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Problems Facing Breeder Reactors As A Future Energy Source

2504 words - 10 pages

Breeder Reactors: A Foreseeable Option?

Fission of nuclear particles has the potential to produce massive amounts of energy and electricity to help mankind. Breeder reactors bring forth modern technology at its finest; mankind is becoming more and more creative to make reactors which can be optimally efficient and cost-effective at the same time. By being able to harness plutonium-239 with a blanket of uranium and start chain reactions consistently, breeders seem to be a viable option to help produce electricity for a bigger population. However, maintenance and operation costs are big problems to deal with, and these are some of the ramifications that factors into the decision of realizing if breeders could potentially be our next alternative energy source.

Non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels have been used up by society on a daily basis and have forced the world to find a new, clean energy source. The rising price of oil and the constant emission of carbon dioxide are proof that in the future our lives will be much harder to live. One answer to this problem is nuclear power, which has shown its efficiency during the times of World War II but has not been used commercially due to the challenges of dealing with nuclear waste and proliferation. In today?s modern era, nuclear power has been used in liquid metal fast breeder reactors, reactors that use uranium-238 to produce plutonium-239.

Historical Background:
Nuclear energy was first achieved through Enrico Fermi?s experiment of nuclear fission where he and his team shot neutrons towards uranium atoms, which confirmed Albert Einstein?s theory of relativity that mass could be converted into energy. The first nuclear reactor was built by Fermi in Chicago called the Chicago-1 which harnessed the first nuclear reaction. In 1954, electricity was soon generated by a nuclear reactor for the first time by the EBR-1 breeder reactor located in Idaho which produced 100kW of power. Nuclear capacity in the United States began to rise even more in 1960 to 100GW in the 1970?s and 300 GW in the 1980?s. [1] As of 2005, the only breeder reactor in operation is the BN-600 in Russia which has an output of 600 MW.

The purpose of this project is to dissect the use of the breeder reactor as an alternative fuel source: finding out the availability of material to power the reactor and
the reactor?s efficiency, discovering all cost values, and weighing the environmental impacts (both positive and negative) to see if the breeder reactor can be a viable option of energy in the near future.

How a Breeder Reactor Works:
In order to for a breeder reactor to operate flawlessly, three things are necessary: the breeder reactor, a reprocessing plant and a fuel fabrication plant all have to be tuned and operational at the same time in order to produce plutonium. Inside the breeder reactor, plutonium is used as fuel and put into the LMFBR and surrounded by a blanket of...

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