Nuclear power and coal are two of the main sources of electricity used in the United States today. Coal and Nuclear power along with Natural Gas make up over 93% of the power we use. Yet they are also the most feared and misunderstood. While both have negative connotations, they both are clearly still doing the job better than other alternative energy.
Nuclear power is not readily feared for the result it will have on the environment although it should be. Used fuel assemblies are kept on site for at least seven years usually stored in onsite ponds. Radioactive waste from a reactor or irradiated rods can last a thousand years or more, and it must be monitored. Nuclear power is mostly feared because of the potential danger a “meltdown” in a reactor. This is where the safety features breakdown allowing the radiation to escape into the atmosphere. There are many safety features designed into each reactor to ensure this does not happen. Including Uranium dioxide pellets that has a very high melting point of 5000F or 2700C. These pellets absorb almost 98% of the radiation. The Uranium dioxide pellets are then incased in a zircaloy shell that will contain any radioactivity released by the pellets. The next stage of safety is a primary coolant running through eight inch pipes around the reactor. Finally the entire reactor is housed in a reactor containment building a steal reinforced building with wall four feet thick, and reinforced steel bars, this is to ensure the buildings integrity in case of a reactor accident.
Coal mining does however have a very adverse effect on the environment. There are two main mining types’ surface mining and underground mining. Both can contaminate water supplies, an...
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Both coal and nuclear power are very cost effective and that is the most likely reason why both are still being used as much as they are in the midst of such environmental turmoil. Until we can find a renewable source that will be cost effective, and be able to meet the demand being asked of it by the American people, we will be reliant on these resource.
"MSHA - New Mine/Miner Information Home Page." Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) - Home Page. Web. 06 Apr. 2011.
Rahn, Frank J. "Nuclear Power." Http://www.accessscience.com. Web.
Wane, Malcolm T., and Tuncel M. Yegulalp. "Coal Mining." Www.accessscience.com. 2008. Web.
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