Nuclear Power Issue 01 December 2012
CONTENTS ————————————— Introduction
The History of Nuclear Power By Mark Cheney Atomic theory has existed for hundreds of years, but only recently have we begun to understand the enormous amount of energy contained within an atom. “Nuclear energy production involves the fission, or splitting, of uranium atoms. When an atom splits, a small portion of its mass is converted to energy, and the remainder is converted to heat. Under the right conditions, it can set off a chain reaction that splits other atoms.”5 “Commercial production of nuclear energy maintains a controlled chain reaction within the reactor of a power plant, converts the heat released by the atoms to steam, and uses the steam to generate electricity.”5
“In 1934, physicist Enrico Fermi conducted experiments in Rome that showed neutrons could split many kinds of atoms. The results surprised even Fermi himself. When he bombarded uranium with neutrons, he did not get the elements he expected. The elements were much lighter than uranium.”1 When [Lise Meitner] “added the atomic masses of the fission products [from Fermi’s experiment], they did not total the uranium’s mass. Meitner used Einstein’s theory to show the lost mass changed to energy. This proved fission occurred and confirmed Einstein’s work.”1 “Early in 1942, a group of scientists led by Fermi gathered at the University of Chicago to develop their theories. By November 1942, they were ready for construction to begin on the world’s first nuclear reactor, which became known as Chicago Pile-1. The pile was erected on the floor of a squash court beneath the University of Chicago’s athletic stadium. In addition to uranium and graphite, it contained control rods made of cadmium. Cadmium is a metallic element that absorbs neutrons. When the rods were in the pile, there were fewer neutrons to fission uranium atoms. This slowed the chain reaction. When the rods were pulled out, more neutrons were available to split atoms. The chain reaction sped up.”1
The Road to Nuclear Energy The road has been long to reach the nuclear power of today. It started as a philosophical concept in ancient Greece, which developed into atomic theory, which states that matter is made up of indivisible particles called atoms. “The science of atomic radiation, atomic change and nuclear fission was developed from 1895 to 1945, much of it in the last six of those years.”3 “In 1904 [Ernest Rutherford] wrote: ‘If it were ever possible to control at will the rate of disintegration of the radio elements, an enormous amount of energy could be obtained from a small amount of matter.’”1 Only one year later, Albert Einstein composed his theory of how mass and energy are related. “The mathematical formula is E=mc 2, or ‘energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.’ It took almost 35 years for someone to prove Einstein’s theory.”1 3
Introduction “This momentous accomplishment led to the construction and launching of the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear vessel in the U.S. military fleet, and the construction of additional prototype reactors and control systems that were used as training platforms for thousands of sailors.”6 “Since 1956 the prime focus has been on the technological evolution of reliable nuclear power plants.”3 “In the 1970s, the technology spread to countries such as China, India, and Japan which developed civil nuclear programs supported either by the United States or the Soviet Union. Some other developing countries also took up the nuclear option, notably Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and South Korea. 7”
Early Mishaps Three Mile Island Plant
A Breakthrough “On the morning of December 2, 1942, the scientists were ready to begin a demonstration of Chicago Pile-1. Fermi ordered the control rods to be withdrawn a few inches at a time during the next several hours. Finally, at 3:25 p.m., Chicago time, the nuclear reaction became selfsustaining. Fermi and his group had successfully transformed scientific theory into technological reality. The world had entered the nuclear age.”1 From 1939 to 1945, due to WWII, nuclear power was first seen for its military benefits in building atomic bombs. On “September 26, 1944 The B-reactor, the first plutonium production reactor at the Hanford site, [went] critical for the first time and plutonium production [began]. Once the war ended in 1945, “attention was given to harnessing this energy in a controlled fashion for naval propulsion and for making electricity.”3 “At 1:23pm on December 20, 1951, Argonne National Laboratory director Walter Zinn scribbled into his log book, “Electricity flows from atomic energy. Rough estimate indicates 45 kw.” At that moment, scientists from Argonne and the National Reactor Testing Station, the forerunner to today's Idaho National Laboratory, watched four light bulbs glow, powered by the world’s first nuclear reactor to generate electricity.”6
“In 1979 there was a major nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island plant in the United States. This, along with the poor economics of nuclear compared with other energy options such as coal, halted new nuclear developments in the United States. Although the net fuel costs of nuclear plants [had] been lower than fossil-fuel plants, the capital cost typically [ran] at around three times higher, and [tended] to rise as safety requirements [grew].”7 “Then came the even larger nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986, to which several thousand deaths have been attributed, although the death toll is still being debated. At that point, many (but not all) European countries backed off from nuclear energy.”7 These and other accidents resulted both in fear of nuclear power for a time, and significant improvements to safety. “The Japanese have been careful. In the country of the hibakusha (surviving victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), all reactors go through closer scrutiny than anywhere else.”2 “By the late 1990s the first of the third-generation reactors was commissioned - Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 - a 1350 MWe Advanced BWR, in Japan. This was a sign of the recovery to come.”3 “by the late 2000s something of a global nuclear renaissance had already emerged, led by China and India. Moreover, in the early 2010s, some EU countries were reversing their opposition to nuclear. Russia was expanding its program and the United States was looking to start a new program.”7 4
An Expert Perspective Blue Castle Holdings (BCH) is an energy infrastructure development company based in Utah. It is presently developing the leading new nuclear plant project site in the Western U.S. The BCH business mission is to select, acquire, enhance, and license plant sites, which are uniquely well suited for the deployment of new nuclear power generation.
