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Nuclear Energy

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Nuclear Energy

It seems that the world as a whole is in search of an energy source that is cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient. This seems to be particularly true in the United States where the government seeks to separate themselves from their reliance on petroleum from countries including those in the Middle East. Their agenda, unfortunately, is less concerned with environmental issues than it is with issues of power, money, and dominance. Either way, nuclear energy has emerged as the forerunner for alternative energy sources.

Today, there are 109 nuclear power plants in the United States which contribute roughly 20% of the power used in the United States(Nuclear Energy, April 13, 2005). Nuclear fission is performed by fusion of hydrogen into helium. This is done using uranium, plutonium, or thorium and placing them in the reactor, which start a chain reaction that can produce vast amounts of energy. Uranium is the element primarily used in reactors. The fission of a single atom can produce 10 million times the amount of energy that an atom can produce that is burned from coal. Uranium is an abundant element which is easily found and extracted. It often has to undergo a relatively cheap refining process, however, as the isotopes are found mixed in nature. Nuclear fission is also relatively clean, as there is no excess CO2 produced, as there is in the burning of coal and petroleum. It does, however, have is pollutants. The filtering rods used have to be changed every two years and the old rods disposed of. Because the rods are highly radioactive, their disposal must be dealt with meticulously. Currently most of the rods are shipped to Yucca Mountain (The Bane of Nuclear Energy, April 13, 2005). Despite the benefits of nuclear fission, the quest still continues for an even better energy source.

The hopes of the new energy source are pinned on a process known as nuclear fusion. This is the process that takes place on the sun and other stars under intense heat and pressure. The hope is that nuclear fusion will become a reality here on earth as it will provide an unprecedented amount of energy very cheaply and with very little pollution. It is thought that a small amount of water could provide enough clean energy to last an average person through their entire lives (Nuclear Fusion Basics, April 13, 2005). That is an astounding idea, which can greatly benefit the planet if practical ways to harness this energy can be found.

Works Cited

The Bane of Nuclear Energy: Nuclear Waste Storage: http://library.thinkquest.org/17940/texts/nuclear_waste_storage/nuclear_waste_storage.html
(Accessed on April 13, 2005)

Nuclear Energy is the Most Certain Future Source:
http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html
(Accessed on April 13, 2005)

Nuclear Fusion Basics:
http://www.jet.efda.org/pages/content/fusion1.html
(Accessed on April 13, 2005)

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