Nuclear power stations are located throughout the world. There are 428 nuclear power plants operating in 26 countries to meet our heavy energy demands. There are 110 nuclear power plants in the United States.
Nuclear power plants provide electricity to heat, cool and light our environment. Nuclear power can generate electricity without emitting soot or other polluting by-products. Nuclear power sounds like a great idea! So what is the big deal about nuclear power? Nuclear power stations produce a very deadly poison called radioactive waste which is extremely toxic and is so poisonous that it can affect people 1,000 years into the future. No one is sure how to safely store radioactive waste.
In 1979 an accident occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The accident was caused by a combination of equipment failure and plant operators not having enough knowledge about what to do when equipment fails. The accident caused the release of a small amount of radioactive material. During the accident 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water spilled onto the floor of the reactor building, contaminating it. Radioactive material was also released through a stack into the atmosphere. It was luck that the Three Mile Island accident caused no injuries or deaths Studies have shown that there was no increase of cancer as a result of the accident. They did, however, find evidence of psychological stress. Immediately following the accident authorities ordered the evacuation of all pregnant women and preschool children within 5 miles of the plant site. All other residents were advised to stay indoors. The federal government and the nuclear industry took swift action after the TMI accident . The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) has changed the way nuclear power plants are managed and operated. An increased improvement of plant performance over the past fourteen years has been reported.
Nine years after the Three Mile Island accident, on April 26, 1986 the meltdown of a nuclear reactor occurred at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union. The release of radioactive waste at the Chernobyl plant in the Northern Ukraine caused more than 300,000 deaths. Chernobyl released 200 times more radiation than the combined radiation from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.
Activity # 6
Discuss with students alternative sources of energy such as the wind and sun. Use the library to research wind and solar energy use in the United States.
Activity # 7
Provide students with a blank map of the United States. Have them use resources in the library to plot the location of nuclear power plants. Discuss findings and graph them.