Q1. What has changed since the 70’s/80’s to allow the ability to resume construction of new nuclear energy sites? There have been fundamental changes in the Western U.S. electric retail and wholesale power markets. The two primary conditions that have changed are a supply side shift (due to increasingly stringent environmental regulation) and demand side growth. This has led to significant uncertainty for utilities acquiring new base load electric generation to meet the needs of electricity consumers. High interest rates and drop-off of demand had previously halted continued construction of all nuclear power plants in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In 1992 congress pursued legislation for development of nuclear energy that would minimize the financial risk up front. This was done by combining construction and operation licensing for sites built as designed (explained in next question).
Q2. How are the proposed new nuclear energy stations different from those built thirty or more years ago? There are 104 nuclear power stations in operation in the United States and each one is of a unique design. Regulations are now in place on approved standardized advanced reactor designs that will reduce the cost and time for construction as more stations are built. Only two designs have been approved for certification with five others currently under review.
Interview with Aaron J. Tilton, President and CEO of Blue Castle Project, 20 Nov 2012. Mr. Tilton quoted the Nuclear Energy Institute website; “The independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted in February 2012 to grant a combined construction and operating license for two reactors at Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro. It is the first combined license ever approved for a U.S. nuclear energy facility, which will become the nation’s first new nuclear units built in 30 years. On March 30, 2012, the NRC issued combined construction and operating licenses to South Carolina Electric & Gas Company for two reactors near Jenkinsville, South Carolina. Some 19 companies and consortia are studying, licensing, or building more than 30 nuclear power reactors. Of the more than 30, there are currently five under construction by three companies and consortia. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is actively reviewing 10 combined license applications from 9 companies and consortia for 16 nuclear power plants.” (NEI.org “Key Issues: New Nuclear Energy Facilities.”)
Q3. What is being done for public awareness and safety for the Blue Castle Project site? A 16 week public awareness campaign and outreach program was recently completed with radio, TV, and newspaper ads. NEI has held approximately 25 public hearings since 2005 for the region and specifically for the Green River community where the site is located. These public hearings cover emergency preparedness plans, water usage, environmental safety, and the like. Additional public awareness campaigns will be conducted closer to the estimated groundbreaking date in 2016.
Synopsis: With increased demand for clean energy, new standardized designs, and new regulations combining construction and operating licenses, the path to building new nuclear power plants is smoother than ever, and many plants are now in process.
The Scope of the Energy Problem
By Tricia Sutherland
We Are Falling Behind The United States is an energy intensive country. Consumers need it, industry needs it, and our economy needs it. In his State of the Union Address in 2010, President Barack Obama stated, “The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.” We are falling behind, as a nation, in energy production and development. The World Economic Forum assesses global competitiveness by comparing the "industry, infrastructure, labor market efficiency," and economic performances of nations large and small. They recently reported the Global Competitive Index, where the U.S. slipped from 5 th place to 7th place.
