Case study: The Power of the Atom
Atom not so scary? What are the prospects and opportunities for the development of nuclear energy in the world in the face of climate change? Nuclear power plants, as a way of generating electricity, began to rapidly lose their popularity after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The failure of the power plant reactor in Japan's Fukushima (2011) completed the work and eventually plunged nuclear power. However, the world leaders, as well as the public opinion itself, in countries where nuclear power plants play an important role are divided on this issue. Nuclear power plants raise many concerns. Their action and the threat associated with failures have even become mythical, and around the topic arose a lot of so-called fake news, which do not favor this technology, because they create a climate of fear, threat and social resistance.
Recommended for: secondary schools 16+, university students, adult learners
Tags: nuclear energy, environment safety, cost of energy, sustainable energy
This building block analyses a very popular debate on the impact of nuclear power plants on the environment. The environment we live in for decades has been regularly polluted by human activity - it began with the industrial revolution in England in the 18th century, and then throughout Europe, and in the second half of the 20th century, spread almost all over the world. In recent years, the actions of governments of many countries and various organizations are aimed at fixing this state of affairs. Various decisions and undertakings are made to reduce environmental pollution and reduce the emission of adverse substances from various areas of the economy, industry and everyday life of people. In the case of nuclear power plants, no greenhouse gases are produced, no pollutants are released into the atmosphere, and the waste generated during energy production is stored in safe places and under strict control. Nuclear power plants do not emit harmful dust, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, greenhouse gases or heavy metals. But maybe they produce other harmful substances that adversely affect the environment? And what about the fact that you can often see large clouds of smoke rising from the chimneys of nuclear power plants? Is this not harmful to the environment? Completing this block will help students discover facts, understand the factors that influence their opinions, and make an informed assessment for themselves.
In our world today, man produces a lot of different waste. It is primarily associated with the consumer lifestyle of people, especially those living in the rich, highly developed countries of Europe and North America. For some time, we have been increasingly aware of this and we are trying to take different activities to reduce the amount of waste in our lives, and everything that can be recycled. In the case of nuclear power plants, it turns out that 96% of plant waste can be recyclable. The remaining 4%, which cannot be recycled, are protected in special silos put deep underground. But how can we know for certain whether so much waste from power plants is recycled? And over time, what happens to the waste that is secured deep underground? Is it really safe for the environment and for man?
We have been spoken about radioactive radiation practically since the days of Maria Skłodowska-Curie and her husband, Piotr Cuire, who developed the theory of radioactivity, the techniques of radioactive isotope separation and discovered two new radioactive elements - polonium and radium. With time, their achievements began to be used in many fields of energy, medicine, science, technology and industry, as well as in archeology and art. Today, one of the most common ways to use nuclear radiation is the treatment of cancer. Thus, nuclear radiation has many advantages. But like everything in our lives, it also has its drawbacks. And these disadvantages are usually the most feared by man. So is a nuclear power plant emitting harmful radiation into the environment? Does it threaten man and his health? Is it possible to study the level of radiation generated by a nuclear power plant? Does the nuclear power plant need to have safeguards installed that allow it to work in it, as well as to live near it? How much radiation do we receive every year from other sources closer to us, such as radiation from the ground, radiation from medical procedures, such as ordinary x-ray of the tooth? If you want to learn the truths and myths on this topic, read the materials contained in this building block.
We have recently seen a steady increase in energy prices. For the ordinary Kowalski or Smith this expenditure in the household budget is becoming more and more noticeable. However, not only direct costs of energy that we consume at home are felt for our wallet. Currently the energy is needed for everything - it is needed to produce food, to illuminate the store where we buy this food, to illuminate roads and streets, to enable the use of various devices, to run electric cars so fashionable lately and for many, many other purposes. And all this comes with the costs we incur every day - directly or indirectly. So, the energy costs are very important for the economy and for the ordinary person. It is therefore important that they are as low as possible. But where to get such cheap energy? From conventional power plants, coal power plants, hydroelectric power plants, wind or from nuclear power plants? Or maybe solar panels? Which energy source is the most profitable? Which source produces the cheapest energy? Is there such a thing as "cheap energy"? And is it enough for all people on the Earth? What costs should be taken into account (costs of building the plant and putting it into operation, operating costs, operating costs) in order to objectively assess which energy source is the most profitable for a person and for the whole economy? If you want to find the answers to these questions, read the materials below.
From the history of our humanity, we know mostly two atomic bomb explosions that occurred during the 2nd World War in Japan. The enormity of destruction, human death and misery was so great that any probability of repetition of those events fills us with fear. None of us wanted to experience it now. Is a nuclear reactor as so dangerous as a nuclear weapon? Is the principle of its operation the same or different as the operation of nuclear weapons? According to scientists, in the reactor of the power plant the process of uranium isotope fission is slow, controlled and limited, while nuclear weapon breaks suddenly and uncontrollably. In addition, the content of fissile uranium in the energy reactor is from 3 to 5 percent, and in nuclear weapon 90 percent. So, do we have to be afraid of a nuclear power plant as much as an atomic bomb? Does a nuclear reactor carry the same danger as an atomic bomb? Completing this building block will help students discover the facts on this topic.
Everyone in Europe remembers a number of terrorist attacks that took place several years ago in several European countries. All the time terrorist attacks occur from time to time in various countries around the world. Their direct goals are either defenseless people on the street, public buildings, airports or objects important for the economy. The reasons guided by terrorists are also different, but innocent people always die in them. One wonders whether a nuclear power plant could become a terrorist attack? Probably. This cannot be ruled out. All the more so the consequences of such an attack could be huge. But what is the probability that there will be a successful terrorist attack on the nuclear power plant? You have to check it out. The materials prepared in this building block will help in this.
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