Boon and Bane of Nuclear Power Essay

In these modern times, are nuclear power plants feasible to every nation around the world? How about in a nation experiencing the toll of depletion of resources, destruction of nature and poverty at the same time; is it still an answer for economic growth? Is the construction of nuclear power plants an aid for the spur of development of a country or a growing threat to the environment? Do nuclear power plants serve the people best or destroy the nature best? Nuclear power plants are said to have drastic effects both good and bad for a country where it will be used for.Surely it will increase the supply of energy of each country; this will contribute more to the economic productivity of the served country. However, it is undeniable that there are still matters and factors to be further examined. We aim to briefly examine and present the major boons and banes of a nuclear power plant and its construction, to evaluate the positive and negative benefits of building a nuclear power plant, and to weigh what it could bring more to the people and the environment. We aim to know why developed and developing nations mull in opening power plants despite of the risks it brings.

More importantly we want everyone to have knowledge about the basic things about a nuclear power plant: what it is, how it works, its underlying effects, good or bad, and our recommendation for the problems it brings. Furthermore, this research will help us to prepare and see if our country, the Philippines, need such kind of power plant. Are we ready to open our potential power plants? Will we be ready? Are we aware of what it will cost us? Nuclear Power Plants A nuclear power plant, like any other power plant, is a facility used to provide electricity.However, it uses a nuclear reactor as heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator. These plants depend on the heat caused by controlled nuclear reactions, specifically nuclear fission, where one atom is made to split into two. There is a need for such kind of power plants to be housed in very strong steel and concrete to prevent the risks of radioactivity. Concrete liner is used to act as the very shield against radiation and to house the pressure vessel where the nuclear reaction happens.

This is then contained in a larger steel containment vessel, which served as a barrier to prevent leakage of radioactive gases or liquids.The final layer is an outer concrete building which should be strong enough to survive any kind of massive damage that may result to earthquakes and the like. The process of nuclear fission In Physics, a nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction wherein the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts. This may produce free neutrons and lighter nuclei, further producing photons. Natural fission of elements undergo extremely slowly, thus power plants require induced fission. Uranium-235 is the most common that allows the best results for induced fission. It splits immediately when a free neutron runs into it.Its nucleus easily absorbs free neutrons, thus making it unstable and splitting in the latter.

As soon as it splits into two lighter atoms, it also throws of two or three new neutrons, depending on the number of splits. This process happens in a very high speed, and in very large quantities, producing great amount of heat and radiation. For such fission to work successfully for a power plant, however, the uranium used must be tested and must have 2 to 3 percent more Uranium-235 otherwise the induced fission will either end or blow up.

Inside a nuclear power plantNuclear power plants controls the energy produced by the enriched uranium, and allow it to heat water to steam. This processed uranium is formed into pellets, 1 inch long, and are arranged into long rods, and further into bundles. The bundles are then submerged in water inside a pressure vessel, where water acts as a coolant. To control the rate of nuclear reaction, these rods are either raised, to absorb more neutrons and create more heat, or lowered to absorb fewer neutrons and create less heat. This acts as a very high-energy source of heat, which heats the water and turns it to steam, which is used to drive a turbine.

The turbine then spins a generator to produce power. In some nuclear power plants, a secondary heat exchanger is used to convert another loop of water to steam, which drives the turbine. The Boons of a Nuclear Power Plant Energy Until about 1800, the principal fuel was wood.

Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels are the major source of energy. When a fossil fuel is burned, atoms of hydrogen and carbon combine with oxygen atoms in air. Water and carbon dioxide are produced and heat is released, equivalent to about 1. 6 kilowatt-hours per kilogram or about 10 electron volts per atom of carbon.This amount of energy is typical of chemical reactions resulting from changes in the electronic structure of the atoms. A part of the energy released as heat keeps the adjacent fuel hot enough to keep the reaction going. In comparison, a nuclear fission reaction releases 10 million times the energy released in using fossil fuels. Nuclear energy is released when the fission of a heavy nucleus such as ?U is induced by the absorption of a neutron A fission of an atom produces about 200 MeV, or 3.

2 ? 10-11 J. The energy per fission is very large. In practical units, the fission of a 1 kg uranium-235 releases 18. 7 million kilowatt-hours as heat.The neutrons released from fission of one atom cause the fission of two more atoms, thereby releasing more additional neutrons and initiating a chain reaction, which results in continuous release of nuclear energy.

With just a few amount of nuclear material, it can sustain large energy demands for years. Economy Some regions are heavily reliant on nuclear reactors for electricity supplies. Nuclear reactors supply about 14 percent of the electricity in the western portion of the former USSR.

Other regions, such as northern Russia and western Ukraine, depend on the reactors for 25 to 50 percent of their electricity needs.These regions lack alternative sources of electricity and shutting down the reactors would require the construction of new electricity transmission lines and new power generators. Such a move would also impose severe economic hardship on a multitude of people who depend on the reactors for their livelihoods. In 1993, the United States Department of Energy estimated that such improvements to infrastructure would cost between $1. 3 billion and $14 billion, depending on a range of assumptions about economic growth and regional energy transfers.

