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Nuclear Energy

by: Carina Sauter

Nuclear Energy Ecology 1000

Carina Sauter
GPA 3.79

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About this Document

These notes cover the lecture on Nuclear Energy, discussing the formation, disposal, and leading world superpowers of nuclear energy.
Introduction to Environmental Issues
Class Notes
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Popular in Introduction to Environmental Issues

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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Carina Sauter on Sunday October 2, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Ecology 1000 at University of Georgia taught by Connelly in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 5 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Environmental Issues in Ecology at University of Georgia.


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Date Created: 10/02/16
Nuclear Energy • Energy Uses nationally and internationally o The United States uses in 1 year the energy it took ~ 1 million years to create geologically, through the formation of fossil fuels § Not a sustainable plan § There are enormous environmental costs with fossil fuel use o As population rises, CO2 emissions rise § By burning fossil fuel, humans add 6 billion tons of CO2 per year § 1 ton per person per year § o US Energy Sources § 40% oil § 20% coal § 20% nuclear § 15% natural gas § 5% hydroelectric (only renewable source) o Global Renewable Energy Consumption § 57% hydropower § 7% wind § 9% solar § 23% biomass § 4% geothermal • Formation of Nuclear Energy o Between renewable energy and fossil fuels § Downside = potential cost if there is a disaster § No CO2 emissions o Decay of Uranium isotope (235 U) o Split nucleus of Uranium by slamming another atom into it § releasing neutrons § heat is generated § Chain reaction o Uncontrolled = nuclear weapon § We slow down the rate to control the amount of heat and electricity generated o About 5 million metric tons of uranium oxide are economically accessible – decades worth of energy available within US • Nuclear Energy internationally o 16% of global energy production o 443 reactors in 31 countries o USA: 104 reactors with 18% energy § Building two more currently • NRC approved a request to build two new reactors at Plant Vogtle. • The commission approved a license on a 4-1 vote over the objections of environmentalists and the NRC's own chairman, Gregory Jaczko. • It's the first approval since 1978, the year before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. • The company expects to begin operating the new units in 2018 and 2019. They will cost more than $14 billion. • 52%Americans support the building of more nuclear plants o France: 59 reactors with 80% energy § Carry around pills in case a plant blows o CO2 comes in the production of plants § Production of concrete § Cars moving materials o Low cost after production of plants § 10’s of millions of dollars to start them up § large scale government project § developed countries are the only ones that can afford these plants o Formation § Yellow cake à fuel pellets of Uranium à fill rod with pellets à fuel assembly • Environmental costs associated with Uranium mining o Disturbed landscape o Acidified run off o Heat alteration of streams and lakes § Because of heat produced § Tend to put plants near water in order to cool it • Safe disposal and storage of spent fuel is a concern o 235 U rods become depleted but are still radioactive o options: § store it underground in concrete blocks § keep it at the facility in barrels § recycle • chemical process to purify and use again • BUT this produces more plutonium • Scared at an international level that it could be stole to build nuclear weapons § Create geologic nuclear repository • Bury 300 meters deep in steel casks in Nevada? (1987) • Now questioning porous rock and the stability of this tactic o We now tend to store it at plants • Unexpected Nuclear Accidents o Chernobyl: Ukraine, Soviet Union § April 26, 1986 § Explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into atmosphere § Worst nuclear accident in history § > 30 people died § What happened: • During a systems test at reactor #4 of the Chernobyl plant, there was a sudden power output surge, and an emergency shutdown was attempted. • A more extreme spike in power then occurred, leading to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. • These explosions exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, igniting it. The fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. • The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe; from 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas. • 31 – 64 deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers (as of 2008). • The Chernobyl Forum estimates that the eventual death toll could reach 4,000 among those exposed to the highest levels of radiation (workers, evacuees and nearby residents); this includes some 50 emergency workers who died of acute radiation syndrome, 9 children who died of thyroid cancer and an estimated total of 3940 deaths from radiation-induced cancer and leukemia. • The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that there will be 50,000 excess cancer cases resulting in 25,000 excess cancer deaths for people of this area • Flora and fauna o After the disaster, four square kilometers of pine forest directly downwind of the reactor turned reddish-brown and died, earning the name of the "Red Forest". o Animals in the worst-hit areas also died or stopped reproducing. o Of the 440,350 wild boar killed in the 2010 hunting season in Germany, over 1,000 were found to be contaminated with levels of radiation above the permitted limit due to residual radioactivity from Chernobyl. o The after-effects of Chernobyl are expected to be seen for 100 years, although the severity of the effects would decline over that period. In Britain and Norway, as of 2011, "slaughter restrictions remain for sheep raised on pasture contaminated by radiation fallout". • Rivers, lakes and reservoirs o Radioactive contamination into the Pripyat River, which feeds one of the largest surface water systems in Europe. o Bio-accumulation of radioactivity in fish resulted in concentrations (both in western Europe and in the former Soviet Union) that in many cases were significantly above guideline maximum levels for consumption. • Groundwater o Significant transfers of radionuclides to groundwater have occurred from waste disposal sites in the 19 mi exclusion zone around Chernobyl. o Fukushima, Japan (2011) § The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Nuclear Power following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 § Largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl § Huge sea water contamination of cesium 137 along Japan’s coast § According to a 2012 survey, 573 deaths have been certified as "disaster- related" by 13 municipalities affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. § On December 16, 2011 Japanese authorities declared the plant to be stable; it will take decades to decontaminate the surrounding areas and to decommission the plant. • Why would the government want nuclear power? o Jobs o Less reliance on foreign resources o Cheaper than most resources


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