The following report helps us understand the scope of the need for energy: “The energy industry significantly influences the vibrancy and sustainability of the entire economy—from job creation to resource efficiency and the environment. The key factors in maintaining the health of this nexus of resources (energy, food, and water) are sustained investment, increased efficiency, new technology, system-level integration (e.g. in urban development), and supportive regulatory and social conditions. Looking towards the decades ahead, this nexus will come under huge stress as global growth in population and prosperity propel underlying demand at a pace that will outstrip the normal capacity to expand supply. To face this strain, some combination of extraordinary moderation in demand growth and extraordinary acceleration in production will need to take place. “10
Top Ten Worldwide Energy Production and Development List: 1) Switzerland
7) United States
8) United Kingdom
Energy Sources Fit Different Demands The U.S. definitely has to make changes in order to be meet their own energy needs, as well as remain competitive in the global economy. What is our energy demand and how is it used? If you look at the chart below, you will see that nuclear power is the most prevalent source of energy for electricity, just ahead of coal. And, petroleum is the predominant source for transportation. Both types of fuel are needed. We need fossil fuels, which we have depended on for more than 100 years, and we need alternative sources of energy. The need is great and we need to be innovative. Currently, renewable energy sources provide less than 8 percent of the total U.S. energy, but that can increase in the coming years. We have to balance the cheap sources of energy such as coal and oil, which are pollutants, with the cost of other developing energy sources.
We can learn from looking at different parts of the country. For example, regions like the Pacific Northwest, use mostly hydropower. The Midwest relies more heavily on fossil fuels. But, President Obama has proposed an 80 percent clean electricity standard by 2035. He suggests natural gas plants with newer, more efficient designs; nuclear power; and coal-burning plants that would capture and store their carbon emissions. The Obama administration estimates that about 40 percent of our electricity comes from clean sources today and that number can be doubled by 2035. That is a tall order, but if we look at all our resources, it can be done.
An Expert Perspective San Diego Gas & Electric Company is a regulated public utility that provides energy service to 3.4 million people through 1.4 million electric meters and 850,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. Their service area spans 4,100 square miles.
Q1. Do you think CA is doing a good job of meeting its energy demands? What are we doing well and where do we need to improve? California has chosen to meet a greater and greater share of its energy needs through renewable sources. In addition, it has eliminated much of its reliance upon coal fired generation. These choices can affect overall cost to the consumer, at least in the short term. Again, this is more of a public policy issue and what the consumer desires.
Q2. Do you think nuclear energy is a good option considering the costs and risks? Why or why not? For example, do you think storage of nuclear waste is a prohibitive factor? I think it’s more of a public policy issue. While nuclear power can be a safe alternative, public perception may price it out of the market due to increased oversight and operating requirements. It may just be unacceptable to the public no matter how safe it is perceived.
Q3. Do you think there are other forms of alternative energy that would be better to develop? What would be your top three and why? Current forms of alternative energy include sources like solar, wind, geothermal and biomass for electrical production. They also include hybrid and plug in type vehicles which displace the use of gasoline, but still rely upon some form of electrical source from the above or other traditional sources. Many of these alternative still have heavy subsides to help develop and bring them into the market. The question will be when they will each be able to be truly cost effective on their own.
Interview with Scott Peterson, Senior Engineer and Operations Manager, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, 11-162012.
Q4. We pay quite a bit for our energy here in SD (I know my bill is higher in the winter than in the summer...heat costs more than air conditioning at my house). Is that because there are so many environmental regulations that CA requires that SDG&E meet? You must not have air conditioning or don’t use it much since your winter bill is higher. Typically, with AC, the bill would be higher in the summer. Again see my answer to question 1 above. In addition, California, by its nature, has higher costs, in part by the regulations it imposes on itself (e.g. California gasoline is higher than the rest of the nation since it requires its own special blends).
Q5. What do you think should be the country's main goal in choosing to develop different energy sources: cost, environmental impact, independence from other countries, etc.? I would see, as a key driver, the need for energy independence and stability of pricing. How we get there is again a matter of public policy.
Synopsis: As I look at the scope of the energy question, and in light of my interview, I see a great need for alternative energy sources beyond oil, gas, and coal. Nuclear energy has a negative perception to the public, so it may not be viable unless the public is better educated on the safety of further development and use. Public policy will reflect the public’s opinion. Government subsidies provided for new energy development, even in nuclear development, is significant. These industries need to have a clear path to be self-sustaining, rather than rely on tax dollars. Environmental regulations are sometimes cost prohibitive, meaning, the businesses can’t be profitable because the regulations cost so much to implement and enforce. Here in California, we pay far more for everything because the state’s primary concern is the environment.
