Nuclear power

Nuclear power - FISSION POWER The OVERV IEW *, Global...

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Unformatted text preview: FISSION POWER The OVERV IEW *, Global electricity consumption IS projected to Increa$e l60 percent by 20 50 ~l, Buliciingh~ndreds of nucle<l[ power plants will help meet that need without large new emiSSions of carbon dioxide. ,i) Thlsscena!lo re9uires economical new plants. a plan for waste storage and prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation A threefold expansion of nuclear power could contribute significantl~ to staving off climate change b~ avoiding one billion to two billion tons of carbon emissions annuall~ BY JOHN M. DEUTCH AND ERNEST J. MONIZ Nuclear power supplies a six th of the world's elec- tricity. Along wi th hydropower (which supplies slightly more than a six th), it IS the major so urce of "carbon-fre e" energy today. The techn o logy suffered growing pa ins, sea red into the public'S mind by the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents, but plants have demonstra ted re- markable re liability and efficien cy recently. The world's ample supply of uranium could fuel a much larger fleet of rea cto rs th an exists today throughout their 40 - to 50 - year life spa n. With growing worries about global warming and the associated likelihood that greenhouse gas emissions will be regulated in some fa shion, it is no t su rprising that gov- ern ments and power providers in the U.S. and elsewhere are increasing ly considering building a substantial number of additional nuclea r power plants. The fossil-fuel alterna- tives have their drawba cks . Natural gas is attrac tive in a ca rbon-constrai ned world because it has lower car bon ~ Governments and utilitie s are considering a new wave of nuclear po wer plant construction to help meet rising electricit~ demand. 76 SCI E N T I Fie AM ERIC A N 10 content relative to other fossil fuels and because advanced pow- er plants have low capital costs. But the cost of the electricity produced is very sensitive to natural gas prices, which have become much higher and more volatile in recent years. In con- trast, coal prices are relatively low and stable, but coal is the most carbon-intensive source of electricity. The capture and sequC'stration of carbon dioxide, which will add significantly to the cost, must be demonstrated and introduced on a large scale if coal-powered electricity is to expand significantly with- out emitting unacceptable quantities of carbon into the atmo- sphere. These concerns raise doubts about new investments in gas- or coal-powered plants. All of which points to a possible nuclear revival. And in- deed, more than 20,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity have come online globally since 2000, mostly in the Far East. Yet George S. Stanford; SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, December 2005]. Some countries, most notably France, currently use a closed fuel cycle in which plutonium is separated from the spent fuel and a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides is subsequently burned again. A longer-term option could in- volve recycling all the transuranics (plutonium is one example of a transuranic element), perhaps in a so-called fast reactor. of a transuranic element), perhaps in a so-called fast reactor....
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This note was uploaded on 12/29/2011 for the course CHE 119 taught by Professor Mitragotri,s during the Fall '08 term at UCSB.

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Nuclear power - FISSION POWER The OVERV IEW *, Global...

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