Background of Technology

Definition


Nuclear energy is the process of deriving energy from the fission or fusion of Atoms

(http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/History.pdf).

external image fission.jpgexternal image fusion.jpg



Context 1: Technological
The technological conditions that supported the development of nuclear energy as a technology were a series of contributions which began during WWII. Fearing that Nazi Germany would create and use the first atomic weapon, the U.S. developed the Manhattan Project in an effort to ensure its success in the world's first nuclear arms race. After successfully developing and deploying nuclear technology as a bomb, the focus of this technology turned to the utilizing fission for large scale electricity generation
(http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/History.pdf).

First contribution:
Nuclear energy was first theorized in 1904, in a publication called Theory of Atomic
Ernest Rutherford, "The Father of Nuclear Physics".
Ernest Rutherford, "The Father of Nuclear Physics".

Structure written by a physicist Ernest Rutherford. According to the United States Department of Energy, Rutherford stated
(http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/History.pdf),

"If it were possible to control at will the rate of disintegration of the radio elements, an enormous amount of energy could be obtained from a smaller amount of matter" (p. 3). What Rutherford was referring to was the intentional destabilization of radioactive elements with high counts of protons in their respective nuclei. Such ideal elements consist of Plutonium 239 and Uranium 235, both elements are derived from the processing Uranium 238. In his theory Rutherford believed that by causing the nucleus of an Atom to become unstable it could discharge a great amount of energy
(http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/History.pdf).

Second contribution:
In 1905 Albert Einstein takes Rutherford's theory to the next level by
Albert Einstein, founder of the Theory of Relativity
Albert Einstein, founder of the Theory of Relativity

developing the Theory of Relativity, a mathematical formulation which expresses energy as the product of mass times the speed of light squared. This simple mathematical expression would make splitting the atom through fission a reality 37 years later during the 1942 Chicago Pile-1 demonstration, the first self-sustaining fission chain reaction conducted at the University of Chicago
(http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/History.pdf).
.

Third contribution:

Little Boy on the left and Fat Man on right
Little Boy on the left and Fat Man on right

Cleverly dubbed as The Manhattan Project, America's secret 1942 arms race would employ the likes of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi and other scientist of the time in the creation of the world's first atomic bomb. The Manhattan
Project yielded 1 test bomb detonated in New Mexico on July 16, 1945 and 2 subsequent atomic bombs known as "Fat Man" and "Little Boy". Both bombs would be detonated on Japanese soil during WWII, forcing Japan to surrender. Little Boy was first detonated in Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 resulting in the instantaneous death, by evaporation, of 70,000 people, Fat Man would be detonated in Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945 resulting in an additional 60,000 instantaneous deaths (http://www.energy.gov/media/The_Manhattan_Project_2010.pdf).

Most recent contributions:

Dresden 1 Nuclear Plant
Dresden 1 Nuclear Plant

In 1946 the U.S. Congress founded the Atomic Energy Commission in order to further explore the civilian use of nuclear energy. By 1957 the first fully functional commercial electricity-generating power plant was built in Shippingport, Pennsylvania making up 5% of the electricity generated in the U.S..This development in civilian nuclear energy applications would revolutionize the way electricity was manufactured by utility company’s throughout the world. Today there are total of 65 nuclear power plants and 104 nuclear reactors throughout the U.S. and they supply 20% of the domestic energy demand
(http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=nuclear_use).
.


Context 2: Economic

Figure 33. Energy Consumption History and Outlook, 1949-2020
Figure 33. Energy Consumption History and Outlook, 1949-2020

Demand

The economic conditions which led to the development and sustainability of nuclear energy as a means to generate electricity, stemmed from an ongoing world wide increase in energy demand predicted to reach 127 quadrillion by 2020
(http://www.eia.gov/emeu/aer/eh/eh.html). As of 2010 there are a total of 31 states in the U.S. which house nuclear reactors in nuclear power plants. In 2010, the U.S. consumed approximately 800 billion Kilowatt Hours from nuclear generated electricity, making up 20% of the total electricity generated by all forms of energy. Nuclear energy is depended on most for energy production compared to all sources of energy, meeting twice the amount of demand that it was scheduled to supply in 2010.


Supply

external image figures2.jpg
Nuclear energy has produced a primary market where Uranium is sold as a commodity in multinational markets; the buyers are the private sector plant operators or owners; the sellers are Uranium mining and enrichment companies which provide Uranium 235 as the final product. In 2010, U.S. consumption of Uranium totaled 47 million pounds at the weighted average price of $49.29 per pound; domestic production of Uranium made up 8% of the 47 million pounds and cost a weighted average price of $45.25 per pound (http://www.eia.gov/uranium/marketing/).










The next page will introduce the impacts of nuclear energy.





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