Nuclear Energy Explained: How does it work? 1/3

Nuclear Energy Explained: How does it work? 1/3


Have you ever been in an argument
about nuclear power? We have, and we found it
frustrating and confusing, so let’s try and get to grips
with this topic. [Intro] It all started in the 1940s. After the shock and horror of the war
and the use of the atomic bomb, nuclear energy promised to be a peaceful
spin-off of the new technology, helping the world get back on its feet. Everyone’s imagination was running wild. Would electricity become free? Could nuclear power help
settle the Antarctic? Would there be nuclear-powered cars,
planes, or houses? It seemed that this was just a few
years of hard work away. One thing was certain: the future
was atomic. Just a few years later, there was a sort
of atomic age hangover; as it turned out, nuclear power was very
complicated and very expensive. Turning physics into engineering
was easy on paper, but hard in real life. Also, private companies thought that
nuclear power was much too risky as an investment; most of them would much
rather stick with gas, coal, and oil. But there were many people who
didn’t just want to abandon the promise of the atomic age;
an exciting new technology, the prospect of enormously
cheap electricity, the prospect of being independent
of oil and gas imports, and, in some cases, a secret desire to
possess atomic weapons provided a strong motivation
to keep going. Nuclear power’s finest hour finally came
in the early 1970s, when war in the Middle East caused oil prices
to skyrocket worldwide. Now, commercial interest and investment
picked up at a dazzling pace. More than half of all the nuclear reactors
in the world were built between 1970 and 1985. But which type of reactor to build,
given how many different types there were to choose from? A surprising underdog candidate
won the day: the light water reactor. It wasn’t very innovative, and it wasn’t
too popular with scientists, but it had some decisive advantages: it was there, it worked, and it wasn’t
terribly expensive. So, what does a light water reactor do? Well, the basic principle is shockingly
simple: it heats up water using an artificial
chain reaction. Nuclear fission releases several million
times more energy than any chemical reaction could. Really heavy elements on the brink of
stability, like uranium-235, get bombarded with neutrons. The neutron is absorbed, but the result
is unstable. Most of the time, it immediately splits
into fast-moving lighter elements, some additional free neutrons, and
energy in the form of radiation. The radiation heats the surrounding water, while the neutrons repeat the process with other atoms, releasing more neutrons and radiation in a closely controlled chain reaction. Very different from the fast, destructive runaway reaction in an atomic bomb. In our light water reactor, a moderator
is needed to control the neutrons’ energy. Simple, ordinary water does the job, which
is very practical, since water’s used to drive the turbines anyway. The light water reactor became prevalent
because it’s simple and cheap. However, it’s neither the safest, most
efficient, nor technically elegant nuclear reactor. The renewed nuclear hype lasted barely
a decade, though; in 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear
plant in Pennsylvania barely escaped a catastrophe when
its core melted. In 1986, the Chernobyl catastrophe
directly threatened Central Europe with a radioactive cloud, and in 2011
the drawn-out Fukushima disaster sparked new discussions and concerns. While in the 1980s 218 new nuclear power
reactors went live, their number and nuclear’s global share of
electricity production has stagnated since the end of the ’80s. So what’s the situation today? Today, nuclear energy meets around 10% of
the world’s energy demand. There are about 439 nuclear reactors
in 31 countries. About 70 new reactors are under
construction in 2015, most of them in countries
which are growing quickly. All in all, 116 new reactors are
planned worldwide. Most nuclear reactors were built more than
25 years ago with pretty old technology. More than 80% are various types of
light water reactor. Today, many countries are faced with
a choice: the expensive replacement of the aging reactors, possibly with more
efficient, but less tested models, or a move away from nuclear power towards
newer or older technology with different cost and environmental
impacts. So, should we use nuclear energy? The pro and contra arguments will be
presented here next week. Subscribe, and then you won’t miss it! Our channel has a new sponsor:
Audible.com. If you use the URL
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support our channel. Producing our videos takes a lot of time,
and we fill a lot of it by listening to audiobooks. For a really entertaining book,
we recommend “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. He’s a great writer, and the story is
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channel and to you for watching! Subtitles by the Amara.org community

100 COMMENTS

    Who else come here after watching HBO’s Chernobyl and want to find out EVERYTHING possible about nuclear and chernobyl 😟😟

    To the very best of my understanding, nuclear is the only way the world can stop burning fossil fuels. And it can be done properly and safely with existing reactor designs. Frankly the world needs to start building a whole lot more reactors in a hurry. Transportation is about to switch almost entirely to electric over next decade or two which will easily double electricity demand.

    "Directly threatened Central Europe". Way to play it down lol. How about "plant workers practically melted into puddles of bloody goo on the floor while hundreds of others died within weeks and thousands of others within months"?

    All the "I watched an HBO Miniseries that Fictionalized Nuclear Power and was riddled with scientific inaccuracies" goof balls are running wild.

    If you're a nuclear engineer, operator, or at the very least a physicist, it pains to see these people talk.