What are the Ramifications? By Daniel Buis
When deciding between whether or not to advance research for nuclear energy, the United States needs to consider the efficiency that nuclear energy provides. Not only is nuclear energy more cost effective, it also is more environmentally friendly (when compared to other energy resources such as oil, fossil fuels and gas.) In 1970, Congress along with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) passed a Clean Air Act. This act is projected to help prevent over 230,000 deaths by the year 2020.1 The Clean Air Act sets federally mandated limits on the emission of certain pollutants for each state and region of the country. Nuclear plants help these regions to meet air pollution standards. So how exactly does nuclear energy help to meet the guidelines set by the EPA? Nuclear energy is an energy resource that helps to greatly reduce the emissions being introduced into the atmosphere. “Nuclear energy is emission free because it does not burn anything in order to emit energy. The water used in cooling the reactor does not come into contact with any radioactive material and is actually used in a lot of conservation wetlands area because of its cleanliness.”2
As you can see from the graph below, nuclear power has the least amount of direct and indirect emissions this is due to the fact that no gas is released during the energy producing process, which consists of splitting atoms of Uranium. Uranium is one of the most abundant sources in the world. “Uranium is a dense metal found at an abundance of 2.8 parts per million in the Earth's crust.”4 Because of its abundance the cost of nuclear energy is far less than the cost of other energy resources. Another cost saving benefit of nuclear energy is the amount of energy that can be produced from one atom of Uranium. “Just one uranium fuel pellet – roughly the size of the tip of an adult’s little finger – contains the same amount of energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil.”5
What about the risks involved? There are a few concerns when dealing with nuclear power and nuclear reactors. According to Bernard Cohen, a professor at The University of Michigan, one of the greatest risks when using nuclear energy is the risk of radiation. Radioactive materials are composed of atoms that are unstable. An unstable atom gives off its excess energy until it becomes stable. The energy emitted is radiation.10 “This radiation consists of subatomic particles traveling at or near the velocity of light---186,000 miles per second. They can penetrate deep inside the human body where they can damage biological cells and thereby initiate a cancer.”8
Reactor Accidents Nuclear reactors are designed to have back-ups for their back-ups. In the history of nuclear power (approximately 15,301 reactor-years) there have only been two reportable accidents that were not contained within the reactor itself.9 The Chernobyl (Ukraine) disaster in 1986 and the Fukushima (Japan) accident in 2011 resulted in radiation doses to the public greater than those resulting from exposure to natural sources. According to the World Nuclear Association, “It has long been asserted that nuclear reactor accidents are the epitome of low-probability but high consequence risks. However, the physics and chemistry of a reactor core, coupled with - but not wholly depending on the engineering, mean that the consequences of an accident are likely in fact to be much less severe than those from other industrial and energy sources” Although there is the risk of accident when using a nuclear reactor there are safety mechanisms put in place in order to keep the risk low. If an accident is to occur it is usually contained within the reactor itself.
What keeps us safe? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or the NRC, regulates over 100 reactors and 36 research facilities. “The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Agreement States regulate the use of radioactive material in order to protect people and the environment. Material licensees have the primary responsibility to maintain the security and accountability of the radioactive material in their possession. Ever since 9/11 there has been increased security. The NRC has been working with its Federal and State partners, as well as the international community, to provide appropriate safety and security requirements for radioactive materials without discouraging their beneficial use.”
FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency, has put together an emergency plan in the case of a nuclear plant accident. Local and state governments, federal agencies and the electric utilities have emergency response plans in the event of a nuclear power plant incident. The plans define two “emergency planning zones.” Zone 1= the area within a 10 mile radius of the plant, where it is possible that people could be harmed by the direct radiation exposure. Zone 2= covers a broader area, usually up to a 50 mile radius from the plant, where radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food crops and livestock.
