Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Nuclear Debate

Nuclear power is an increasingly important source of energy, accounting for over 20% of the UK's energy. Nuclear power uses heat obtained from uranium or plutonium atoms which are split. Water or gases (such as carbon dioxide) are used as a cooling system around the core. Steam is produced by heat created from the reactor and this steam is used to turn the turbines which in turn are used to generate electricity.

Nuclear Power in the UK
There are now about 20 nuclear power stations in the UK, including Sizewell (nr Dunwich - Suffolk Coast).

Where are nuclear power stations located and why?
Nuclear power stations tend to be located close to the coast because...

  • - they are remote and away from centers of population (due to the possible dangers which can be associated with nuclear power
  • - large quantities of water are required for the cooling process
  • - uranium is imported
  • - power stations need deep foundations
Nuclear power is still a controversial energy source and it is important that you are able to debate the fors and against of nuclear power.

What are the advantages of Nuclear power?
  • - only a small amount of uranium is required to produce very large amounts of energy
  • - nuclear power is a clean energy source - no toxic gases are released
  • - uranium is cheap and easily available
  • - it is a cheaper energy source than fossil fuels
  • - large reserves of uranium are available
What are the disadvantages of Nuclear power?
  • - problems associated with disposing of nuclear waste (remains a danger for a long time - thousands of years)
  • - although uranium is cheap, the power stations themselves are expensive to build in the first place (Sizewell - 1.5 billion pounds)
  • - whilst staff are highly trained there is potential danger - e.g. the Chernobyl disaster (Ukraine, 1986)
  • - it is expensive and difficult to make old power stations safe
  • - nuclear power stations are restricted in possible locations (must be on firm, stable land - usually away from large centres of population for safety).


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