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Nuclear Energy Study Questions:

The Breeder Reactor | Nuclear Energy | Nuclear Power Plants | Current Use of Nuclear Power | Safety and Nuclear Waste | Nuclear Energy Accidents |

The Breeder Reactor

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  • (1) What does "LMFBR" stand for?
  • (2) Sketch a LMFBR nuclear power plant and explain how it works (what is the function of each loop?).
  • (3) Discuss the pros and cons of liquid sodium as the coolant in LMFBRs.
  • (4) Discuss the pros and cons of a "plutonium-based energy economy."
  • (5) According to Weinberg, how long will Phase I of the nuclear era last?
  • (6) According to Weinberg, what are the advantages of breeders?
  • (7) According to Weinberg, what are the five "issues" concerning breeders?
  • (8) Explain the Phase II dilemma as presented by Weinberg.
  • (9) What are the five characteristics of Phase II?
  • (10) Explain the "Faustian bargain," as proposed by Weinberg.
Nuclear Energy
  • (1) Give the nuclear fusion reaction that powers our sun.
  • (2) Give the nuclear fusion reaction for hydrogen bombs.
  • (3) Name three fissile isotopes.
  • (4) Give the nuclear process by which Pu-239 is produced when U-238 absorbs a neutron.
  • (5) Define a supercritical chain reaction.
  • (6) What are the critical masses for U-235 and Pu-239?
  • (7) Given a sample of natural uranium with 1,000 atoms, how many on average would be U-235 atoms?
  • (8) On average, how many neutrons are released per U-235 fission?
  • (9) Name the four scientists who discovered nuclear fission.
  • (10) Name two highly radioactive fission products that are harmful to humans.

Nuclear Power Plants

  • (1) Define electrical energy usage in terms of power units.
  • (2) What percentage of electrical energy was generated by nuclear power plants in the USA, France, and Japan during 1988?
  • (3) How does a thermal power plant produce electricity?
  • (4) What is the efficiency (in percent) of modern thermal power plants and where does the waste heat go?
  • (5) Name the two neutron moderators used in the USA and Canadian nuclear power programs.
  • (6) Explain how a SCRAM operation works and the special role of the control rods.
  • (7) Sketch (block diagram) a boiling-water nuclear power plant and explain how it works (what is the function of each component?)
  • (8) Sketch (block diagram) a pressurized-water nuclear power plant and explain how it works (how is the function of each loop?)
  • (9) Discuss the implications of CANDU reactors with "continuous refueling."
  • (10) Explain the role of heavy water in the nuclear weapons programs of Germany (circa 1943) and India (circa 1974).

Current Use of Nuclear Power

  • (1) According to the 1962 AEC report, why was a national effort to support nuclear energy justifiable and necessary?
  • (2) Explain the difference between a converter and a breeder reactor.
  • (3) Describe the different stages in nuclear power plant design, leading from the first plants to "electricity too cheap to meter".
  • (4) Describe the three different types of commercial nuclear power plants available today. Who sells what?
  • (5) Describe France's approach to establishing a nuclear power industry.
  • (6) Describe Germany's approach to establishing a nuclear power industry.
  • (7) Describe the United States' approach to establishing a nuclear power industry.
  • (8) Why did the British nuclear power industry falter?
  • (9) What costs have not been taken into account when calculating the relative competitiveness of nuclear power?
  • (10) What were the nuclear power planners concerned about in 1962? What problems

Safety and Nuclear Waste

  • (1) Discuss the ramifications of the Three Mile Island accident.
  • (2) Where, when, and what caused the accident at Chernobyl?
  • (3) What is the purpose of the "containment structure" and why did it fail at Chernobyl?
  • (4) What is a LOCA and if it happens, how can a meltdown be prevented?
  • (5) How much plutonium does each 1,000 MW nuclear power plant produce per year?
  • (6) Describe "reprocessing" with special emphasis on plutonium separation and the potential for diversion to weapons.
  • (7) Currently, the USA plans to store nuclear waste where and how?
  • (8) Describe the nuclear fuel cycle sequence.
  • (9) Name the five known nuclear weapons nations who used Pu-239 in their first nuclear explosives.
  • (10) Discuss the differences between HLW and LLW.

Nuclear Energy Accidents

  • (1) Describe the sequence of events that led to the accident at Three Mile Island.
  • (2) How did the company and the government react?
  • (3) According to Weinberg, what is the Faustian bargain? Why is it still worth it?
  • (4) According to Weinberg, what is the solution to the threat of accidents like those at Three Mile Island and at Chernobyl?
  • (5) Were the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents like the predicted "Maximum Credible Accidents"?
  • (6) What does Weart mean by the "Reactor Wars"?
  • (7) What was the Rasmussen Report?
  • (8) What does Weart mean by "Its Political"?
  • (9) Why is Whyl significant?
  • (10) Essentially, what do you have to do to anything that has become radioactive, either through normal operation of a nuclear reactor or because of an accident?