How do we use nuclear power?
The above picture is of the USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It and similar nuclear powered aircraft carriers can stay operational for years without requiring refueling. They don't need refueling because nuclear energy is so effective. All current nuclear energy comes from nuclear fission, which involves the splitting of heavy atoms into smaller atoms. This splitting results in the release of massive amounts of energy, which can be harnessed-- usually by letting the reaction heat up steam, which powers a turbine. Of course, the uses of nuclear power are far greater than just for ships--in fact nuclear energy is sometimes considered the energy of the future.
- Research some facts on nuclear power. What percentage of the world’s energy is from nuclear power? How many nuclear plants are there? Other than for electricity for consumers, how else is nuclear power used?
- Research both sides of the debate on nuclear energy. What are the main concerns and issues? (Is it safe? Is it cost effective? Are there environmental concerns? etc.)
- Researchers eventually hope to build nuclear fusion plants, as opposed to the nuclear fission plants that operate today. What barriers are preventing a nuclear fusion plant?
- Based on your research, do you believe that nuclear energy is a good idea? Why or why not?