Science Nuclear Essay - the Benefits and Limitations of Nuclear Technology

Topics: Nuclear fission, Nuclear power, Sellafield Pages: 4 (1382 words) Published: April 18, 2008
Nuclear technology has been developing rapidly over the years since 1954, when the world’s first entirely functional nuclear power plant was built in Obninsk, Moscow. It has since, become an integral part of human life, existing in everyday applications like smoke detectors, deadly weaponry and an alternative source of renewable energy. The development of nuclear technology is considered as one of the most important, and significant scientific progresses made to date. However, many people around the globe insist that any further use of this technology should be stopped. These people believe that there are hidden dangers scientists may have overlooked, and that they may cause serious damage to human livelihood, wildlife and ultimately the world. So is nuclear energy an actual endangerment to us, or are we overreacting to the side effect of this technology? In this essay, the benefits and limitations of developing and using nuclear power will be analyzed, we shall find out if the benefits or limitations of nuclear technology outweigh the other.

Nuclear reactors use a very commonly found material as their main source for producing electricity, uranium. There are a few different uranium isotopes that exist on earth, with uranium-235 as the most powerful and uranium-238 as the most abundant. Uranium-235 is a very fissile material, which means that its atoms can be easily split apart by a neutron, releasing two lighter nuclei, three neutrons and some gamma radiation. Nuclear technology takes advantage of this effect (see diagram below). Rods of uranium act as fuel, and are placed in a reactor. A slow neutron is then sent towards a uranium nucleus, with results in an unstable nucleus of uranium-236. This splits up, and the three extra neutrons split other nearby uranium nuclei up, causing a chain reaction. This reaction, if uncontrolled will cause a nuclear explosion, releasing massive amounts of heat and radiation. Therefore, control rods made of cadmium or boron...

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