Archive for 'ConorR'
Nuclear Power is often talked about as the new “clean” energy to replace some of our dependencies on fossil fuels. But people are also afraid of nuclear power. The word nuclear carries associations with bombs, disasters, cancer, and danger. Neither of those previous statements are fully accurate, and it is important to understand why.
First off, nuclear power, though far cleaner than most fossil fuel alternatives, is not fully clean. It does produce waste, in the form of depleted radioactive substances and irradiated materials. This is a problem which has to be addressed if we are to continue working on nuclear energy plants. Obtaining the nuclear material used is also a hazard. It too must be mined out of the earth with some of the same environmental destruction as mining coal. Although it is cleaner than coal plants, it is certainly not spot-free.
How does it work?
Our nuclear power plants run off of what is called a fission reaction, that is the splitting of an atom to produce vast quantities of energy. It is important not to confuse fission with its opposite, fusion. A fusion reaction (fusing two atoms together) is speculated to be more powerful and therefore cleaner. Unfortunately though our research tells us it is a better method of obtaining energy, we have not been able to master the process yet. So for now fission is all we get, but it definitely gets the job done.
Just how dangerous is this strange new science to utilize? Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and now the Japanese nuclear crisis, don’t these disasters mean its too dangerous to use? False. The fact is these disasters are few and far between. They are also portrayed as worse than they actually are by the media. In Japan right now, most of the nuclear material released by the power plant has a half-life of about 8 days. That means half of it is gone in about a week, half that in one more, and so on and so forth. If you pick up a sunday paper or click the link below there is a wonderful article by Seth Borenstein which makes understanding our perception of nuclear power far easier than I could make it.
Yesterday in class, we learned about how harmful oil pollution can be on the environment. We never really knew the extent oil pollution would have on the environment until the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound occured in 1989.
The Exxon Valdez spill occured in Prince William Sound in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef and spilled 260,000-750,000 barrels of oil. The oil spill is very significant because it is considered to be one of the most devastating human caused environmental disasters and the largest ever oil spill until the Deepwater Herizon that recently occured in 2010. The animals were effected greatly. Birds were not able to fly due to the oil on their feathers. The oil the were on the birds feathers and the otters fur also caused massive decrease in their insulation leading to death caused by freezing. Oil that was consumed by the animals ruined their digestive tracts and other organs that led to serious damage or death as well.
The Exxon Valdez
The Deepwater Herizon is located in the Gulf of Mexico and is a semi-sumersible offshore oil drilling rig that drilled the largest oil well in history at a depth of 35,050ft. In April 2010, an explosion on the rig caused the Deepwater Herizon to sink to the bottom of the ocean while leaving the well open to continue gushing into the ocean. An estimate of 4.9 million barrels of oil was released into the ocean making it the largest offshore oil spill in history. Animals were greatly effected as you can see in the picture below that illustrates the effect the oil spill had on sea turtles and dolphins.
The Effect of the Deepwater Herizon Oil Spill on Sea Turtles and Dolphins
Clean Up Methods:
Once an oil spill occurs, coast guard and other proffessionals much be effective and efficient to reduce the impact of the oil on wildlife and to clean up the oil as quickly as possible. There or physical, chemical, and biological ways help get rid of the oil spills.
- Skimmers: An oil skimmer is a machine that separates a liquid from particles floating on it or from another liquid. A common application is removing oil floating on water.
- Booms: A floating device used to contain oil on a body of water. Once the boom has been inflated, it is towed downwind of the oil slick and formed into a U-shape; under the influence of wind, the oil becomes trapped within the boom. Skimming equipment travels into the boom enclosure and the oil is pumped into containers.
- Dispersants: liquid used to place oil in suspension in the water mass and promote its dispersal, in order to accelerate break down by the natural environment, at sea or in fresh water.
- Bioremediation: the act of treating waste or pollutants by the use of microorganisms (as bacteria) that can break down the undesirable substances
Sources of Petroleum Input in Oceans Each Year on Average (Metric Tons)
- Natural Seeps (600,000)
- Consumptions (480,000)
- Transports (150,000)- Tanker Spills
- Extraction (38,000)- Drilling Rig Blowouts
Oil Pollution Act (1990)- In response to the Exxon Valdez incident, the Oil Pollution Act improved the nation’s ability to prevent and respond to oil spills by establishing provisions. It also provides the money and resources to respond to oil spills. This act requires companies to pay a fine for the damage and for the clean up process as well. Double hulled boats also have to be in use now to lessen the chance of an oil spill occuring.
Exxon Valdez: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill
Deepwater Herizon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon#Explosion_and_oil_spill
Oil Pollution Act: http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/lawsregs/opaover.htm