Nuclear Energy vs. Geothermal Energy

Topics: Nuclear power, Radioactive waste, Nuclear fission Pages: 5 (1565 words) Published: March 22, 2011
The future of the human race largely depends on the advancement in efficient, clean, high out-put energy production. As a civilization we need not focus on what the past has held for energy production but rather what the present and future hold for us. Two key options are the long lasting, high out-put but environmentally hazardous option which is nuclear fission (nuclear power) and the safe but potential ground water contamination hazard which is geothermal energy. This paper will point out strictly fact based information on both forms of energy and which one shows the most potential as the dominate energy producer for the United States. Nuclear energy was first discovered by a French man named Henri Becquerel in 1896. “He found that photographic plates stored in the dark near uranium were blackened like X-ray plates, which had been just recently discovered at the time” (Our-Energy). Energy from a nuclear reactor is created when water is boiled from a uranium rod and the steam then turns a steam turbine or by pressurizing water.

“Nuclear power can come from the fission or uranium, plutonium or thorium or the fusion of hydrogen into helium. Today it is almost all uranium. The basic energy fact is that the fission of an atom of uranium produces 10 million times the energy produced by the combustion of an atom of carbon from coal” (Our-Energy). Essentially nuclear energy is a conversion of mass into energy, Albert Einstein’s famous equation best describes this event, E=mc2. This event occurs when the atom is split or the nucleus is forced into other nuclei of other atoms. The sun’s type of nuclear power is nuclear fusion; this event is occurs when hydrogen atoms fuse into helium atoms. Since the driving force for nuclear reactors is steam, there is virtually zero harmful pollutants put into Earth's atmosphere. “Nuclear power is the only industry which takes full responsibility for all its wastes, and costs this into the product” in the United States (Our-Energy).

“France, in contrast, now reprocesses well over 1000 metric tons of spent fuel every year without incident at the La Hague chemical complex, at the head of Normandy’s wind-blasted Cotentin peninsula. La Hague receives all the spent fuel rods from France’s 59 reactors. The sprawling facility, operated by the state-controlled nuclear giant Areva, has racked up a good, if not unblemished, environmental record” (Nuclear Waste-land). Reprocessing is part of the nuclear energy industry jargon for recycling the spent nuclear fuel rod; in fact France actually can reprocess, or recycle, 97% of their spent fuel rods leaving behind a nickel size of waste to be stored away. “France’s experience suggests that reprocessing as done now is not ready to catalyze a full-blown nuclear renaissance” (Nuclear Waste-land). The problem being faced now is recycling 100% of the spent fuel rods. France has entertained the idea of having fully commercial breeder reactors which can break down all depleted uranium, but they have yet to succeed.

“The United States now claims to have a way of eliminating reprocessing’s other major liability: the risk of spreading a supply of raw materials for bomb making. The United States officially banned reprocessing of spent fuel for power reactors in 1977, during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who feared that proliferation of reprocessing technology would make it too easy for wayward nations or even terrorist groups to obtain the raw material for bombs” (Nuclear Waste-land). The U.S. Department of Energy engineers have developed a way that they claim is more resistant to terrorist, thereby calming concerns about nuclear security and proliferation (NRC). This is a good sign for the nuclear industry in the United States, because it shows the demand for this type of energy is growing and the benefits of nuclear energy are now being given a new life. Much of the hesitation within the United States for stepping forward with...
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