Argumentative Essay on Nuclear Power

This essay has a total of 1477 words and 7 pages.

Nuclear Power

Most of the world's electricity is generated by either thermal or hydroelectric power
plants. Thermal power plants use fuel to boil water which makes steam. The steam turns
turbines that generate electricity. Hydroelectric power plants use the great force of
rushing water from a dam or a waterfall to turn the turbines.

The majority of thermal power plants burn fossil fuels because thermal power plants are
cheaper to maintain and have to meet less of the governments requirements compared to
nuclear power plants. Fossil fuels are coal and oil. The downfall of using fossil fuels is
that they are limited. Fossil fuels are developed from the remains of plants and animals
that died millions of years ago. Burning fossil fuels has other downfalls, too. All the
burning that is required to turn the turbines releases much sulfur, nitrogen gases, and
other pollutants into the atmosphere.

The cleanest, cheapest, and least polluting power plant of the two types is the
hydroelectric power plant. The main reason most countries use thermal versus the
hydroelectric is because their countries don't have enough concentrated water to create
enough energy to generate electricity. (World Book vol. 14, 586)

Nuclear power plants generate only about eleven percent of the world's electricity. There
are around 316 nuclear power plants in the world that create 213,000 megawatts of
electricity. (INFOPEDIA)

Radioactive, or nuclear, waste is the by-product of nuclear fission. Fission occurs when
atoms' nucleus' split and cause a nuclear reaction. (General Information) When a free
neutron splits a nucleus, energy is released along with free neutrons, fission fragments
that give off beta rays, and gamma rays. A free neutron from the nucleus that just split
splits another nucleus. This process continues on and is called a chain reaction. (World
Book vol. 14, 588)

The fission process is used to create heat, which boils water inside the nuclear reactor.
The steam that boiling the water makes is used to turn turbines, which in turn, generate
electricity. Fission happens inside a carefully monitored nuclear reactor, when being used
in a nuclear power plant. The fission process that nuclear power plants use spends
approximately 30,000 tons of highly radioactive waste a year. (General Information)

In a nuclear power plant, Uranium is used as fuel to boil the water for the steam that
makes the turbines turn. So, uranium is, in a sense, the coal of a coal-fired power plant.

When fueling nuclear power plants, the uranium arrives as uranium-enriched pellets. These
pellets are an equivalent to one ton of coal. The pellets are sealed in tubes that are
made of a strong heat- and corrosion-resistant metal alloy. This metal alloy will protect
people and the environment from the high levels of radiation that the uranium is giving
off.

The tubes are bundled together to make a fuel assembly. The assemblies are put inside the
reactor to create heat that will boil the water. The fuel assemblies are used until they
are depleted. A fuel assembly is depleted when it no longer gives off enough energy to
turn the turbines.

Once every year, one third of the nuclear fuel in a reactor is replaced with fresh fuel.
The used-up fuel is called spent fuel. Spent fuel is highly radioactive and is the primary
form of high-level nuclear waste. (General Information)

High-level radioactive waste is the by-product of commercial nuclear power plants
generating electricity, and from nuclear materials production at defense facilities. This
high-level waste must be isolated in a safe place for thousands of years so its
radioactivity can die down and not be harmful to people and the environment.

The name of the "safe place" that the Department of Energy is trying to make is called a
repository. But until a repository is made, spent fuel and high-level waste is being
stored in temporary storage facilities called dry casks and cooling pools. By the end of
the year 2000, there will be more than 40,000 metric tons of high-level waste in casks and
storage pools. There will also be more than 8,000 metric tons of high-level waste from
defense programs. The high-level waste from defense programs is currently being stored in
Idaho, South Carolina, and Washington. (General Information)
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