Why Technical English

Are you afraid of nuclear energy? | May 31, 2009

By Martin Wolny

I selected this topic because I always wanted to know something about nuclear technologies, nuclear energy and its application in modern equipment such as power plants and submarines. Many people are afraid of Temelín and nuclear power plants as they still brightly remember the explosion in the Russian nuclear power station in Chernobyl and the consequences that have had an impact on east European nations to this day. People all around the world wouldn’t be so afraid of nuclear energy.

The fuel for nuclear fission is a special isotope of metal uranium called U-235, which has 235 nucleons in its core. When a neutron hits such an atom of uranium, it splits the atom into two smaller ones. Within this process, two or three neutrons “fly” speedily out of the dissociated nucleus, dissociate other atoms and unleash more neutrons and energy from their cores. Thus the procedure goes on. This is how the chain reaction works.

And how does it all work in a nuclear power plant? The reactor, wherein the chain reaction runs, is cooled by cold water. The water flows through the pile, vaporizes into steam and then reels the turbine that drives the generator. After that the steam condenses and as water flows back into the reactor’s core. Adjusting rods, which are mostly manufactured out of cadmium or boron, regulate the speed of the nuclear reaction.

The greatest advantage is that electric current generated by nuclear reaction is extremely effective. Up to now, there has been no more efficient way discovered. One kilogram of dissociated uranium unleashes the amount of energy equal energy acquired by burning 25 tons of top black coal. Just imagine that! It’s 25,000 times more! Not to mention the devastated landscape and highly polluted air after coal mining. Another advantage, which is perhaps just plain fact, is that there’s still enough uranium to use. As we all know, the resources of both black and brown coal are decreasing and soon, all of the mines will be exhausted. And regrettably, there aren’t many places where you could effectively utilize solar energy, geothermal energy, waterpower or airpower. All the same, the effectiveness of such resources of power is relatively insufficient. So for the time being, the nuclear power plants are the only usable solution. Nor is the fact that nuclear power stations do not pollute air and produce minimum of unwanted spillover products in contradistinction to other power facilities omissible.

An average nuclear power plant produces just some 60 kilograms of highly radioactive toxic waste per year. Which is, on the other hand, rather disadvantageous. In fact, that’s a big problem. Approximately 2 per cent of these materials, such as plutonium, are frightfully dangerous substances. They need up to 1000 years to decompose, so that they aren’t radioactive and don’t ruin our health (by the way, if you inhale just one-millionth gram of plutonium, you are taken ill with cancer). The only available and reasonable solution is to store this fall-out in highly secured places. The last important negative is that despite thorough protection against radioactivity from the uranium used in a reactor, the small amount of radiance still gets out from a power plant. But since this radiance represents less than one-hundredth part of the natural sources of radioactivity such as minerals or rocks, this emission is completely imponderable.

I myself am for nuclear power plants because they are very efficient and they have almost no effect on the environment. Even though the running of them can be quite dangerous in a way, it’s still the only solution for generating a sufficient amount of electric energy after we have exploited all stocks of coal, petroleum and natural gas.

NOTE: We study English discussing current technical issues. Join us! Just answer the question: Are you afraid of nuclear energy? G. Vitkova



  1. V současné době jsou jaderná zařízení typu jaderných elektráren budována technologicky jako zařízení nesmírně bezpečná. Havarie typu Černobylu jak víme způsobila lidská chyba operátorů elektrárny.
    Předpokládám, že jak instrukce, provozní pravidla pro operátory elektáren jsou jistě daleko více propracovány nežli tomu bylo dříve.
    Navíc i dnešní systémy automatické kontroly a řízení jaderného bloku chybu operátorů prostě nepřipustí.
    Pokud se máme nějakých jederných zařízení bát, tak jsou to zařízení vojenská. Na světě je skladováno jen atomových a vodíkových bomb více jako šet tisíc . A řízení a použití těchto zbraní se nalézá v lidských rukou, kteří mají v palici zakódovaný reflex válčení. A právě u nich může dojít k lidské chybě přirozhodování, zda zaútočit jadernou zbraní či ne. Je to i otázka možnosti, že se bomby zmocní teroristé a někde ji odpálí.
    Takže lidstvo od jaderných elektráren nevyhyne, ale může se tak stát v důsledků jaderných zbraní.

    Comment by Vitold Vítek — June 11, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  2. […] Developing-country governments are less likely to care whether the public support of nuclear power. China has 11 nuclear-power reactors already and plans another 20. Companies from the rich world – such as France’s Areva and America’s GE – will find it far easier to build nuclear power plants in the developing countries than at home. Nonetheless, steps must be taken to ensure that less-developed nations run their reactors safely. Last year France created an agency to help newcomers design nuclear laws and set up independent regulators. Unfortunately, there is an irresistible shortage of qualified nuclear engineers, after the three-decade pause in building new plants (see also Are you afraid of nuclear energy? ). […]

    Pingback by Nuclear power revival « Why Technical English — September 30, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  3. […] Are you afraid of nuclear energy? […]

    Pingback by Changing the theme of this blog « Why Technical English — August 26, 2010 @ 9:27 am

  4. I just book marked your blog on Digg and StumbleUpon.I enjoy reading your commentaries.

    Comment by Oregege — November 17, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

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