Nuclear power

Content index:


Basics of Radioactivity

There are stable and unstable isotopes of various elements:

Nature of spontaneous versus forced decay, half lives ( 1 to 1/2 to 1/ to 1/8 to 1/16 to .....).

Image of damage (fission ) tracks left in surrounding mineral from a Uranium rich inclusion. In the same way radiation causes damage in biologic tissues, including mutations. Image source: http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/other/uranium/

Forced versus spontaneous decay and nuclear power:

Image of small research reactor core that the USGS operates outside of Denver - more information and image source: http://geology.cr.usgs.gov/facilities/gstr/ .


Health effects of radioactivity?

This site describes types of radiation and health effects in more detail: http://www.hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/radiationtypes.html

EPA site - http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/understand/health_effects.html

USGS site on radon http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/radon/rnus.html .


Uranium ore bodies (where do we get the fuel from?)

There are a variety of U bearing minerals (e.g. carnotite):

Image of typical geologic settings for U deposits: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1995/of95-686/

Map from USGS site: http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/other/uranium/

Uranium reserves and resources:


Environmental concerns associated with nuclear power?

Siting nuclear power plants:

Flooding around Ft. Calhoun nuclear power plant during 2011. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Corp_of_Eng._6-16-11A_267.JPG , originally from the Army Corp of Engineers. Levees prevented the water from entering the plant area directly

Nuclear reactor accidents:

Nuclear proliferation concerns:

What to do with the spent, but still radioactive fuel?


High and low level radioactive waste disposal

High level radioactive waste disposal (what to do with the waste?)

We are decades into the federally mandated process of finding a national waste repository.

What characteristics would you look for in selecting a waste disposal site?

YuccaMtnXsection - http://water.usgs.gov/ympb/GeologicStudies.htm

YuccaMtnDiagram - http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/info_library/program_docs/annualreports/00ar/00ar-c1.htm - in depth page on DOE site characterization.

France has an operating high level radioactive waste repository.

Low level radioactive waste disposal:

Aiken S.C. and Hanford, WA were major repositories for this material. It became a political liability and they started to refuse wastes, and a national solution needed to be found.

Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980:

Image of response by part of Boyd County Community to proposal for low-level radioactive waste site.

Is nuclear power cleaner than coal??

Fusion reactors?