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Charles E. Ophardt, Professor of Chemistry, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL 60126, charleso at elmhurst.edu, Copyright 2004
 
On-Line Discussion of the Environmental Issues
ISSUE 2:

SHOULD THE U.S. START TO BUILD MORE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS?
 

Various members of the class and the professor contribute to the discussion. Please read these postings before you make a contribution to this ongoing discussion. You may add new information for this discussion, make further comments on information already posted, or ask questions to other students or the professor about the information already posted. Answers to THREE Rounds of Discussion are required. This may be done all at once or you may wait for more of the discussion in Round 1 to be completed before giving your final answer to the question in Round 2.


Round 1 Discussion: (2 points): One question from sub questions in 1-5 - You will be assigned to answer one of these questions to ensure complete topic coverage. See the Questions below for the student assignments.
Round 2 Discussion: (6 points) Main debate question (Ques. 7)
Round 3 Discussion: (2 points):One follow up response to another student.
 
Extra Credit: If you make a second response or a rebuttal, you can get up to one point of extra credit. Please label this second response as extra credit.

More details about the Discussion Format.

Please read the discussion responses before you decide which questions to answer. Try to answer questions that no one else has answered or respond to answers already present.

Check out the discussion responses on the
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Write out answers to questions in a WORD PROCESSOR
and then copy and paste into
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Debate Roles

For this debate, the instructor will assign members of the class to one of the possible roles listed below. In a role play you are expected to become knowledgeable about the issue so that you can accurately express the viewpoint and concerns of a typical person whose role you are playing. Attempt to do this even though you may not agree with that view point. Near the end of the debate you may express your own personal point of view.
The first three roles probably have a NO viewpoint, while the last three roles probably have a YES viewpoint. Although #3 may go either way.
 Role Play Assignments   Student ID
 1. Environmental Scientist  8, 9, 20, 21, 26
 2. Citizen living near a power plant, a (NIMBY) Not In My Back Yard advocate. 10, 11, 22, 23 , 27
 3. General Concerned Citizen 12, 13, 24, 25, 28
 4. Nuclear Scientist from NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) 1, 2, 14, 15, 29
 5. Electrical and Nuclear Power Plant Official 3, 4, 16, 17, 30
 6. Nuclear Fuel Cycle/Power Plant workers  5, 6, 7, 18, 19

General Questions - Issue # 2 : Nuclear Power Plants

Use the following questions to briefly summarize the critical thinking necessary to solve the problem.

QUES.1. Identify the major technologies used and science concepts and principles which are applied to the technologies in this issue. Definitions: Technology is the application of scientific knowledge in the creation of new products and processes. Science is the knowledge gathered about the natural world through observations and controlled experimentation.

 Research the Answer to Questions
 
QUES. 1a: Give an example nuclear fission equation, define fission, and explain where and how the energy is released in a fission nuclear reaction.  Std. ID. 6
 Ques. 1b: What is the source of nuclear energy as compared to chemical energy obtained from the combustion reaction?  Std. ID. 11
 Ques. 1c: Summarize the three main types of radiation (alpha, beta, gamma) in terms of symbols, charge, mass, penetration power, health effects.  Std. ID. 21
 Ques. 1d: Define half-life AND apply it to the following problem based upon concepts in the text diagram p. 84-85. If you have 2 grams of radioactive iodine-132 with a half-life of 2.4 hours, how many grams are left after 7.2 hours? This would be of interest in a nuclear accident.  Std. ID. 7

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QUES.2. Identify the issues, questions, limitations or drawbacks involved with the technology, especially environmental effects. Definition: Application of technology is called into question when the quality of life and/or the environment deteriorates.

