One attractive alternative source of energy is nuclear power. In spite of what many people think, nuclear power plants are very safe. Nothing is burned or exploded in s nuclear reactor. The process of the power plant is as follows: The uranium fuel generates heat through a process called fission. The uranium is contained in solid pellets about the diameter of a piece of chalk and about half an inch long. These pellets are stacked inside long vertical tubes within the reactor. As certain atoms in the pellets are struck by atomic particles, they split to release particles of their own. These particles, called neutrons, strike other atoms, splitting them. This sequence of one fission triggers others, and those trigger more, causing what is called a chain reaction. When the atoms split they create an enormous amount of heat. These rods are cooled with water, causing the to turn into steam. This steam leaves the containment building which contains the most dangerous part of the power plant. The power plants containment building is completely concrete, to contain any accidents that may occur. The steam that leaves the reactor drives the steam turbine, which spins a generator to produce power. In some reactors, the steam from the reactor goes through a secondary, intermediate heat exchanger to convert another loop of water to steam, which drives the turbine. The major challenge with nuclear power, is nuclear waste. During refueling, spent spent fuel rods are removed from the reactor and stored underwater at the plant site. The water cools the still warm fuel and also provides shielding from the radiation as it starts to decay. However the material will remain radioactive for many years, which can cause many health problems to any people, fish, and most living organisms. The real challenge is where to store it where it will not harm the outside environment. Greenpeace has protested the dumping of this radioactive material in the ocean. The very unfortunate thing regarding nuclear power plants is the public view of them, mostly because of their history. The worst nuclear accident to date happened in 1986 at Chernobyl, a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. This accident was not called by equipment failure, but human error. Operators deliberately bypassed safety systems to learn more about the plants operation. One of the reactors overheated and its water coolant flashed into steam.The hydrogen formed from the steam reacted with the graphite moderator to cause two explosions and a fire. Thirty-one people died trying to put out the fires and about 250 sustained severe radiation sickness. An estimated 2.2 million people will be affected over the years by the radioactive fallout. Another error in the common believe of the public is that nuclear reactors can explode like an atomic bomb. The control rods that are inserted into the reactor are made of material that absorbs electrons. It is called a control rod because it controls the amount of neutrons that initiate the fission, making an explosion like a nuclear bomb impossible. Like alternative sources of energy there are some flaws in nuclear power. The main one being the disposal of nuclear waste. However, spent nuclear fuel is being shipped to a federal storage facility, which can recycle more than 90% of the fuel, allowing it to be used again. I believe that nuclear power plants have the potential to be the new source of energy for the planet. However it may depend on the acceptance from the general public.
Wind Power may also be the next source of energy as well. Currently it is not being used to power much of the world, considering it accounts for only 1% of world-electricity use. Wind power is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, and clean. The main problem with wind power is that its not always windy, and it each windmill take up a lot of space. Further research in wind power actually have the potential to improve it. By reducing friction, causing the mill to spin faster and generate more electricity.
Many companies, homes, and schools have invested in solar power. It has been used for handheld devices such as calculators, and chargers for other electronics. They can also power a variety of things from traffic lights, to satellites. The sun is an extremely powerful star, on a bright ,sunny day the sun shines about 1,000 watts of energy per square meter on the planets surface. If we were to harness that energy we could easily power our homes, schools, and offices for free. The main problem with solar power is that solar panels are very expensive. However research could lower the price of solar power to the levels of natural gas and coal. Another small problem is storing the energy from solar panels to use at night, which requires batteries which would eventually have to be disposed of. And we currently have no way of deposing of these batteries efficiently.