Nuclear Power
Most of the world\'s electricity is generated by either thermal or hydroelectric
power plants. Thermal power plants use fuel to boil water which makes steam. The
steam turns turbines that generate electricity. Hydroelectric power plants use
the great force of rushing water from a dam or a waterfall to turn the turbines.

The majority of thermal power plants burn fossil fuels because thermal power
plants are cheaper to maintain and have to meet less of the governments
requirements compared to nuclear power plants. Fossil fuels are coal and oil.

The downfall of using fossil fuels is that they are limited. Fossil fuels are
developed from the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years
ago. Burning fossil fuels has other downfalls, too. All the burning that is
required to turn the turbines releases much sulfur, nitrogen gases, and other
pollutants into the atmosphere. The cleanest, cheapest, and least polluting
power plant of the two types is the hydroelectric power plant. The main reason
most countries use thermal versus the hydroelectric is because their countries
don\'t have enough concentrated water to create enough energy to generate
electricity. (World Book vol. 14, 586) Nuclear power plants generate only about
eleven percent of the world\'s electricity. There are around 316 nuclear power
plants in the world that create 213,000 megawatts of electricity. (INFOPEDIA)

Radioactive, or nuclear, waste is the by-product of nuclear fission. Fission
occurs when atoms\' nucleus\' split and cause a nuclear reaction. (General

Information) When a free neutron splits a nucleus, energy is released along with
free neutrons, fission fragments that give off beta rays, and gamma rays. A free
neutron from the nucleus that just split splits another nucleus. This process
continues on and is called a chain reaction. (World Book vol. 14, 588) The
fission process is used to create heat, which boils water inside the nuclear
reactor. The steam that boiling the water makes is used to turn turbines, which
in turn, generate electricity. Fission happens inside a carefully monitored
nuclear reactor, when being used in a nuclear power plant. The fission process
that nuclear power plants use spends approximately 30,000 tons of highly
radioactive waste a year. (General Information) In a nuclear power plant,

Uranium is used as fuel to boil the water for the steam that makes the turbines
turn. So, uranium is, in a sense, the coal of a coal-fired power plant. When
fueling nuclear power plants, the uranium arrives as uranium-enriched pellets.

These pellets are an equivalent to one ton of coal. The pellets are sealed in
tubes that are made of a strong heat- and corrosion-resistant metal alloy. This
metal alloy will protect people and the environment from the high levels of
radiation that the uranium is giving off. The tubes are bundled together to make
a fuel assembly. The assemblies are put inside the reactor to create heat that
will boil the water. The fuel assemblies are used until they are depleted. A
fuel assembly is depleted when it no longer gives off enough energy to turn the
turbines. Once every year, one third of the nuclear fuel in a reactor is
replaced with fresh fuel. The used-up fuel is called spent fuel. Spent fuel is
highly radioactive and is the primary form of high-level nuclear waste. (General

Information) High-level radioactive waste is the by-product of commercial
nuclear power plants generating electricity, and from nuclear materials
production at defense facilities. This high-level waste must be isolated in a
safe place for thousands of years so its radioactivity can die down and not be
harmful to people and the environment. The name of the "safe place"
that the Department of Energy is trying to make is called a repository. But
until a repository is made, spent fuel and high-level waste is being stored in
temporary storage facilities called dry casks and cooling pools. By the end of
the year 2000, there will be more than 40,000 metric tons of high-level waste in
casks and storage pools. There will also be more than 8,000 metric tons of
high-level waste from defense programs. The high-level waste from defense
programs is currently being stored in Idaho, South Carolina, and Washington.
(General Information) Reprocessing is the chemical process by which uranium and
plutonium are recovered from spent fuel. This means that it is the recycling
process of high-level waste. The reason private industries aren\'t reprocessing
their high-level waste is because reprocessing costs more than mining and making
new fuel. Several countries that actually care about their environment reprocess
their high-level waste. (General Information) Dry casks and cooling pools are
being used to store spent fuel in power plants