 Research the Answer to Questions
 
 Ques 2a: Briefly explain how a nuclear power plant operates to produce electricity. Explain the purpose of the devices that are in the reactor core such as fuel rods, control rods, coolant, the moderator, safety features.  Std. ID. 12, 19
 Ques. 2b: For the pressurized water reactor, PWR , explain how the heat from the fission reaction is used to make steam to make electricity, and the purpose of the cooling water. How many "loops" of water are used in this process?  Std. ID. 22, 5
 Ques. 2c: What are the safety issues associated with nuclear power plants?  Std. ID. 8
 Ques. 2d: What are the causes and consequences of a reactor core melt down as happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl?  Std. ID. 13, 20
 Ques. 2e: What are the consequences of the release of radioactive isotopes and related health issues as at Chernobyl (worst case) or from Three Mile Island? Contrast this with the health effects of radiation from a properly working nuclear plant in the U. S.?  Std. ID. 23, 29

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3. For the issues and questions above, list/explain the science concepts and cause and effect relationships involved;
and/or identify the use of the scientific method (Hypothesis? Experiments? Results and Conclusions?) to prove or disprove any of the questions or hypotheses.

 Research the Answer to Questions
 
 Ques. 3a: Explain the features in a nuclear power plant to insure that no major accidents will happen?  Std. ID. 9
 Ques. 3b: What is the major difference in the building structures of U.S. versus Russian nuclear power plants?  Std. ID. 14, 30
 Ques. 3c: Explain how new reactor designs may be even safer than the current designs (each person that answers can discuss a different new design)  Std. ID. 24, 18
 Ques. 3d: What are the issues associated with the disposal of nuclear waste from the spent fuel rods? Explain what studies have been conducted to assure safe disposal of nuclear waste.  Std. ID. 10, 4

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QUES. 4. Identify the limitations or uncertainties of the science in understanding and/or solving the problem.

Definition: Science is more limited in its ability to deal with systems with complex interactions because it can effectively study only a small number of variables and is incapable of controlling all of the variables. The "answers" provided by science may not be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

 Research the Answer to Questions
 
 Ques. 4a: Can we be assured that nuclear power plants will be 100% free from potential accidents?  Std. ID. 15
 Ques. 4b: How will we ever get an answer to the question that a nuclear waste site will not leak for 10,000 years or longer?  Std. ID. 1

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5. Identify the social, philosophical, and/or ethical issues.

Definition: Social issues relate to the general welfare of society. Philosophical issues relate to the principles and values for the conduct of life. Ethical issues are concerned with morals (distinction between right and wrong) and values (the ultimate worth of actions or "things").

 Research the Answer to Questions
 
 Ques. 5a: Which type of power: fossil fuels, alternate energies, or nuclear is safer and creates less pollution for society as a whole?  Std. ID. 16, 25
Ques. 5b: Is is right to create wastes that will be around for future generations to take care of?  Std. ID. 2, 26
Ques. 5c: Is nuclear power a potential solution for global warming caused by fossil fuels?  Std. ID. 17, 27
Ques. 5d: Can a nuclear scientist be ethically correct in making the safety claims for nuclear power and waste disposal?  Std. ID. 3, 28

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QUES.6. Identify any questions, comments, or "eye opening" new ideas related to this issue.

 QUES. 6: Use this space to make general comments or ask other questions.

 Blackboard - Discussion Pages

 

2nd Round of Discussion:

QUES. 7. As an individual citizen or as a group, what course of action would you take regarding the main issue question? Interpret available information and data to formulate a solution and a plan of action.

 ISSUE QUESTION:
Should the United States Start to Build More Nuclear Power Plants?

Blackboard - Discussion Pages

Debate Roles

For this debate, the instructor will assign members of the class to one of the possible roles listed below. In a role play you are expected to become knowledgeable about the issue so that you can accurately express the viewpoint and concerns of a typical person whose role you are playing. Attempt to do this even though you may not agree with that view point. Near the end of the debate you may express your own personal point of view.

 Role Play Assignments   Student ID
 1. Environmental Scientist  8, 9, 20, 21, 26
 2. Citizen living near a power plant, a (NIMBY) Not In My Back Yard advocate. 10, 11, 22, 23 , 27
 3. General Concerned Citizen 12, 13, 24, 25, 28
 4. Nuclear Scientist from NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) 1, 2, 14, 15, 29
 5. Electrical and Nuclear Power Plant Official 3, 4, 16, 17, 30
 6. Nuclear Fuel Cycle/Power Plant workers  5, 6, 7, 18, 19