Located 45 miles from my home is the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Every trip I make to San Diego I pass the weird plant which provides nearly 20 percent of the power to more then 15 million people in Southern California. The plant has been opened in one capacity or another since 1967. California is just one of the 31 states that currently have nuclear power plants. A total of 103 commercial power plants produce electricity in the United States. An additional 32 countries worldwide have 441 plants for electric production.
A brief nuclear history; in 1951 a reactor powered 4 light bulbs, in 1953 the navy began using reactors for aircraft carriers and submarines, and then in 1955 the first home use electricity began to be produced.
As of last year nuclear plants produced 780 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. 85 percent of the electricity in the state of Vermont is produced by nuclear reactors. Abroad 4 of the 32 nuclear power producing countries get more then 50% of their electricity from nuclear power plants.
Unfortunately as with many things on the internet a number of websites are, either highly touting the use of nuclear energy, or condemning the use of it as being high risk. Finding non biased information wasn’t difficult to find, but reading the positive and negative propaganda on both sides did prove to be entertaining at times.
There are two current major articles about the use of nuclear energy that have been hot topics in the news as of late, one of those being of the declared nuclear activities of both Iraq and North Korea. Typical commercial grade uranium is not rich enough to be used for the adequate production of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea recently started up a research reactor that has been known to be used in the past as well as a reprocessing plant to produce some weapons-grade plutonium. The second article is from our own country. Republicans are currently promoting the construction of the next generation of nuclear plants promising billions of dollars for researching and development projects. There have been no orders for commercial plants since early 1980. Congress has earmarked nearly $3 billion for future development of reactors, including research, expanded insurance and the building of a government facility in Idaho that may also produce hydrogen for fuel cells. President Bush’s own energy task force has called for a substantial increase in nuclear power plants.
Lets go back for a moment to the production of hydrogen for fuel cells and it’s relation to that of the use of nuclear power.
Current nuclear power plants use nuclear fission, but there are numerous documents and experiments on the future use of nuclear fusion. Russia, Europe, Japan, USA, Canada, and China are all working together on the design and construction of a Fusion Energy Advanced Tokomak that will demonstrate feasibility of a fusion reactor. Construction could take up to 10 years after they finalize the location of the site.