Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Hello everybody, today I am not going to talk about weather. Instead, I am going to talk about nuclear power. The fission and fusion of atoms can cause massive destruction. If I remember right, the largest hydrogen bomb, the Tsar Bomba, which was detonated by the Russians in 1961, had the power equivalent to 58 million tons of T.N.T. Even harder to believe, it was a SCALED DOWN version of a bomb that originally had the explosive power of 100 million tons of T.N.T. As is, the bomb could incinerate the whole country of England. It was around 4,000 times bigger than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Thankfully, apart from the two that ended World War II (I won’t discuss politics here), none of these bombs have ever been detonated as an act of unprovoked warfare. However, there was considerable scare in the Cold War, when bigger and bigger bombs were being built. And as you can see, there is good reason why. When we discovered Russian missle silos over Cuba, we came as close as we have ever been to a thermonuclear war (thermonuclear bombs, ones involving the fusion of Hydrogen into Helium (like the Tsar Bomba), are vastly more powerful than the fission bombs which break apart Uranium and Plutonium atoms that were seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So in this way, atomic energy can be our worst nightmare.
Some nuclear bomb test (don't know the name)
Tsar Bomba video. Camera sucks, but look at the expanding shockwaves!
Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)
But atomic energy can also make our dreams of reliable, clean power for everybody come true. I have believed, and still believe, even with all these nuclear crises in Japan, that nuclear power is the way to go if we are going to stop global warming with coal and create clean, cost-effective amounts of energy without destroying the environment like hydroelectricity, wind power, and solar power (not to mention the unreliable nature of them). Nuclear energy has one of the lowest accident rates of ANY industry and has gotten much, MUCH safer. Of course, you shouldn't put nuclear power plants in areas that are prone to natural disasters (as we have recently found out), but still, nuclear energy is clean, reliable, and efficient. When we implement it correctly, nuclear energy is a tremendous gift. I believe it is the only feasible solution to combat global warming and ultimately save our planet.
Let me first explain how nuclear power works. This is a very simplified version, but basically there are fuel rods of Uranium enriched with Uranium 235 which is best for fission. A controlled reaction of fission takes place, and temperatures are cooled by using water. This is the most important part, because if there is no cooling agent, the rods melt and you get a nuclear meltdown. Then, this heat goes to water and creates steam, which then powers turbines. This is what generates prodigal amounts of electricity. Finally, the steam cools in the classic cooling towers you associate with nuclear power plants. Here is a picture of a power plant
Look at all that steam!
As you can see, nuclear fuel generates a tremendous amount of energy. And the amount of fuel used to generate this type of power is tiny compared to coal power plants and hydroelectric dams. And forget about wind and solar power.
However, as we have witnessed with the situation in Japan, there are dangers to nuclear power. First, there was Three Mile Island. Then, the biggest explosion came in 1986, with Chernobyl, killing several thousand people from radiation sickness and causing fallout over a wide area. Now there is the situation in Japan. Nuclear energy used to be very unsafe. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were not provoked by a natural disaster. Japan has just gotten hit by a 8.9-9.0 (depending on if you trust the U.S. or Japan) earthquake with a resulting tsunami. This will completely devastate even the most "indestructible" structures.
So there is much to be learned from this. Nuclear power is still the key to our future. But we need to protect our nuclear power plants. We need to put them in places that aren't prone to natural disasters. The Great Plains would be a "great" place for these plants. The only thing they really get are severe thunderstorms, and these nuclear plants are built like a tank. They will survive even the strongest tornado. And they can be shut down in advance if severe thunderstorms are forecast.
But putting them on earthquake fault zones? Not a good idea. There is no way to predict when a 9.0 earthquake will strike. And when it does, nuclear plants will be running, the cooling systems will get damaged, and you will have a meltdown.
But if we can find SAFE places to build these plants, away from places with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and other events that are hard or impossible to predict, we should build power plants. Coal energy is what will really kill us in the end.
Strangely enough, many environmental groups strongly oppose nuclear energy. But hear me out on this one. I'm a very environmentally-minded guy. Nuclear power is THE cleanest type of power. If we want to save our planet from a much worse fate, we need to invest all of our resources in clean energy.
If anybody that has been affected by the recent events is offended by this article, I am sorry. This is just my opinion. It seems obvious to me that we need nuclear power, but I am just one person, and these events in Japan have affected many people and given us doubts about it. These are just my thoughts and there is no right or wrong in this scenario, and the situation with the plants in Japan is tragic. I wish the Japan the very best in recovering from this tragic natural disaster.
Thanks for reading,