Nuclear Power, Is it safe?

Essay by josieloo212Junior High, 9th grade May 2003

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Nuclear power plants provide about 17 percent of the world's electricity.

Some countries depend more on nuclear power for electricity than others. In

France, for instance, about 75 percent of the electricity is generated from nuclear

power, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the United States,

nuclear power supplies about 15 percent of the electricity overall, but some states

get more power from nuclear plants than others. There are more than 400 nuclear

power plants around the world, with more than 100 in the United States.

Uranium is a fairly common element on Earth and was incorporated into the

planet during the planet's formation. Uranium is originally formed in stars. Old stars

explode, and the dust from these shattered stars aggregated together to form our

planet. Uranium-238 has an extremely long half-life (4.5 billion years) and,

therefore, is still present in fairly large quantities. U-238 makes up 99 percent of

the uranium on the planet.

Uranium-235 makes up about 0.7 percent of the

remaining uranium found naturally, while uranium-234 is even more rare and is

formed by the decay of uranium-238. (Uranium-238 goes through many stages or

alpha and beta decay to form a stable isotope of lead, and U-234 is one link in that

chain.) Uranium-235 has an interesting property that makes it useful for both

nuclear power production and for production. U-235 decays naturally, just as

U-238 does, by alpha radiation. U-235 also undergoes spontaneous fission a small

percentage of the time. However, U-235 is one of the few materials that can

undergo induced fission. If a free neutron runs into a U-235 nucleus, the nucleus

will absorb the neutron without hesitation, become unstable and split immediately.

To build a nuclear reactor, what you need is some mildly enriched uranium.

Typically, the uranium is...