FEMA’s Emergency Steps: -Follow the EAS instructions carefully. -Minimize your exposure by increasing the distance between you and the source of the radiation. This could be evacuation or remaining indoors to minimize exposure. -If you are told to evacuate, keep car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air. -If you are advised to remain indoors, turn off the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace and other air intakes. -Shield yourself by placing heavy, dense material between you and the radiation source. Go to a basement or other underground area, if possible. -Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary. -Stay out of the incident zone. Most radiation loses its strength fairly quickly. 11
By Mark Cheney
Background A Thorium based power station utilizing a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). “While Light Water Reactors (LWR) can produce U233 from thorium, they will not provide the various advantages outlined below, because of their use of thorium in solid form. It is the unique combination of the thorium cycle and the liquid fluoride reactor that grants all of the following advantages only from the LFTR system.”1
Key Components “The modern concept of the Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) uses uranium and thorium dissolved in fluoride salts of lithium and beryllium. These salts are chemically stable, impervious to radiation damage, and non-corrosive to the vessels that contain them. Because of their ability to tolerate heavy radiation, excellent temperature properties, minimal fuel loading requirements (i.e., easy of continual refueling) and other inherent factors, LFTR cores can be made much smaller than a typical light water reactor (LWR). In fact, liquid salt reactors, and LFTRs specifically, are listed as an unfunded part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Generation-4 Nuclear Solution Plan.”1
Create Thorium Based Power Stations Advantage 1: “Unlike a pressurized-water or boiling-water reactor, a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor operates at high temperature and low pressure. Its high power density means that the reactor vessel itself is much smaller and lighter than an LWR reactor vessel; small enough, in fact, to be mass-produced in a factory rather than constructed onsite. Its inert-gas coolant does not boil in the event of a loss of pressure, and the fuel, blanket, and coolant salts do not react with air or water. All of this means that the containment building of a fluoride reactor can be much smaller than the containment of a light-water reactor of similar power output.”1
• • • Advantage 2: “LFTRs are designed to take advantage of the physics of the thorium cycle for optimum safety. The fluid in the core is not pressurized, thus eliminating the driving force of radiation release in conventional approaches. The LFTR reactor cannot melt down because of a runaway reaction or other nuclear reactivity accidents (such as at Chernobyl), because any increase in the reactor's operating temperature results in a reduction of reactor power, thus stabilizing the reactor without the need for human intervention. Further, the reactor is designed with a salt plug drain in the bottom of the core vessel. If the fluid gets too hot or for any other reason including power failures, the plug naturally melts, and the fluid dumps into a passively cooled containment vessel where decay heat is removed. This feature prevents any Three Mile Island-type accidents or radiation releases due to accident or sabotage and provides a convenient means to shut down and restart the system quickly and easily.”1 Advantage 3: The spent fuel is much harder to use in dirty bombs. “The resultant uranium products contain both 232 and 233 isotopes. The presence of uranium 232 generally prevents the use of this material as weaponry.”3 “The point is, however, that there is almost no separated uranium233 anywhere in the world. In order to get it one has to start with for example plutonium-239 to get one reactor in operation. After 40 years this will have bred enough uranium-233 from thorium232.”4
• • •
Disadvantage 1: There are no approved designs for thorium power stations in the US at this time. “Thorium has never actually been continually processed for fuel in a fully operational liquid fluoride reactor. The MSRE used U233 as a fuel, but the U233 was generated in another reactor. A follow-on reactor design was planned to do the full-system tests, which the MSRE was too costconstrained to perform, but it was never funded. A prototype reactor based on the ORNL design work would need to be built and the continuous thorium cycle processing validated as the fuel source in an operational LFTR.”1 China has two proposed thorium power stations, and India has one under construction. Once the US Department of Energy evaluates these sites and their successes or failures over many years, we might get an approved design here. Then it would be at least another 12 years to get a fully functional site in the US. This means that we are somewhere between 30-40+ years away from utilizing this solution. Disadvantage 2: “Thorium is more radioactive than uranium, making its handling in fabrication stage more beset with dangers. In addition there are potential difficulties in the back-end of the fuel cycle. The plutonium-238 content would be three to four times higher than with conventional uranium fuels. This highly radioactive isotope causes a much higher residual heat and therefore the time for spent fuel storage in water is much longer. To put it mildly, the technical problems regarding the reprocessing of spent fuel is not solved for this reason.”4 Disadvantage 3: The thorium fuel cycle is more complex than with uranium. “Thorium does not naturally include any fissile isotopes, and has to be supplemented to achieve criticality.”3 “The disadvantage of using thorium-232 in reactors is that it is not fissile. The cycle must be started by mixing it with a fissile element, either 235U, 239Pu or 233U.”2 “Nuclear reactions by neutron absorption and decay schemes for thorium-based fuels are more complicated; longer water storage time for the spent fuel is needed due to higher residual heat.”2
Stick With What Works By Tricia Sutherland
Innovation and Development The U.S. has relied heavily on coal, oil, and natural gas for more than a century. This is good business sense because it is known and cost efficient. However, the environmental impact can and must be reduced significantly. “We need an ‘all of the above’ strategy. World energy needs are growing, and it will be challenging to keep supplies growing at the same pace. Energy policy should encourage the development of oil and gas resources, because they will be the main sources for decades. Eventually, we’ll develop technology that will let us power society in other ways, like advanced nuclear and power renewables. We can’t rule anything out, but we need to be practical about how much the equation they can provide.”7 The oil and gas industry take safety regulations seriously. So much media attention has been given to the destructive oil spills. The oil industry can and must do better if we are going to consider increasing drilling and U.S. production.
