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The Debate On Nuclear Energy Essay

2168 words - 9 pages

The use of nuclear energy is a very contentious issue in our society. Although some may say that the economic and medical benefits from nuclear energy greatly outweigh the limitations, others believe that nuclear energy has no economic benefits, and that it is more dangerous than helpful to a country and its people.
Since the discovery of nuclear energy, the goal of governments and countries around the world has been to obtain and maintain it. Chernobyl, Ukraine was one of the many cities greatly impacted by the controversy of nuclear energy. Chernobyl is a small city located on the Pripyat River, very close to the Belarus border (“Chernobyl”, 2013). Chernobyl contained a large nuclear power plant, constructed to produce energy and plutonium. On April 25, 1986, there was an unauthorized test of one of the plant’s four reactors, during which nuclear engineers decided to initiate an uncontrolled chain reaction in the core of the reactor after disabling the emergency systems (“Chernobyl”, 2013). The next day, there was an explosion so strong it ripped off the top of the containment building, expelling radioactive material into the atmosphere. Additionally, fires broke out all around the reactor. During the effort to put out the fires, over 20 firefighters died immediately due to their overexposure to radiation, and hundreds who assisted in the clean-up procedure suffered from severe radiation sickness as well (“Chernobyl”, 2013). To prevent any more damage, the reactor core was sealed off by air-dropping a cement mixture on top, but not until more than 8 tons of radioactive material had already escaped (“Chernobyl”, 2013). Almost 30 years after the incident, the aftermath of Chernobyl’s disaster can still be felt, through increased chances of thyroid cancer and genetic mutations for the children of those people exposed to the radioactive fallout. While many may argue that the issue is the explosion itself, underneath the devastation left behind by the disaster, is the true issue, the safety and ethics of nuclear energy.
One way to obtain nuclear energy is through a nuclear reactor, such as the one employed in the case of Chernobyl. To fuel these nuclear reactors, a process called fission occurs. Fission is when a nucleus is split into smaller fragments by bombarding the nucleus with neutrons (World Nuclear Association [WNA], 2012, “Physics of uranium and nuclear energy”). The fission-powered reactor used in the Chernobyl power plant was a RBMK Reactor. Also known as the “light water graphite reactor” or LWGR, RBMK reactors first surfaced in the Soviet Union during the 1970’s (World Nuclear Association [WNA], 2010, “RBMK reactors”). The design came from a prototype reactor created mostly for plutonium production, and was intended to be used both for nuclear energy and for the manufacturing of weapon- grade plutonium in the Soviet Union. The most essential parts of this reactor’s design were the pressure tubes, graphite moderator, control rods,...

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