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Nuclear Energy

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Table of Contents


Introduction 2

History of Nuclear Energy 3

Costs Associated with Nuclear Power and the Electricity it Generates 5

Exhibit 1 Ð'- Comparison between Major Source of Electricity Generation 5

A Case for Nuclear Generated Electricity Ð'- Good or Bad? 6

Coal Generated Electricity 10

Electricity Generated with Natural Gas 11

Hydro-Electric Power 12

Wind and Solar Power 13

Conclusion Ð'- Future Use of Electricity 14

Exhibit 2 Ð'-Percentages for Electricity Generation in 5 Years 15

Works Cited 16


The United Nations predicts that the world's population will increase by nearly 1.5 million by the year 2020. With the world's population increasing at such a fast rate, the demand for electricity will continue to grow as a direct result. It has been estimated that a nearly 50 percent increase in electricity demand will occur over the next 20 years in the United States. No matter what method of generating electricity you prefer, the development of different sources of electricity will be imperative in human development. The various methods of electricity generation discussed in this paper will include coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, wind, solar, and a group of bio-fuel methods as a whole. The core of this paper will focus on nuclear power as a source of electricity and how it compares to the other methods mentioned above.

To depict the importance of electrical power and the impact the various energy sources have on electricity, I would like to paint the following picture in your mind. "About 120 miles from where I am sitting right now, tons of water per second are rushing down a large pipe. Along with all the other falling water being turned into electricity, about 1.5 ounces per second is turned into a particular bit of electricity and sent zooming a heartbeat later to my house where it lights up my laptop and lets me record these words" (Heaberline 41). That's pretty amazing and that is just an example of hydro power. Since I will be discussing nuclear energy, I would like to depict its importance in generating electricity as well. "In the next second it may be that the particular bit of electricity zipping into my laptop came from the neighborhood nuclear power plant about 20 miles from where I am sitting. In that case about a trillion uranium atoms fissioned to give me that second's bit of power. Does that sound like a lot? That is about 40 billionths of a gram. That means I could run my laptop for 78 years on one gram of uranium or for more than 35 thousand years on a pound of uranium" (Heaberline 41).

History of Nuclear Energy

The discovery of uranium fission in World War II allowed for the nuclear fission of uranium to produce heat. The purpose was to replace burning coal as a heat source with that of nuclear fission of uranium. Uranium is the key ingredient in a nuclear reaction. In 1942, Enrico Fermi developed the first nuclear reactor with the help of others at the University of Chicago. The first few reactors were not designed to produce electricity; however, they all operate the same way. The process in a nuclear power plant is identical to a coal plant except for the steam generation system and the amount of pollution emitted. In a nuclear reactor, fission energy is carried by two heavy fission fragments that heat up once they slow down and capture the uranium. Conduction transfers the heat to either a gas coolant or a water coolant. In order to generate electricity, water must be heated through a heated exchanger by the already hot coolant. The water turns into steam which then powers the turbine that produces electricity. Current uses of nuclear energy today include heat, electricity, and propulsion of machinery such as military and civilian ships.

In 1955, the first nuclear power plant was used to generate electricity. This power plant provided electricity for the small town of Arco, Idaho. In 1960, small generators were used to light buoys that would allow ships to navigate the sea more easily. Since 1955, 66 power plants containing 104 reactors have been built across the country. These power plants account for nearly 20 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. However, the percentage has been stagnant for nearly 20 years. This is primarily due to liabilities and the meltdowns at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986.



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