HONR268A - Nuclear Energy Study Guide
Megawatts and Megatons: A Turning Point in the Nuclear Age?
Chapter 1: All Energy Stems from the Same Source
Chapter 2: The Nuclear Chain Reaction
Discuss the differences between chemical and nuclear reactions.
Chapter 3: Nuclear Weapons
- Discuss the steps by which Uranium is turned into Plutonium.
- Why are slow neutrons needed for a nuclear reactor?
- Why are light element moderators needed in nuclear reactors? How do
- Why can't regular water be used as a moderator for a natural Uranium
- Why is Uranium (or Plutonium) put into ``pellets'' or ``rods'' in a
nuclear reactor, surrounded by the moderator material?
- How did the ``natural reactor'' in the Oklo deposits in Gabon Africa
work? Why did it start up 2 billion years ago and stop 1 billion years
- Why can't a fission bomb be made from naturally-occurring Uranium?
- What techniques are used to separate Uranium isotopes and how do these
- What is ``reactor poisoning'' and what effects does it have?
Chapter 4: Natural Radiation and Living Things
- What were the two basic types of early fission weapons and how do they
- What are ``boosted'' fission weapons and how do they work?
- How do thermonuclear weapons work?
- Describe a ``neutron bomb''.
Chapter 5: The Civilian Use of Nuclear Energy
- What are the main sources of human exposure to radioactivity?
- Why is Potassium 40 (K40) in the body more dangerous than Carbon 14?
- Describe why Cesium 137 built up in the atmosphere, how it is removed,
and what effects it has on people.
- What does radiation do to the cells in the human body? Roughly what
fraction of cancers might be due to naturally occurring radiation?
Chapter 6: A Glimpse of the Future of Nuclear Power
- Describe the nuclear fuel cycle, with and without reprocessing.
- How are the different isotopes of Plutonium created, and how do
they affect nuclear waste reprocessing?
- Describe how a Fast Neutron Breeder Reactor works - why are fast
- Describe the advantages and disadvantages to the French and the
US approach to nuclear waste management.
- Compare the cost of 1 kg of Uranium to the cost of reprocessing 1
kg of heavy metal.
- What steps need to be taken before a spent fuel rod from a
nuclear reactor can be entombed at Yucca Mountain?
Chapter 7: Safety, Nuclear Accidents, and Industrial Hazards
- Describe how we can use Thorium as an energy source and its
advantages and disadvantages compared to Uranium.
- Why are liquid sodium and liquid lead good materials for nuclear
- How long we might be able to run breeder reactors to meet today's
level of energy demand?
Chapter 8: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- How did the 3-Mile Island disaster happen? How much radiation was
released, what health effects did it have, and what did it do the
US nuclear industry?
- Discuss the Chernobyl disaster - how did the accident happen, how
much radiation was released, and how what problems were there with the
- Discuss the radioactive isotope Iodine 131 in the context of reactor
- What happened during the Tokai-Mura accident in Japan?
Chapter 9: Comparing Hazards of Nuclear Power and Other Energy
Chapter 14: A Turning Point in the Nuclear Age?
- Compare the amounts of Uranium in the Earth's crust and in
seawater. Discuss methods of extraction and the associated costs.
- Discuss how long fission of Uranium can be used to meet world energy
needs, with and without Uranium from seawater and with and without
- Describe how Inertial Confinement Fusion works.
- Describe how Magnetic Confinement Fusion works.
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