Nuclear Power Plants: Sparking an American Debate for Decades Essay

Nuclear Power Plants: Sparking an American Debate for Decades Essay

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The need for electricity continues to grow each year worldwide. Americans have long sought out an environmentally friendly, safe way of fulfilling their needs for energy. Presently, as concerns for the environment continue to become more prominent in the U.S., the demand for cleaner energy producing practices also becomes more pronounced. One of the cleanest production methods in use today is nuclear power generation (Kidd).
Nuclear power plants do not emit the harmful green house gases and other negative by-products associated with the more conventional systems fuelled by coal and natural gas. Nuclear power plants use nuclear reactions to drive their generators. The reactions produce extreme amounts of heat that must be managed. Most nuclear installations use water to control temperature and vent steam into the environment. This is a much cleaner excretion than that of conventional power plants (Kidd).
Although at first glance nuclear may seem like a perfect solution, the nuclear industry does produce some nasty pollutants of its own. Nuclear reactors require fuel rods made of radioactive materials to function. The fuel rods can be used for long periods of time; however, eventually they become spent and can no longer be used in the reactors. Fuel rods remain radioactive even after they have been used in nuclear power plants. When the nuclear reaction is complete the fuel rods are removed while they are still very hot.
Spent fuel rods are then placed in large tanks of water to cool. The rods are kept in the tanks for five years; during which time their radioactivity and temperature greatly decreases (Chapin et al.). They are then transported to permanent storage facilities in high strength containment vessels. Some people w...

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.... Web. 30 April 2011.
Dietz, Francis. "A COMEBACK FOR NUCLEAR POWER?." Mechanical Engineering 127.5 (2005): 24. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 4 May 2011.
Kidd, Steve. "Message from the Chair." Mechanical Engineering 133.5 (2011): 43-45. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 May 2011.
Kidd, Steve. "Nuclear in the New Decade." Mechanical Engineering 132.5 (2010): 54-55. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 May 2011.
Kramer, David. "Safety reviews, not shutdowns, are ordered in the wake of Fukushima." Physics Today 64.5 (2011): 18-20. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 May 2011.
Maiello, Mark L. "Nuclear insecurity." Industrial Physicist 9.1 (2003): 4. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 30 April 2011.
Winters, Jeffrey. "New Designs--for the U.S." Mechanical Engineering 129.10 (2007): 29. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 30 April 2011.

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