Recently, a client of mine bought real estate near Donald C. Cook Nuclear Generating Station, which is in Bridgman Michigan. Although, the property is six miles north of the nuclear power plant, the buyer decided that it was not an issue and bought the place. The property sits in a beautiful wooded area overlooking Lake Michigan with a cozy ranch, mile long driveway, and old hardwood trees. One would never notice there is a nuclear power plant down the street when sitting by the pond skipping stones across a quiet serene boutique farm and vineyard. This property also sits in Cook's emergency zone located on an evacuation map on their website. Taking a look at the brochure and website of Cook's nuclear station, one would be amazed to see all the precautionary steps taken to protect the nuclear reactor that is enclosed in a 3 ½ ft thick concrete wall reinforced with three layers of steel rebar in a reactor house that is heavily guarded by security personal with guns www.cookinfo.com). The brochure even includes an explanation of the not so foreseeable disaster if a plane crashed into the reactor house and how there is “very few combustible material to fuel a fire” (www.cookinfo.com). Nonetheless, it is a nuclear power plant, but what are the pros and cons of using them to power the nation? Is there better energy sources out there like the sun or water? What about the locations of nuclear plants?
Most electricity in the US is produced using sources such as nuclear energy, burning coal, or natural gas, which electric power plants use for heat to make steam that spin turbines under pressure. The spinning turbines interact with a system of magnets that produce electricity that then reaches our homes by electrons moving through wires (www.differentsourcesofelectricity.com). The US gets 20% of it's electricity from nuclear power plants, 50% from burning coal, 18% from natural gas, 7% from hydroelectric, and about 2.3% from wind power and solar energy (www.differentsourcesofelectricity.com). Burning coal causes the most pollution along with the most carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions than any other fossil fuel (www.naturalgas.org). Hydroelectricity, solar energy, and wind power are considered renewable sources of energy and produce very little CO2 if at all. Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission fueled by uranium. There are several different estimates of the amount of this metal on the planet that is usable for nuclear power plants. According to World Nuclear Association (WNA), uranium is more common than previously thought and is found in rocks and seawater that is “economically recoverable” (www.world-nuclear.org). In fact, the WNA argues that the world's reserves of uranium increased 15% in 2007 due to mineral exploration (www.world-nuclear.org). However, other sources state we will use our entire uranium resource world supply in 30-60 years if we continue at the rate of consumption presently (www.timeforchange.org). Exploration of resources and the rate of uranium consumption will be important in any developmental plan of nuclear power plants.
Nuclear power plants use pellets of uranium inside rods as fuel for the nuclear reactions going on inside the nuclear reactor. These chain reactions are made by using neutron particles to split uranium atoms thus freeing neutrons, which creates more split uranium atoms with more free neutrons and the process is repeated (www.eia.doe.gov). Energy in the form of heat is created when atoms split and is used in a process known as the Rankine Cycle, which is converting heat into “mechanical work” and thus spins turbines to produce electricity (www.technologystudent.com). The reaction creates so much heat that the reactor has to be submerged in water to cool it down and only taking it out of the reactor water when it needs to be heated again (www.technologystudent.com). There are several advantages of using nuclear power. Nuclear power stations do not burn anything to create...
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