-Fossil fuels create pollution
-Known technology -Safety constantly being improved -Creates jobs -The environment will be protected by our use of less or nonpolluting energy sources
-Lack of investment in new energy sources will make U.S. less competitive globally -Potential for damage to the environment due to oil spills -Dependence on foreign oil
We need to invest in developing clean and renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal and wind power. Political debate needs to cease unless it gets us to solutions, not just policy banter. “The stakes in the debate are huge and farreaching. Democrats say a failure to pursue alternative energy sources will heighten global damage from climate change, make the nation increasingly beholden to unstable foreign oil producers and hurt the economy, in part because of lost opportunities to sell new environmentally friendly energy technologies to other countries. Republicans, however, say a failure to produce more domestic oil, coal and natural gas will cost jobs and economic growth. They, too, worry about dependence on foreign oil producers but say renewable and other new technologies, which together supply only about 8 percent of the nation’s energy demand, can’t begin to substitute for oil and coal in handling the nation’s energy needs.” Renewable industries need to get to the point where they don’t need the government subsidies to thrive. California has set the standard with successes in solar energy. “Earlier this year SunPower won a contract to generate and deliver more than 700 megawatts of solar power to Southern California Edison, on of California’s largest utilities, for resale to the utility’s customers. ‘We came in at a price that was competitive with the new natural gas plant. That’s something we could never have achieved if we hadn’t been able to scale up our manufacturing and if we hadn’t had California’s renewable electricity standard driving demand.’”5
SOLUTION THREE Increasing the use of nuclear energy would cut down on costs as well as the factors that initiate global warming.
Build More Power Plants By Daniel Buis The amount of energy produced from a nuclear reactor operating at 90% capacity will produce 7.9 KWh in one year. That’s enough to supply electricity for 690,000 households.6 The difference is clear between nuclear reactors and other forms of energy sources. In order for other sources to produce enough energy for that many households it would require a lot more fuel.
Comparing Energy Sources Oil: 13.7 million barrels (1 barrel yields 576 KWh)
Not only do nuclear power plants help to produce a large amount of energy at a lower cost, the development of nuclear power plants helps to boost the country’s economy by providing job opportunities for those in the community. “Operation of a single nuclear power plant generates 400 to 700 permanent jobs. These jobs pay 36 percent more than average salaries in the local area.”7 This helps to boost the economy in the community. According to the Department of Energy, an average nuclear plant produces approximately $430 million in sales of goods and services each year. Its apparent that the United States needs to continue to produce nuclear power plants and continue the development of the technology needed to produce nuclear energy for the citizen’s consumption. The Department of Energy projects the need for 40 to 50 large nuclear plants within the next 20 years for nuclear power to maintain or increase its present share of the U.S. electricity supply.7
Coal: 3.4 million short tons (1 ton yields 2,297 KWh)
% Energy by Nuclear Power
Natural Gas: 65.8 billion cubic feet (100 cubic feet yields 12 KWh)6
The oil, coal and natural gas cost more than Uranium and produce less.
The United States could save a lot of money if the use of nuclear energy was increased. “In 2011 19.2% or (790.2 billion kilowatt-hours) of energy was produced by nuclear energy in the United States.”6
Some of the states in the US are already on board with using nuclear power as a large amount of their energy source.6
Mark Cheney Resides in Saratoga Springs, Utah with his lovely wife and two teenage children. He is a full time student and “Mr. Mom,” as well as a Boy Scout Committee Chair and Merit Badge Counselor. Selection of issue: While researching information for a Space Exploration merit badge presentation, I stumbled across a TED talk by Kirk Sorensen about thorium as an alternative nuclear fuel. As it would happen, I found myself engrossed with the possibilities of this energy source for a lunar space station and for earth. Not being satisfied with my knowledge of the current “Nuclear Renaissance,” I continued my research and studied the pros and cons of nuclear energy and the current technology. Team member tasks: I am Writer #1. I’m responsible for the completion of strategic research on the history and nature of nuclear energy. I chronicled many of the milestones of progress and setbacks throughout history and the effects on the nuclear program.
