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For more information, please see full course syllabus of AP Environmental Science
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Nuclear Energy

  • Nuclear fission involves the splitting of heavy atomic nuclei to release energy for power. It releases a lot more energy than fossil fuels but the nuclear waste is very dangerous
  • Some examples of nuclear fuel are: Uranium 235, Uranium 238, and Plutonium 239. Nuclear energy is responsible for approximately 15% of global electricity
  • Nuclear reactors contain a core, fuel, control rods, a moderator, and coolant. Reactors work with light-water or heavy-water, and they also can be graphite-moderated
  • Pros for nuclear energy include no air pollution, less carbon release, and low water pollution, but cons include dangerous waste that degrades slowly, expensive decommissioning/shutdowns, and safety/malfunction issues
  • Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are two of the most famous nuclear disasters in history
  • Nuclear fusion may prove to be a highly productive way to produce energy in the future

Nuclear Energy

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Nuclear Fission 0:04
    • Atoms Split Into Two or More Smaller Nuclei Along with By-Products
    • Explosion
    • Amount of Energy Contained in Nuclear Fuel Is 10 Million Times More Than Coal and Petroleum
    • 1950s-60s Cesium-137
  • Nuclear Fuel 6:17
    • U-235
    • U-238
    • Pu-239
  • Electricity Production 10:46
    • Reasons for Recent Decline
    • Currently Provides 15% of Global Electricity
    • 2007
    • Arguments in Favor of Nuclear Energy for Electricity
  • Nuclear Reactor Basics 15:18
    • Core
    • Fuel
    • Control Rods
    • Moderator
    • Coolant
  • Water Reactors 17:37
    • Light-Water Reactors
    • Heavy-Water Reactors
  • Graphite-Moderated and Exotics Reactors 21:40
    • Graphite-Moderated
    • Exotic Reactors
  • Overview of Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy 22:48
    • Pros
    • Cons
  • Safety Issues (and Chernobyl) 25:01
    • Up to 50,000 Sites Within the U.S. Have Radioactive Contamination and Require Cleanup
    • Estimated Nuclear Health Risks Per Year
    • Chernobyl, Ukraine
  • Nuclear Fusion 30:12
    • Extremely High Temps Can Force Nuclei of Lightweight Atoms to Fuse Together, Causing Large Amounts of Energy to be Released
    • For Contrast
    • The Same Electricity Production from Nuclear Fusion Would Create Only 4 lbs Harmless Helium as Waste