The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy

By Beckrich, Amanda | The Science Teacher, March 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy


Beckrich, Amanda, The Science Teacher


March 2013, Making Your Teaching More Environmentally Friendly

Most power plants today burn coal, oil, or natural gas to heat water into steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity. An alternative to burning these fossil fuels is nuclear energy. Nothing is burned to create nuclear energy, so no harmful emissions vent into the atmosphere. Nuclear power comes from nuclear fission in which atomic nuclei are split to release energy. According to the Department of Energy, nuclear energy accounts for about 20% of our electricity production (see "On the web"). For more on the subject, see the students' corner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website and peruse images of a nuclear power plant on the How Stuff Works website (see "On the web").

Nuclear energy has its drawbacks. As the fuel (fissionable uranium, [.sup.235]U) in the rods of a typical nuclear reactor decays, the concentrations of other dangerous radioisotopes rises (Botkin and Keller 2011). Long-term storage of these radioactive waste products, including isotopes of plutonium, iodine, and strontium, is a main concern with nuclear energy, as is safe operation of nuclear power plants. This came into sharp focus in 2011, when a tsunami disabled the cooling systems of three nuclear reactors in Japan, causing their cores to melt, releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere and ocean. Although no deaths or cases of radiation sickness have been reported, over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes as a precaution. Updates on the Fukushima Daiichi accident are available from the World Nuclear Association (see "On the web").

Classroom activities

Nuclear energy--incorporating physics, chemistry, biology, and environmental science--is a great topic for all high school science classrooms. The U.S. Department of Energy's Teachers' Lounge offers plenty of activities (see "On the web"). The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission provides six classroom activities ranging from having students determine different items' radioactivity using a Geiger counter to identifying/labeling the parts of a nuclear reactor (see "On the web"). The Environmental Literacy Council and NSTA created a resource with activities about radiation and radioactive waste basics (Environmental Literacy Council and NSTA 2007). Finally, from the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project comes the fabulous resource Energy From Uranium and Exploring Nuclear Energy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?