Websites & Bibliography 1. "The History of Nuclear Energy." DOE/NE. N.D. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. PDF. http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/History.pdf Hoodbhoy, Pervez. “Nuclear electricity: a fallen dream?” SciDev.net. Sept 28 2011. Web. 30 Oct 2012. http://www.scidev.net/ en/climate-change-and-energy/nuclear-power-after-fukushima/opinions/nuclear-electricity-a-fallen-dream--1.html 2. “Outline History of Nuclear Energy” World Nuclear Association. July 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. http://www.worldnuclear.org/info/inf54.html 3. “Nuclear Historical Timeline.” EnergyFromThorium. n.d. Web. 30 Oct 2012. http://energyfromthorium.com/timeline/ Lindsay, Heather E. “Nuclear Energy Issues.” NCSE/CSA. Mar 2002. Web. 30 Oct 2012. http://www.csa.com/ discoveryguides/ern/02mar/overview.php 4. Huffman, Ethan. “Veteran Leadership Strong at Idaho’s Laboratory.” Energy.gov. Jun 1 2012. Web. 30 Oct 2012. http:// energy.gov/articles/veteran-leadership-strong-idaho-s-laboratory 5. Elliott, Dave. “Nuclear power after Fukushima: Facts and figures.” SciDev.net. Sept 28 2011. Web. 30 Oct 2012. http:// www.scidev.net/en/climate-change-and-energy/nuclear-power-after-fukushima/features/nuclear-power-after-fukushima-factsand-figures-1.html 6. “Frequently Asked Questions.” EnergyFromThorium. n.d. Web. 20 Nov 2012. http://energyfromthorium.com/faq/ 7. “Thorium fuel utilization: Options and trends.” IAEA. Nov 2002. Web. 20 Nov 2012. http://large.stanford.edu/ courses/2011/ph241/birer1/docs/te_1319_web.pdf 8. Kristoff, Susan. “Using Thorium as a Nuclear Fuel.” Suite101. Jan 13, 2010. Web. 20 Nov 2012. http://suite101.com/article/ using-thorium-as-a-nuclear-fuel-a188824 9. “Thorium-based Nuclear Power: An Alternative?” LAKA. Feb 2008. Web. 20 Nov 2012. http://www.laka.org/info/ publicaties/2008-thorium.pdf 10. Interview with Aaron J. Tilton, President and CEO of Blue Castle Project, 20 Nov 2012. http:// www.bluecastleproject.com/ Personal reflection: I learned that the decision to pursue or not to pursue nuclear energy as a power source is not as black and white as the media would have us believe. The main sources of public awareness about nuclear energy came from accidents or from decisions regarding disposal of spent fuel. Prior to today, each nuclear power station was unique to each location with its own unique design and safety features. Pulling the knowledge gained from all of these different methods, today’s nuclear power stations are built on a standardized design, maximizing efficiency and safety. Because there is such a strong focus on personal and environmental safety in nuclear energy production, it is one of the safest energy sources available today. I learned about thorium, an alternative material used to produce nuclear energy that is more abundant than any other source. A quantity of thorium small enough to fit in the palm of your hand can provide enough energy for one person their entire life. 16
Tricia Sutherland Resides in San Diego, California with her husband and two of her children. She is a full time mother and school counselor. Selection of Issue: I was drawn to the issue because I live in California where energy is highly regulated and very costly. I also have a nuclear power plant within 90 miles of my home and I wanted to learn more about its safety. I was also raised in Texas and my father was in the oil & gas industry. I wanted to study the current research on the viability of oil and gas as a future energy source. Team member tasks: I am Writer #2. I researched and studied the scope of the problem. I looked at our country’s energy needs and how we meet those needs, and how we will need to meet those needs in the future.
