A Global Need, a Global Resource Nuclear Power and the New Millennium: In Contrast to the 25 Billion Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emitted into the Atmosphere Each Year as Fossil Fuel Waste, the Spent Fuel Produced Yearly from All the World's Reactors Would Fit Inside a Two-Story Structure Built on a Basketball Court

By Baird, Stephen L. | The Technology Teacher, October 2004 | Go to article overview

A Global Need, a Global Resource Nuclear Power and the New Millennium: In Contrast to the 25 Billion Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emitted into the Atmosphere Each Year as Fossil Fuel Waste, the Spent Fuel Produced Yearly from All the World's Reactors Would Fit Inside a Two-Story Structure Built on a Basketball Court


Baird, Stephen L., The Technology Teacher


The technological literacy standards were developed to act as a beacon for educators to guide them in their quest to develop a population of technically literate citizens who possess the skills, abilities, and knowledge necessary to actively and constructively participate in the democratic, technologically dependent society of the United States. Chapter Four of Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (ITEA, 2000, 2002) illuminates the necessity for developing students' abilities to construct an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology. Attaining this understanding will enable students to make responsible, informed decisions about the development and use of technological advancements (ITEA, 2000, 2002). Nowhere will those decisions have the potential to affect every aspect of future technological development, the world's population, and the well-being of our planet's environment, than in decisions pertaining to energy technologies and the world's increasing need for it. Energy is essential for sustainable development. If concerns for the environment, continued economic growth, and our finite resources are sincere, then a rational, objective reevaluation for the increased use of nuclear power needs to be undertaken. The development of nuclear power, both fission and fusion, has the potential to meet the world's energy needs in a responsible manner, promoting conservation of natural resources and sustainable economic growth not only in the United States but also on a global scale.

Nuclear Power Today

At the present time, nuclear power generates 16% (about one sixth) of the world's electricity. There are 440 nuclear power plants operating in 31 countries. Most operating nuclear power plants are in Western Europe and North America, but most new plants under construction are in Asia. Although the construction of new nuclear power plants in Western Europe and North America has virtually halted, existing plants around the world have become more productive, adding new generating capacity without new plant construction. Twenty-two of the last 31 nuclear power plants connected to the world's electricity grid have been built in Asia, driven by the pressures of economic growth, natural resource scarcity, and increasing populations (NEI, 2004).

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the United States has the most operating nuclear power plants, with 103, the second Largest source of electricity in the United States, supplying about 20 percent of the nation's electricity each year. Lithuania generates 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest of any country. France comes in second, generating 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants.

Figure 1 shows the top ten countries utilizing nuclear power for their electrical needs. Nuclear power is mostly utilized in industrialized countries, which have the necessary technological, institutional, and financial resources. Only 39 of the world's 440 nuclear power plants are in developing countries, and because they are smaller than average, they account for only 5.6 percent of the world's nuclear power capacity (NEI, 2004). Today, a growing demand for affordable, reliable, and emission-free electricity is renewing worldwide interest in nuclear energy.

Figure 1. The numerical ranking of the top ten countries by their number of operating reactors and by the percentage of electricity supplied by those reactors shows that most nuclear reactors are in Europe. It is significant to note that the United States has the largest number of operating reactors but does not rank in the top 10 as a percentage of energy generated.

(Source: International Atomic Energy Agency)

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

A Global Need

According to U. S. Census Bureau estimates, world population hit the six billion mark in June 1999. This figure is over 3. …

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A Global Need, a Global Resource Nuclear Power and the New Millennium: In Contrast to the 25 Billion Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emitted into the Atmosphere Each Year as Fossil Fuel Waste, the Spent Fuel Produced Yearly from All the World's Reactors Would Fit Inside a Two-Story Structure Built on a Basketball Court
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