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Author

Gabrielle Sierra

Grades

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Physics, Engineering

Resource Type

  • Podcast, 36 minutes, 56 seconds

Regional Focus

Global

Why It Matters: The Climate for Nuclear Energy

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Synopsis
  • This podcast episode explores the current and future role of nuclear energy in the energy industry. 
  • Students will learn about the obstacles to producing nuclear energy and innovations in the field. 
  • The host speaks with two experts, nuclear engineer Leslie Dewan and the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, about how nuclear energy, alongside solar, wind, and hydropower, will help to reduce carbon emissions. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This podcast episode provides a balanced view of nuclear energy.
  • A full transcript is available.
  • Links to several resources are available in the show notes.

Additional Prerequisites

  • A brief description of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion is given, but students should have a basic understanding of both.
  • Basic knowledge of some of the nuclear power plant disasters will be helpful.

Differentiation

  • After listening to the podcast, students could debate the need for more nuclear power plants in the United States.
  • In history classes, students could work in groups to research and present information about the Chernobyl disaster, the Three Mile Island accident, and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Students could explain how new technology should prevent similar nuclear accidents in the future.
  • Students could discuss some or all of the following questions:
    • How can radioactive materials from nuclear power plants be stored safely? 
    • What are the obstacles stalling the production of more nuclear reactors in the United States?
    • How much water is required to operate nuclear power plants, and should this be a major consideration in arid locations where water is scarce?
    • Because there is currently no permanent safe storage solution for radioactive waste, what are the dangers for the communities near radioactive waste storage sites?  Where do these sites tend to be located?
    • What happens to a nuclear plant if there is a power outage due to storms, floods, fires, or other situations that happen somewhat frequently?
  • Other resources on this topic include this video on nuclear fission, this video on the process of turning uranium into nuclear fuel, and this interactive map that shows the share of electricity production from nuclear.
Scientist Notes
This resource is a podcast that covers the modern state of nuclear energy production technologies and includes substantial discussion regarding the risks and benefits of nuclear energy. Multiple points of view are presented, including public opinion, security risks, economics, regulations, and emission impacts. A transcript is provided. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
    • PS1: Matter and its Interactions
      • HS-PS1-8 Develop models to illustrate the changes in the composition of the nucleus of the atom and the energy released during the processes of fission, fusion, and radioactive decay.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: History
      • D2.His.4.9-12 Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
      • D2.His.7.9-12 Explain how the perspectives of people in the present shape interpretations of the past.
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