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Definition: Nuclear energy
Nuclear energy is the outcome of the reaction of atomic nuclei.
In the center of an atom is a very dense area where nucleons = protons + neutrons exist. They make up almost all of the mass.
Singular: nucleus - plural: nuclei
The nucleus was discovered 1911 by Ernest Rutherford.
nuclear - nuclear energy - nuclear plant - nucleus - nuclei - nuclear reactor - radiation
||There is a very strong force that keeps nuclei together.
It is called the residual strong force or nuclear force.
What happens in a nuclear reaction?
A nucleus hits another nucleus - or a nucleus is hit by an outside neutron.
The outcome are new different particles.
Nuclear reactions are natural since the beginning.
Natural radiation comes from space and is called cosmic radiation where cosmic rays are interacting with matter all the time.
From space we get positively charged particles, and gamma radiation. At sea level, the average cosmic radiation dose is about 26 mrem per year. When you climb up a mountain, you will get a higher dose of radiation, even more when you fly in an airplane.
Earth's atmosphere shields cosmic rays decreasing the dose / amount.
The earth's crust also emits radiation, called terrestrial radiation.
And the human body is a source, called internal radiation.
Earth's most important nuclear fusion reactor is our sun which sends its solar energy to us.
Without this nuclear fusion life on Earth - as we know it - wouldn't be possible!
Humans found a way to start nuclear reactions artificially to obtain nuclear energy.
A men-controlled nuclear chain reaction is called nuclear fission.
A nuclear reactor is designed to maintain a chain reaction producing a steady flow of neutrons generated by the fission of heavy nuclei.
Based on Einstein's mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc², humans can calculate the amount of produced atomic energy.
But the use of safe nuclear fission relies on many technical + human factors. If one of these factors fails, the use of nuclear fission can become very dangerous.
PROBLEMS: Humans make mistakes + humans try to optimize profit, while reducing safety standards.
The Japanese nuclear disaster was mainly caused by human error and corporate greed.
In the US radioactive tritium has leaked from many commercial nuclear power sites. Reason: Human error and corporate greed. Groundwater and aquifers are contaminated causing cancer in humans from drinking water. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen. At least 38 nuclear plants dumped contaminated liquids with concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard.
Another big problem: We still have no safe storage for nuclear waste!! We put this burden on the shoulders of our children!
Radiation can be harmful to life, to our natural environment.
When energetic particles or energy or waves travel through a medium or space, its called radiation or ionizing radiation.
When an electron is broken out of its electron shell, the atom has a net positive charge. All cells are made of atoms. Changed atoms can result in cancer. There are huge amounts of atoms in each cells, so the amount of changed atoms depends on the dose rate of radiation. The higher the dose the higher the risk. Some organism have a high sensitivity, other a very low sensitivity. We know of insects, who are highly radioactive, but live a normal life.
Today doctors fight cancer implanting radioactive material next to the cancer spot, killing the cancer slowly.
There are different kind of rays. Radiation penetrates different material differently.
TV's, older luminous dial watches, some smoke detectors, x-ray machines, emit radiation.
And the waste produced by coal fired power plants is radioactive. Fly ash emitted by a power plant producing electricity contaminates the surrounding air, water and land with radiation and other toxins.
In the past atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons has contaminated the air and the land worldwide.
This is a Geiger counter, an instrument that measures radiation.
How is Radiation measured?
Roentgen (R) is a unit used to measure a quantity called exposure, but only for deposition of gamma and x rays in the air and states the ionizations of the molecules in a mass of air. The roentgen measures the energy produced by gamma radiation in a cubic centimeter of air. One roentgen is equal to depositing in dry air enough energy to cause 2.58E-4 coulombs per kg.
Radiation Absorbed Dose (Rad) is a unit used to measure a quantity called absorbed dose, and is used because every material has a different absorption rate. It is used for any type of radiation and any material. One rad is the absorption of 100 ergs per gram of material. One roentgen of gamma radiation exposure results in about one rad of absorbed dose. Biological effects of different radiations cannot be explained.
Roentgen Equivalent Man (Rem) is a unit used to derive a quantity called equivalent dose. This relates the absorbed dose in human tissue to the effective biological damage of the radiation. Different radiation has different biological effects, even for the same amount of absorbed dose. Rem is often used, mrem is a thousandths of a rem. For gamma rays and beta particles, 1 rad of exposure results in 1 rem of dose.
Curie (Ci) is a unit used to measure a radioactivity. One curie is the number of particles per second from 1 gram of Radium = 3.7 x 10 E10 counts/second = 37 billion cps. = 37 billion Becquerel. Radioactivity is measured in thousandths (mCi), one millionths (uCi) or even billionths (nCi) of a curie.
Decades ago, a terrible accident happened in Chernobyl, resulting in very harmful radiation to all surrounding life. A meltdown of the nuclear reactor of Chernobyl caused billions in damage with radiation exposure exceeding 100 mrads/h (0.1mrem/hr or 0.001mSv/hr. A big area was highly contaminated, people lost their homes, got different kinds of cancer, many died.
For a while the world has looked at Japan, where several nuclear reactors face a similar catastrophe. Humans in Japan, but also around Earth are endangered!
What did we learn from this catastrophe? What are the consequences?
Radioactive air contamination is not the only danger for life on Earth.
Air travels around Earth, carbon dioxide travels around Earth!
This Graphic from NASA shows the changes in carbon dioxide levels CO2
1) Air can be polluted in very different, but it moves freely, does not stop on local borders
2) Changing environments are changing our climate
3) Contaminated water moves around the globe
4) Earth's food supply can be contaminated by radiation locally, but nuclear contamination is transported to many countries
5) Radioactive pollution does not stop on political borders
There is a strong need for people to work together on an international level + a strong need for the individual human to understand the problems and to take action!
Earth weather is changed by
Global Dimming is caused by air pollution particles in the air reducing sunlight.
+ NASA +
NOAA CO2 Trends
IPCC Third Assessment Report
Carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere
Atmosphere, Climate & Environment
Early seasons: Nature Reports Climate Change
We know that Nature will survive without humans
but humans will not survive without Nature!
Renewable energy helps to produce less air pollution = less radiation = less water contamination!
Earth at night - light pollution = radiation = energy waste = air pollution
because most of our electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels = coal
or by failing nuclear power plants.
Protect Earth with renewable energy
Use geothermal energy to reduce the usage of fossil fuels
Environmental fact: Radiation
Environmental fact: Energy production rising
Environmental fact: water contamination rising
Environmental fact: air pollution rising
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