    It also is painful to watch videos from wonderful content creators on a complicated subject that don't seem to have that great of a grip on nuclear power, or why it is so good, but I don't hold that against them. It's "expensive" because of fear-mongering and legislation. It's not actually that expensive when you can mass produce a standard model, like France and South Korea does.

    Also, LWRs, the way you described them, would constitute a lot of non LWRs. LWRs are unique in one major regard: the coolant and moderator are both regular water, and these designs are predominantly Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs), some are BWRs (Boiling). It's also important to note that these designs are largely based on an inspired by naval reactor designs, as that is where reactor plants first started emerging, which is why modern reactor designs are trying to get away from that, because, obviously, we can accomplish more on land than in a submarine with more efficient designs. There are no size or area restrictions. The LWR/PWR design is really great for small reactor plants, but not the most optimal for large, commercial reactors, which is what 80ish% of the world's reactors are like.. they're Gen2 Reactor Plants. I will grant that the LWR is not the "safest or most elegant" reactor design, but I think putting it in that context is a but misleading. LWRs are VERY safe, and still statistically safer than any other power production platform, outside of other reactor plant designs. Technically, a lot of our Gen4 designs that will be in construction by the end of this coming decade are safer, more efficient, and considerably more complex than LWRs, or any other current operational reactor that we have.. but they're all still very safe, and their capacity factor, at least in the US, is very high. About 90%.

    I also think it is unfair to say that Three Mile Island "barely escaped" its catastrophe. The containment vessel, which is made of reinforced steel and several feet of concrete, did its job, and it wasn't even close to succumbing. This is a prominent difference between Chernobyl and TMI, or the Soviet Era reactors and the US. The RBMK-1000 would have never been licensed in the US, for a number of reasons, including the positive reactivity coefficient and the lack of a containment vessel. Some reinforced steel and concrete would have nullified everything that die. Also, regulations are much more strict in the US, and so is the safety atmosphere in general.

    The "radioactive cloud that threatened central Europe" is extremely hyperbolic. Europe was just fine. People fictionalize the extent of radiation or how much it increased the surrounding areas.

    Here's my question. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to know about Chernobyl or Fukushima. Movies, series, and YouTube videos will be dedicated to them regularly, including videos like this. Yet, how's come we never hear about the worst energy disaster? The Banqaio Dam Collapse in 1975 China killed 200,000+ people and displaced 11 million from their homes, and I sincerely doubt anyone really even knows about this, let alone will we see the media talking about it. Nothing comes close to this disaster, and its environmental impact and death toll is worse than every nuclear reactor plant in history, combined. Yet, hydroelectric power is still one of the safest forms of energy, just being nuclear. It's an example of how unfairly it is treated, fictionalized, and sensationalized.

    "

    So the fear of nuclear came from companies using bad nuclear energy plant builds? Seems like this could be avoided if companies were willing to spend risky

    Facilities are expensive to build but easy to run I wish they would explain that a little more thoroughly

    Unlike your diagram states there are no nuclear reactors in Australia. Either your researchers need to be sacked or your animators are being fed the wrong information. Not a very good learning channel.

    if there was a zombie apocalypse or some other disaster that wiped out the government/ structure of society, the world would be screwed due to no one maintaining the 439 reactors worldwide. double apocalypse.

    I think the nuclear waste doesn't matter so lot. It isn't most important drawback and problem of the nuclear power. Important problem is limited Uranium supplies for increasing energy consumption of mankind. mankind has to find new energy that unlimited and nonpolluting like Nuclear Fusion or highly efficient Solar Generator.

    The Government:We need a new clean energy supply or else we’re all dead!!!
    Me: How about Nuclear Energy?
    The Government: Yep, No possible solution what so ever!
    Me: Are you kidding me

    8i dont have you subbed SO WTH DO I SEE YOUR HAPOY MEAL BOX ON MY FEED TO BRIGHTEN MY DSY . DOCTOR FEEL BAD?

    I hate all the misinformation about nuclear energy. It’s infinitely times better than coal/natural gas. No reason why we aren’t using it more.

    If a Nuclear Powerplant goes poff every 30 years, and the nuclei that comes out takes a long time for nature to take care of, how long would it take for earth to be 100% polluted with radioactivity? And 10%? I mean the landmass. Not the population.

    The United States needs to start developing additional sources of energy within its own territory. Why are new nuclear power plants, the safest source of electric energy ever discovered, not permitted? There is no end to the lies people have been made to believe about Nuclear energy. Modern technology is able to develop these sources of power without any damage to the environment. France gets 80% of its power from nuclear power plants without any problems. Needless to say, without sufficient energy, the United States will not be able to defend itself. All the Elite has to do is cut off the oil supply from the middle east.

    Im so sad that Nuclear isn't our main source of electricity, it's the lowest death per kw and the most powerful source of energy we have today.

    Solar and wind are a joke. You cant conserve nature, which is the collective goal, and keep putting up these farms. Maybe eventually we can harness their energy as desired but we were so far along on the nuclear path. We almost had it. I believe nuclear is too cheap and efficient so monopolies would lose income on too many fronts. so naturally these conglomerates would lobby and monger fear with nuclear energy. But i digress

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