Facts about Nuclear Power
We’re all aware that nuclear power exists and is often hailed as an alternative to fossil fuels, albeit a controversial one, but there’s lots of interesting facts that many people won’t know about this form of power. Here are 12 of the most amazing.
- There are more than 400 commercial nuclear power plants globally, and they produce electricity for 31 nations. The first reactor to go online was the Obninsk Power Plant in the former USSR, back in 1954.
- Since nuclear power started out in 1954, there have been only three big disasters at plants – Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011. Compare this to the number of huge oil spill disasters.
- There are 104 nuclear plants in the USA, and together they have more than three million people living within ten miles of them.
- Nuclear fusion is actually much safer and produces more energy than nuclear fission (the method we currently use). However, the technology to implement fusion on a meaningful scale isn’t with us just yet.
- Every 18-24 months, each nuclear plant has to be shut down so the accumulated nuclear waste can be removed and taken away for storage.
- Many people worry about nuclear plants and the effect they could have on their health, but after decades of research, it seems you’ll get more radiation over your lifetime from your TV!
- Using uranium in industry is far from new – people have been mining uranium ore to extract uranium oxide for centuries. Up until recently, small amounts of uranium were added to glass to produce a yellow-green shade that glows under UV light! Although pitchblende – the ore – used to be mined by hand, thankfully now uranium is extracted mechanically, including by huge chain and conveyor machines.
- The most powerful nuclear device ever tested was the former USSR’s Tsar Bomba, which was exploded in 1961. Its mushroom cloud was seen from over 600 miles away!
- If you’re ever unlucky enough to be involved in a nuclear disaster, the first thing you should do is take off all your clothes, as this instantly removes more than 90% of the radioactive material you have been exposed to. As soon as possible, wash your hair, too.
- Although we don’t hear about nuclear tests in the news very often, there were more than 55 tests a year between 1955 and 1989, with 178 tests in 1962 alone! One single new reactor for an existing plant can cost around £4 billion.
- US space agency NASA has an initiative called Project Prometheus, which aims to use nuclear power for long-term, deep space exploration. By using nuclear power as a main fuel source, spacecraft would cut down on their costs and also increase their speeds.
- Nuclear power has uses in medicine as well as in energy production. Nuclear medicine is used to help to diagnose and treat many of the diseases we find hard to conquer, like cancer. Various isotopes are injected into the body to diagnose ailments, while radiotherapy can be used to target malignant cells in cancer patients.
Image by Dave Sizer