Nuclear Power I.
Nov 3, 1997: In Today's Register Guard on the front page there
was an article about how Nuclear Energy should now be considered
as Green energy because it does not
contribute to global warming.
The issue is, how viable is Nuclear energy and what really are the
As we will see, nuclear energy is seldom evaluated objectively - rather
there is a range of emotional response to it.
Nuclear Energy I.
1 kg of coal = 30 million Joules when burned using chemistry
- Energy and Mass are equivalent and are related to
one another by the speed of light squared
- Since c is a large number then c squared is even larger
but: 1 kg of coal potentially gives you 3 billion times more
energy if you convert all of its mass to energy
Potential Realized in the Atom Bomb
The 1950's are a landmark decade because they shaped 3 aspects of
American life that would dominate out socio-political culture:
,Hula Hoops and free electricity from nuclear power:
- The first information network was launched. This was
Television which has evolved to be a ubiquitous access, content-free
medium. (will the Internet evolve in a similar manner?)
- Suburbia: Suburban infrastructure and commuter highways began
to take shape. Life in Suburbia was the American Dream. Increased
dependends on foreign oil, via automobile transport of workers
and increased air pollution is the result.
- The Cold War: Funding for basic research for technological
competiveness against the Evil Empire was abundant. Most research
Universities were allowed to significantly expand their science
departments. Now, this has all crumbled as has funding for basic
in 1947 became the first place in the US to be powered by
a nuclear reactor.
1970's: By the year 2000, 50% of US energy comes from fossil fuels and 50% from nuclear
Initial Trends in 60's suggested this would be fulfilled
1990: 22% of domestic US electricity generation comes from nuclear
fission--> France is
at 75% and exports some!
Very rapid rise from 1964--1974 then much shallower increase to
What prevented the year 2000 goal from being reached? Several
factors are at work:
- poor engineering, politics, pyschology, Three Mile Island
- Perceived Safety Hazard has replaced Reality --> Trojan Closure
- Up Front Costs became very high (WPPS!)
- Concern over Atomic Waste Disposal --> Hanford
- Concern over Environmental Pollution --> Hanford Downwinders
Each element is defined by a unique number of protons
an ISOTOPE means that element has extra neutrons. Some extra neutrons
can decay into protons thus creating a new
element . This example is for a
Supernova but the main idea
is the same.
- Electrons in Fuzzy Orbits about a Nucleus
- Nucleus is home of protons and neutrons bound together by the
Strong Force: ratio of strong force to gravity is 1036 !
- Free Neutrons decays into protons and electrons; Existence of
atomic nuclei prevent this decay
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