Read the articles in the Readings and References module. As we have seen from our previous work, nuclear power is the world’s most rapidly growing source of power. There has been an annualized growth of more than 8%, most of it coming from countries other than the U.S. where no new reactors have been started for more than 30 years. The NRC has recently granted approval, over the unusual objection of the NRC Chairman, for the construction of two new nuclear reactors by the Southern Company in Georgia, reactors based on the Westinghouse Ap-1000 design. Nuclear power is used primarily to generate electricity and the demand for this power is increasing globally as population growth and industrialization takes place. In the U.S., electricity consumption is trending upward, tracking the growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), and prompting utilities to plan for the construction of new generation of reactors. Among the matters that remain unsettled is a repository for nuclear waste. The national site at Yucca Mountain, NV, ran into opposition and has been virtually abandoned as a site for storing spent fuel.


Watch the video featuring Thom Christorpher giving a seminar at MIT on the role of nuclear power in providing energy for the future. (The link to the video is provided in the announcemen above of his lecture on this Session page.) Christopher makes the case for nuclear power. Note: No comment will be asked of you regarding the video, but it is for your information.

1. The Thorium Fuel Cycle is discussed in the introduction to this session. It describes the breeding of Uranium-233 from Thorium-232. Using the notation for nuclei and nuclear reactions, write the sequence of reaction steps in the breeding process.

2. Do a search for information about Yucca Mountain. Summarize the reasons that the site has been opposed as a nuclear waste repository.

3. Do a search and construct a table of the major constituents of spent nuclear fuel produced in the uranium-235 fission process. Briefly describe how recycling can reduce the waste.

4. Tabulate and briefly describe the benefits and problems associated with recycling spent nuclear fuel.

5. Refer to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2006.

Section 13 deals with nuclear power in the world. Find the table which lists the numbers of reactors located in each country. List the six countries which have the largest numbers of reactors and give the number each has