After reading Juhi’s post about Japan’s earthquake, I decided to do a little research on Japan’s earthquake and how much it damaged Japan. I realized that the potential damage from the destruction of the nuclear plant is more devastating than the earthquake itself. This led me to ponder upon the science behind the nuclear plant and why it is so harmful to people.
The nuclear power plant, like other common power plants, creates electricity by operation a generator. We decide whether the power plant is hydraulic or anything else by the source of the power that operates the generator. Nuclear power plant gives power to the generator through a reaction called ‘nuclear fission’, during which a highly reactive radioactive element called enriched uranium 235 is situated at the heart of the nuclear generator. Nuclear fission is a process that causes the atoms to split into smaller pieces or components. When the Uranium undergoes nuclear fission, it splits into 25 neutrons and emits great amount of lights and energy. This energy that has been produced during the nuclear fission of the Uranium heats the water and water vapor generates the electricity. Ok, but why is this type of power plant so dangerous when it is destroyed?
One of the important parts of the reactor is a circuit pipes containing cold water that runs through the reactor. Due to the heat that has been produced by the nuclear fission, the water is heated and becomes vapor. This hot vapor needs to be cooled down after it is used to generate electricity. The circuit pipes full of cold water cool down the vapor and change it back to water. The power plant would be safe if the supply of the cool water is continued, but once condensed cooling water stops its supply of cool water to the generator, the temperature of the generator remains high, which is the basic reason for the disaster that might happen. If the cooling mechanisms fail, a power plant meltdown will occur because the enriched uranium core heats up and forms liquid. The process produces radioactive iodine and cesium. The extreme heat produced by the nuclear meltdown will also melt and burn surrounding structures inside the power plant; this can compromise structures intended to contain the radioactive fuel. When the surrounding structures are burnt, danger of massive nuclear radiation leak increases. Leak of nuclear radiation is harmful to our body and it may cause DNA mutations. Also, during a melt down, hydrogen gas is produced. When hydrogen gas reacts with the heat energy, it forms incredible amount of energy that can destroy everything. This is similar to the basic principle of the atomic bomb. Inducing from these scientific concepts, Japan itself is an atomic bomb right now.
It is impossible to count the actual number of nuclear power plant around the world, but it is certain that when a massive blackout worldwide occurs, (due to the explosion of the sunspot maybe) the entire earth will be exposed to nuclear radiation. This incident shows how our misconception that “we” have the power to control nature and use it for our own benefit can destroy us. Because it is not “we” who has power over nature, but the nature itself that owns us.
Carter, Mia. “How Does a Nuclear Power Plant Work? – Japan’s Meltdown Crisis.” Suite101 (2011): n. pag. Web. 22 Mar 2011. <http://www.suite101.com/content/how-does-a-nuclear-power-plant-work—japans-meltdown-crisis-a358388>.
Hathaway, David. “The Sunspot Cycle.” National Aeronautics And Space Administration. National Aeronautics And Space Administration, 01 03 2011. Web. 22 Mar 2011. <http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml>.
Rogers, James. “How Do Nuclear Plants Work?.” Duke Energy n. pag. Web. 22 Mar 2011. <http://www.duke-energy.com/about-energy/generating-electricity/nuclear-how.asp>.