This universe is made up of millions of various substances. All those substances are produced from the basic building blocks classified as atoms. Understanding atoms help scientists provide supplies for use in LCD screens, lasers and solar cells. Multiple atoms combine to produce new different substances. Atoms are the tiniest units of matter that preserve all the chemical properties of an element. Atoms are composed of two major regions. The first is the small atomic nucleus, positioned in the centre of the atom which consists of positively charged particles classified as protons and neutral, uncharged particles known as neutrons. The second, an extremely larger region of an atom is the cloud of electrons, which holds negatively charged particles classified as electrons. An example of an atom is a gold coin which is simply a comprehensive number of gold atoms arranged into the shape of a coin which also carries small quantities of other contaminating elements. A gold atom attains its properties from the small subatomic particles, it’s made up of. The three divisions of subatomic particles are outlined below for the atom of helium, which by definition holds two protons.
When chemical reactions are happening, the atoms rearrange to produce new substances, but the individual atom does not change, it stays the same element as it was previously. A change at the atom’s core-its nucleus is expected to change an atom from one element to another. Examining these developments has led to the development of nuclear fuels and various new medical treatments. Examples of chemical reactions that convert reactants into products are Combustion, Corrosion, neutralization, respiration and photosynthesis. A change in the nucleus is needed to convert an atom into an atom of another element. That can only be achieved by a nuclear reaction.
The nucleus positioned at the centre of an atom is not just standing still, the protons and neutrons constantly move in which rearrangements cause the nuclei to release high-energy electromagnetic radiation and particles. When protons and neutrons split away from an unstable radiative element, Nuclear reactions occur. Scientists can generate a nuclear reaction by shooting neutrons at an atom. This causes nuclear fission in which atoms split to form new atoms. This process is defined as a chain reaction where many new atoms are formed. Nuclear power plants do not hold the capability of producing energy from nuclear fusion reliably and securely. For this reason, nuclear reactors utilize pellets of element uranium to produce nuclear fission. Nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste from used uranium pellets. The radioactive waste is highly toxic and remains radioactive for thousands of years. Currently, 17% of the world utilizes electricity from nuclear power. There are currently 450 power stations placed in 35 countries.
The term nuclear radiation describes any rays or particles released by atomic nuclie. Nuclear radiation involves gamma rays, alpha particles and beta particles. Nuclear radiation can be extremely toxic, especially to living organisms. The ABC news has stated that Australians are exposed to 1.5 millisievert of radiation a year. However, nuclear radiation can be useful in medicine, industrial processes and scientific research. Radiation destroys biological molecules and causes unwanted chemical reactions. There are three main types of radiation:
Non-ionizing radiation: This is the release of energy from the lower-energy region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Sources of non-ionizing radiation include light, radio, microwaves, infrared (heat), and ultraviolet light.
Ionizing Radiation: This is the radiation with sufficient energy to remove an electron from an atomic orbital, forming an ion. Ionizing radiation includes x-ray, gamma rays, alpha particles and beta particles. Neutrons: Neutrons are particles found in the atomic nucleus. When they break in the atomic nucleus. When they break away from the nucleus, they have energy and act as radiation.
The most energetic portion of the electromagnetic spectrum includes the gamma rays and x-rays.
Nuclear Energy and its impact on society
A nuclear reactor produces electricity in much the same way other power plants do. The chain reaction produces the energy, which turns water into steam, The pressure of the steam turns a generator, which produces electricity. In nuclear energy power is created from splitting atoms – a process called nuclear fission:
- The energy released from the chain reaction releases heat
- The heat created by nuclear fission warms a cooling agent, usually water
- The cooling agent produces heat that turns turbines
- The turbine-drive generators or engines creates electricity
The first advantage of utilizing nuclear energy is that nuclear waste is sustainable, as nuclear waste is recyclable. Nuclear reactors burn 1% of the fuel, which is mined, and the rest is thrown away, (as depleted uranium and nuclear waste). The US recycling program shut down in the ’70s due to the increased economic concerns. Today, France and Japan are recycling fuel with great success. New technology exists that can greatly reduce proliferation concerns. Large amounts of supply of uranium are dissolved in seawater at very low concentration. Nuclear reactors can also run on Thorium fuel.
The first disadvantage of utilizing nuclear energy is the dramatic accidents – Three major accidents have occurred in commercial power plants: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. Chernobyl was an uncontrolled steam explosion which released a large amount of radiation into the environment, killing over 50 people, requiring a mass evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, and causing up to 4000 cancer cases. Three Mile Island was a partial-core meltdown, where coolant levels dropped below the fuel and allowed some of it to melt. No one was hurt and very little radiation was released, but the plant had to close, causing the operating company and its investors to lose a lot of money. Fukushima was a station black-out caused by a huge Tsunami. Four neighbouring plants lost cooling and the decay heat melted the cores. Radiation was released and the public was evacuated. These three accidents are very scary and keep many people from being comfortable with nuclear power.
The Australian Government should not utilize nuclear power as it has high disadvantages and greater risks of damaging the environment which puts the lives of million people in danger.