Nuclear Energy -- The Fukushima Disaster

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Humans have long been faced with the challenge of finding a sustainable source of energy that will produce enough electricity to maintain the standard of living they have become accustomed to. Burning coal and other fossil fuels was the primary solution before nuclear energy was discovered. It was thought to be much better for the environment because usually there were not dangerous chemicals released into the atmosphere, but concerns have been raised about its health effects. There are two types of nuclear power: fusion and fission. The sun is an example of fusion. This occurs when two atomic nuclei combine to make a nucleus of a heavier mass. Fusion energy is not yet an available resource on earth because it has not been possible to make a reaction small enough to contain (“Possible,” 2012). Nuclear fission is the splitting of a nucleus into smaller fragments by bombarding it with neutrons. This can cause a chain reaction because the neutrons split off from atoms and start to bombard other atoms. Nuclear power involves nuclear reactors and the process of atomic fission. As shown in Figure 1, a pressurized water reactor consists of many parts. Inside the reactor vessel, fuel rods that contain fissionable fuel—Uranium ore, a combination of extremely reactive U-238 and U-235—set off a chain reaction. Control rods made of Boron, Cadmium, Indium, and Silver capture the neutrons that are released from the atoms splitting apart in order to slow the reaction, a process which is called neutron absorption. Pressurized water circulates through the reactor vessel and cools the fuel rods which slows the neutrons with so they can be captured by an atomic nucleus, a process called neutron moderation. The heat released from the nuclear reac... ... middle of paper ... Rehkopf, L. & Muhr, J. (2011). Radiation exposure. Environmental Encyclopedia, Vol. 2(4th ed., pp. 1353-1355). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved January 25, 2014, from Global Issues In Context via Gale: Remembering "3/11": Six months after the Fukushima reactor disaster, key lessons appear to be going unlearned. (2011, Sep 08). U.S.Newswire. Retrieved from Steinhauser, G., Brandl, A., & Johnson, T. (2013, November 2). Comparison of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents: A review of the environmental impacts. Elsevier, 800-817. Povinec, P., Gera, M., Holy, K., Hirose, K., Lujaniene, G., Nakano, M., Plastino, W., . . . Gazak, M. (2013, April 9). Dispersion of Fukushima radionuclides in the global atmosphere and the ocean. Elsevier, 382-383.

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