In the former USSR, there is also a lack of a real market for electricity.The price of energy in the former USSR has been held at artificially low levels for decades, causing both individual consumers and commercial enterprises to use far more electricity than they would if they were being charged market rates. Shutting down reactors would result in dramatic rate increases if electricity prices were allowed to rise freely. Environment Due to the hazardous nature of the radioactive materials used in nuclear power, extreme care is observed in handling them at every part of the process, even up to disposal of wastes. Environmental and residential contamination is avoided as much as possible.

While nuclear power plants produce a lot of energy, it also actually forces the people to be more responsible for the environment. In contrast, conventional power plants let their by-products and other wastes released in the atmosphere through exhaust tower pipes, since its wastes such as carbon dioxide is nontoxic. However, in the long-term these nontoxic wastes will cause global warming as they are also greenhouse gases. Peace The typical conception about nuclear weapons is that they trigger war. Actually, as history proves, they end it. The last Axis country to surrender and signaled the end of WWII is Japan.

And it was because of nuclear weapons. In the last months of World War II (1939-1945), Allied forces urged Japan to surrender unconditionally or face “prompt and utter destruction. ” Japan refused. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Japan accepted the Allied terms of surrender on August 14. During the Cold War, the Soviet and American nuclear arsenals remained poised against one another in a delicate ‘balance of terror,’ a peacekeeping strategy built on the idea that the capacity to launch a retaliatory attack f unacceptable proportions was the best way to deter an enemy nuclear attack. An error in the management of Soviet-American deterrence might have ended human civilization. By the 1970s, each side possessed tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to exterminate the other’s society many times over.

As it turned out, the threat of devastating nuclear counterattack prevented either side from ever stepping onto a path toward superpower war. Due to the massive power of nuclear weapons, they invoke fear among everyone.This fear of annihilation and retaliation is what prompts countries to have peace agreements with each other. Advantage of Nuclear Power in the Philippines Due to continuing power shortages that plague the Philippines, nuclear power is now being considered as a solution.

Despite the location of the Philippines in the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire,’ there is still a site in the Philippines that is deemed safe for constructing nuclear power plant. Gilberto Teodoro said the establishment of a nuclear power plant on southern Mindanao should be looked at as a long-term program to prevent a recurring energy crisis.We have to discover and try to explore all options to include, wherever and whenever safe and feasible, the possible establishment of a nuclear power plant, particularly in southern Philippines. Gilberto Teodoro Teodoro emphasized nuclear power’s viability as a safe energy source. While he proposed the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Mindanao, he did not support plans to put on line the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was supposed to be the first nuclear plant in the Philippines but it was mothballed by the government of President Aquino due to safety considerations.The Banes of a Nuclear Power Plant Its Effects on Living Organisms Radiosensitivity is the relative susceptibility of cells, tissues, organs or organisms to the harmful effect of ionizing radiation. There is a wide range over which organisms are sensitive to the lethal effects of radiation. A general classification has been devised based on the interphase chromosome volume of sensitive cells. These and other results of experimental irradiations show mammals to be most sensitive, followed by birds, fish, reptiles, and insects.Plants show a wide range of sensitivity that generally overlaps that of animals.

Least sensitive to acute radiation exposures are mosses, lichens, algae and micro-organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Sensitivity of the organism to radiation depends on the life stage at exposure. Embryos and juvenile forms are more sensitive than adults. Fish embryos, for example, have been shown to be quite sensitive. The various developmental stages of insects are quite remarkable for the range of sensitivities they present.Overall, the available data indicate that the production of viable offspring through gametogenesis and reproduction is a more radiosensitive population attribute than the induction of individual mortality.

In the most sensitive plant species, the effects of chronic irradiation were noted at dose rates of 1000 to 3000 microgray per hour. It was suggested that chronic dose rates less than 400 microgray per hour (10 milligray per day) would have effects, although slight, in sensitive plants. They would be unlikely, however, to have significant deleterious effects in the wider range of plants present in natural plant communities.For the most sensitive animal species, mammals, there is little indication that dose rates of 400 microgray per hour to the most exposed individual would seriously affect mortality in the population. For dose rates up to an order of magnitude less (40-100 microgray per hour), the same statement could be made with respect to reproductive effects. For aquatic organisms, the general conclusion was that maximum dose rates of 400 microgray per hour to a small proportion of the individuals and, therefore, a lower average rate to the remaining organisms would not have any detrimental effects at the population level.

The radiation doses necessary to produce a significant deleterious effect are very difficult to estimate because of long-term recovery (including natural regeneration and the migration of individuals from surrounding areas that are less affected), compensatory behavior, and the many confounding factors present in natural plant and animal communities in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Cells are least sensitive when in the S phase, then the G1 phase, then G2 phase and the most sensitive in the M phase of the cell cycle.This is described by the law of Bergonie and Tribondeau, formulated in 1906. Therefore, tissues that produce at a rapid rate, such as bone marrow, blood-forming tissues and lymph nodes of animals, and germinating seeds, and meristematic parts of the plant, are most greatly damaged by radiation. It has been shown that the most sensitive cells are those that are undifferentiated, well nourished, divide quickly and are highly metabolically active. Amongst the body cells, the most sensitive are spermatogonia and erythroblasts, epidermal stem cells, and gastrointestinal stem cells.The damage of the cell can be lethal (the cell dies) or sublethal (the cell can repair itself).