Websites & Bibliography 1. Clemmitt, M. (2011, June 10). Nuclear power. CQ Researcher, 21, 505-528. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/ cqresearcher/ 2. “Nuclear Power: Safety First. Now.” Union of Concerned Citizens. Last revised 7-15-11. Website. Accessed 11-11-12. http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/ “3. Nuclear Power: Safety First. Now.” Union of Concerned Citizens. Last revised 7-15-11. Website. Accessed 11-11-12. http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/ 4. Peterson, Scott. San Diego Gas & Electric. Personal interview November 16, 2012. 5. Smith, Christopher, A Current Snapshot: The United States’ Energy Needs and Supply Chain, Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2010, June 8, 2010 6. Weeks, J. (2011, January 28). Managing nuclear waste. CQ Researcher, 21, 73-96. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/ cqresearcher/ 7. Weeks, J. (2011, May 20). Energy policy. CQ Researcher, 21, 457-480. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/ cqresearcher/ 8. Worsnop, R. L. (1991, February 22). Will nuclear power get another chance?. CQ Researcher, 1, 114-129. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/ 9. "Safe Energy Proves Quite Problematic." USA Today (Farmingdale). Jun 2012: p. 14. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 12 Nov 2012. 10. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Independent Statistics & Analysis: http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/ index.cfm?page=us_energy_home http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/major_energy_sources_and_users.cfm Personal Reflection: I learned that the issue of energy research and development is a politically charged topic in the Unites States. I learned that our strength in the global economy is also dependent on our choice for energy development. Oil, gas, and coal have long been our energy sources for transportation and electricity. We need to continue to develop new energy sources, such as nuclear energy. Public policy has a detrimental effect on the further pursuance of nuclear energy because of the fear of nuclear plant failures. I realized that safety is a high priority in the nuclear industry, however enforcement of the safety issues is sometimes lax. Through studying this issue, I hope the regulations we institute to protect the environment could be better balanced with the cost to the consumer. Further, I think it is a positive sign that we are developing other alternative fuel and energy sources such as bio fuels, and wind and solar power. These industries could create jobs for thousands of Americans; however, they need to become more self-sustaining. The taxpayers are currently paying for them through government subsidies. 17
Danny Buis Resides in Culpeper, Virginia with his wife and son. He works full time as an EDI Analyst and is currently a full time student. Selection of Issue: The issue of nuclear power is something that Iâ€™ve been interested in because of the need for more energy sources that provided a more economical way to produce the countryâ€™s energy. I was interested in how nuclear energy could benefit the US in more than just producing energy. I wanted to know about the economical and ecological benefits of energy. Team member task: I am writer #3 and researched the ramifications of the problem. I researched how our country would benefit from the development of nuclear energy and also the negative effects of nuclear energy.
Websites & Bibliography 1. "Clean Air Act." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/>. 2. "The Benefits of Nuclear Energy." An Energy Resource for the Community Science Action Guide. Community Science Action Guide, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.fi.edu/guide/wester/benefits.html>. 3. "Comparative Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Power Generation." : Education : World Nuclear Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <http://www.world-nuclear.org/education/comparativeco2.html>. 4. "Nuclearinfo.net." RSS. Nuclearinfo.net, 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/ TheBenefitsOfNuclearPower>. 5. Ehresman, Teri. "Benefits of Nuclear Energy." Benefits of Nuclear Energy. Idaho National Laboratory, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. <https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/nuclear_energy/277/benefits_of_nuclear_energy/7019>. 6. "NEI: Nuclear Energy Institute." Nuclear Energy Institute. Nuclear Energy Insitute Resouces and Stats, 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/nuclear_statistics/usnuclearpowerplants/>. 7. "DOE - Office of Nuclear Energy." DOE - Office of Nuclear Energy. Department of Energy, Oct. 2010. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nuclear.gov/neGeneralInfo.html>. 8. Cohen, Bernard L., Sc. D. "Risks of Nuclear Power." The University of Michigan Health Physics Web Site: Risks of Nuclear Power. The University of Michigan, 2005. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.umich.edu/~radinfo/introduction/nprisk.htm>. 9. "Safety of Nuclear Power." : Education: World Nuclear Association. World Nuclear Association, May 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.world-nuclear.org/education/safety_of_nuclear_power.html>. 10. "Nuclear Power Plants." Nuclear Power Plants. Ready- FEMA, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ready.gov/nuclearpower-plants>. Personal Reflection: I learned a great deal about nuclear energy through my research. I not only learned how nuclear energy works, I learned how nuclear energy will benefit our company. It is my opinion that the rewards of nuclear energy far outweigh the risks. There are so many safety features and procedures put in place to help keep the country safe. The benefits of nuclear energy help when considering the cost of nuclear energy. Nuclear plants may be expensive to build but they pay for themselves quickly and are one of the cheapest sources of energy. Nuclear energy is also very ecologically friendly. It is one of the cleanest ways to produce energy without producing harmful gases. I think the greatest benefit is how nuclear plants can stimulate the economy by adding more jobs. If the United States further develops nuclear energy the country would benefit greatly. 18