Even before the atomic bomb had been produced, scientists and engineers had begun to think about the possibility of using the energy released by the fission process for the production of electrical energy. Shortly after World War II confident predictions were made that human beings would soon depend almost entirely on atomic energy for electricity. Alas, we are now years into the future from then and no such miracle has occurred. In the United States only 19.7 percent of the electrical energy in 2016 was produced by this method. The proportion is a higher in some other countries, notably France and Slovaka, but nuclear power not on the verge of replacing the fossil fuels in the United State. The unfortunate truth is that producing power from atomic fission has turned out to be much more expensive than was previously expected. Even in these days of high prices for the fossil fuels it is still only barely competitive.
- 7.1: IAEA and NPT
- The United Nations established the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in 1957. This group serves as the world's nuclear watchdog and has three goals to oversee: Assist all member countries with peaceful uses of nuclear technology Inspect nuclear facilities to ensure weapons are not being constructed Provide information regarding safety of nuclear materials.
- 7.2: Generating Electricity
- Fission reactions can be used in the production of electricity if we control the rate at which the fission occurs. The great majority of all electrical generating systems all follow a reasonably simple design.
- 7.3: Nuclear Reactor Components
- In 2017, there were ninety-nine working nuclear reactors in the United States. The majority of these reactors are on the eastern side of the country. Each reactor site houses between one and three reactors. The average age of these nuclear reactors is approximately thirty-six years. Each year, reactor units are rigorously inspected for safety. In addition, reactors that cannot meet safety measures or are not able to be upgraded will be place on shut-down.
- 7.4: Nuclear Reactor Accidents
- The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in on April 26, 1986. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history. A nuclear meltdown in one of the reactors caused a fire that sent a plume of radioactive fallout that eventually spread all over Europe. (Need Fukishima and perhaps 3mile Island)?
- 7.5: South Carolina Energy
- Oconee Nuclear Power Plant is located in Seneca, South Carolina. This facility is owned and operated by Duke Energy. The three reactors were constructed and then commissioned in the early 1970's. The approximate cost for the building of these three units was 1.96 billion dollars (2007). Each of the three units produces 846 megawatts (106 watts) of energy per year. In total, Oconee Nuclear Station has a maximum output capacity of 2500 megawatts of energy per year.
- 7.6: Nuclear Waste
- Like other industrial processes, generating electricity from nuclear power or making nuclear weapons creates waste. These radioactive and chemically toxic wastes result from the mining and processing of uranium as well as from storing or reprocessing spent reactor fuel.
- 7.7: New Generation Nuclear Reactors
- As of 2017, the United States only used light water (LW) moderator thermal reactors. Fission powered both boiling water (BWR) and pressurized water (PWR) reactors. For research purposes, the United States does utilize heavy water, graphite moderator, and fast neutron reactors. The United States does not employ graphite moderated or liquid metal cooled reactors for commercial purposes.
Thumbnail: The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 rose some 11 mi (18 km) above the bomb's hypocenter. Public Domain.