The effects on cells can be, according to ICRP, deterministic and stochastic. Deterministic effects have a threshold of irradiation under which they do not appear and are the necessary consequence of irradiation. The damage they cause depends on the dose: they are sublethal from 0,25 to 2 Sv (a less pronounced form of disease), lethal from 2 to 5 Sv (a certain percent of population dies within 60 days), above 5 Sv the majority of people die within 60 days and above 6 to 7 all people die.Of course, these effects depend also on many other factors, like age, sex, health etc. Stochastic effects are coincidental and cannot be avoided. They don’t have a threshold. These can be divided into somatic and genetic.

Among the somatic effects, secondary cancer is the most important. It develops because radiation causes DNA mutations directly and indirectly. Direct effects are those caused by ionizing particles and rays themselves, while the indirect are those that are caused by free radicals, generated especially in water radiolysis and oxygen radiolysis.

The genetic effects confer the predisposition to cancer to the offspring. The process is not well understood. Radiation effects on humans Despite the harmful effects of nuclear radiation in nuclear power plants, it rarely affects humans because of safety measures implemented. These include building the plant in areas far from communities and safety structures of the plant. However, there were nuclear accidents that occurred in the past, affecting humans nearby especially the personnel assigned in the nuclear plant. Dose size and affected organs are the factors that determine the otential health effects of radiation exposure. The most important factor is the amount of energy actually deposited in the body.

Greater biological damage will result if more energy is absorbed by the cells. The amount of energy absorbed per gram of body tissue is usually measured in units called rads. Another unit of radiation is the rem, or roentgen equivalent in man. To convert rads to rems, the number of rads is multiplied by a number that reflects the potential for damage caused by a type of radiation. For beta, gamma and X-ray radiation, this number is generally one.For some neutrons, protons, or alpha particles, the number is twenty.

The second factor is the type of organ affected. At around 100 rems, blood’s lymphocyte cell count will be reduced, leaving the victim more susceptible to infection. This is called mild radiation sickness. Its symptoms are similar to that of flu. Symptoms may persist for up to ten years. There is also an increased risk for leukemia and lymphoma.

Survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have increased rate of cataract. Malignant tumors are also a harmful effect of nuclear radiation.Beginning in early 1946, scar tissue covering apparently healed burns began to swell and grow abnormally. Mounds of raised and twisted flesh, called keloids, were found in 50 to 60 percent of those burned by direct exposure to the heat rays within 1.

2 miles of the hypocenter. Keloids are believed to be related to the effects of radiation. As low as 200 rems, reproductive tract cells can be easily damaged because they divide rapidly. It may cause sterility.

At this same radiation level, hair loss is also possible. Radiation damage to the intestinal tract lining will cause nausea, bloody vomiting and diarrhea.Thyroid gland is susceptible to radioactive iodine.

In sufficient amounts, it can destroy the thyroid. This can be prevented by taking potassium iodide. At 1000 to 5000 rems, immediate damage may occur to small blood vessels and may cause heart failure and death. Long term effects on blood include leukemia and anemia. At 5000 rems, brain cells may get damaged which leads to seizure and immediate death. Recommendations and Solutions Nuclear plants are said to be able to supply base load power as opposed to renewable energy, which can supply only a fraction of the energy demand.We need to develop and expand geothermal to supply base load capacity in our energy mix as well as funding and developing energy-storage solutions that can compensate for the disadvantages of wind and solar power. The Malampaya Project October 2001 Shell as operator (45%), Chevron (45%), PNOC (10%) 3.

9 trillion cu. ft. (Tcf) of proven reserves Estimated 30-40 million barrels of recoverable oil deposits (to be bidded out) Other Alternative Energy Sources Solar: tropical country Wind: 7,400- 14,363 MW (DOST 70,000 MW) potential Geothermal: 2nd in world: 1931 MW – 3131 MW (estimated)Tidal Power, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal Energy, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Technologies Government’s grand mega-sale Expected foreign investments P177 billion potential investment in the renewable energy sector for 2004-2013 (60% of the P295 billion in investments) EPIRA IPPs SPUG SPEX in Malampaya 45 % Shell, 45 % ChevronTexaco 10% to be sold Governments must have strategic planning for sustained growth. Environmental factors and social costs must be considered.

Planning and decision-making should involve massive researches and consultations among the affected and overall area and population.This would help ensure the people’s control over energy resources and not the prioritization of profit maximization by of private entities. The government must also increase its funding for the continuous researches on the discovery of more sustainable ways of energy generation and on the improvement of the existing ones. It should also encourage other institutions such as schools and executive departments, non-government, non-profit organizations, educators and young scientists to join its pursuit for optimum energy sources without taking much of its possible risks.References”Agham. ” Free PDF Books, PDF Search Engine – Toodoc.

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