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 risks.

As we will see, nuclear energy is seldom evaluated objectively - rather there is a range of emotional response to it.

Nuclear Energy I.

  • Basic Physics 1 kg of coal = 30 million Joules when burned using chemistry
    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

    1950's optimism:

    The 1950's are a landmark decade because they shaped 3 aspects of American life that would dominate out socio-political culture:

    Elvis ,Hula Hoops and free electricity from nuclear power:
    Arco Idaho 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 fission

  • 1990: 22% of domestic US electricity generation comes from nuclear fission--> France is at 75% and exports some!

    What prevented the year 2000 goal from being reached? Several factors are at work:

    Atomic Structure

    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.

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