is when used right. Even if human error causes an accident, it can quickly be put down so it does not break through the containment system. The containment system at Three Mile Island prevented disaster, like any Nuclear Power Plant containment system does.

Nuclear Power, combined with others, such as wind and hydroelectric power, can completely reduce the need for fossil fuels.

Anonymous said...

Nuclear power IS the future power for the world because of the benefits that it provides for us all. It porduces almost no greenhouse gasses which will slow the alarming rate of global warming and could prolong the burning of fossil fuels. as long as the plants are careful, i beleive it can be the solution to our energy crisis.

Anonymous said...

Thorium based nuclear technology will be the future. It has many, many advantages over conventional Nuclear. Including the waste product or byproduct cannot be used to make weapons And is less radioactive. Also the fission reaction is supposed to generate less pressure, and will be safer all around.

Finally, Thorium is 550 times more abundant in nature than Uranium.

Anonymous said...

I should also add Thorium generates much more heat and therefore much much more electricity.