Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
Problems with
Nuclear Power
Every energy source has drawbacks.
Most of the drawbacks associated with
nuclear power relate to two things: safety
and cost.
Protecting Against the Dangers
The fuel used in nuclear power reactors is highly radioactive.
Exposure to this radiation for any length of time is dangerous.
Radiation can cause burns, cancer, failure of organs in the body,
and birth defects. High exposure to radiation can even kill. For
this reason, nuclear fuel and things closely involved in its use
must be handled with great caution. For example, fuel and other
radioactive materials must always be surrounded by protective
shielding, such as the pressure vessel containing the reactor
core. Another important form of shielding in modern U.S.
plants is the containment structure surrounding the reactor.
Most plants located in areas where earthquakes occur from
time to time are designed to withstand earthquakes. If a really
large quake occurs—so large that it might damage the reactor—
such plants shut down automatically, to try to ensure that
radioactive material is not released into the environment.
Today's power reactors have many built-in safety features.
Computers and highly skilled workers keep watch over the
operation of the reactor. If a chain reaction starts to go too fast,
control rods can be inserted into the core to calm things down.
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