TexasIsHot – Energy Efficiency

Nuclear

Nuclear Energy

Basics

Nuclear energy originates from the splitting of uranium atoms in a process called fission. In the plant’s nuclear reactor, neutrons from uranium atoms collide with each other and split into smaller particles, releasing heat and neutrons in a chain reaction. This energy can be used to make steam, which is used in a turbine to generate electricity.

Two types are used in the United States: boiling-water reactors and pressurized-water reactors.

  • In a boiling-water reactor, the water heated by the reactor core turns directly into steam in the reactor vessel and is then used to power the turbine-generator.
  • In a pressurized-water reactor, the water heated by the reactor core is kept under pressure so that it remains liquid. This hot radioactive water flows through a piece of equipment called a steam generator.

A steam generator is a giant cylinder with thousands of tubes in it that the hot radioactive water can flow through and heat up. Outside these hot tubes in the steam generator is nonradioactive water, which eventually boils and turns to steam.

The fuel most widely used by nuclear plants for nuclear fission is uranium. Though uranium is quite common, about 100 times more common than silver, the U-235 used in nuclear power plants is relatively rare.

Opportunities

  • The pellets are about the size of your fingertip, but each one produces roughly the same amount of energy as 150 gallons of oil.
  • Unlike fossil fuel-fired power plants, nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide while operating.
  • In 2008, U.S. uranium ore reserves were estimated at one billion, 227 million pounds. These reserves are located primarily in Wyoming and New Mexico.

Challenges

  • Nuclear power generates a number of radioactive by-products, including tritium, cesium, krypton, neptunium and forms of iodine. These materials can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years.
  • Uranium is a nonrenewable resource that cannot be replenished on a human time scale. Uranium is extracted from the earth through traditional mining techniques or chemical leaching.
  • Every 18 to 24 months, nuclear power plants must shut down to remove and replace the “spent” uranium fuel. This spent fuel has released most of its energy as a result of the fission process and has become radioactive waste.
  • Nuclear reactors and power plants require complex and costly security measures.

Future Trends

Nuclear power accounted for almost 20% of the total net electricity generated in the United States in 2010, In 2010, there were 65 nuclear power plants (composed of 104 licensed nuclear reactors) throughout the United States. Most of the reactors are east of the Mississippi.

Nuclear fusion, combining rather than splitting atoms, is the subject of ongoing research; but it is not yet clear that it will ever be a commercially viable technology for electricity generation.

Testimonials
  • "“As the Texas population continues to grow, so will our energy consumption needs. We must have tools that empower the consumer to choose their products and monitor their usage wisely. TexasIsHot.org is a great resource, which is exactly what Texans need in today’s deregulated market.”" - State Rep. Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton), Chairman of House State Affairs Committee
  • "In order to meet our goals, we need programs like the TexasIsHot campaign to help change the way people think about energy." - State Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Chairman of Senate Natural Resources Committee
  • "Texas leads the nation in wind power because it makes money, not because it makes us feel better. Texans are a practical, penny-wise people who I think will be happy to learn how to save a few bucks on their power bills with the common-sense advice at TexasIsHot.org."-Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office
  • "If every Texas household adopted just a few of the dozens of energy efficiency strategies referenced on TexasIsHot.org, our air would be cleaner, our limited supply of natural resources would be better protected, and our wallets would be heavier..." Kip Averitt (R-Waco), Former State Senator and Chairman of Senate Committee on Natural Resources
  • ”The TexasIsHot campaign targets an important piece of the clean energy effort -- educating Texans on the way we use electricity and quantifying the financial and environmental costs associated with our use. By just reducing the amount of electricity we use and waste, TexasIsHot.org can show people how to save money..." State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin)
  • "Fluctuating energy costs are really hurting Texas families and businesses, but by just making a few easy changes, Texans can cut down on energy waste. TexasIsHot.org is a tremendous resource which arms consumers with the information they need to save themselves money by becoming more energy efficient, and help our environment." State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)
  • "Texas is the third fastest growing state in the nation with a net growth of 1,000 people each and every day. This brings many challenges including providing clean and affordable electricity. That is why I'm excited about TexasIsHot.org. This website is an instructional resource that will help Texans save on their energy bills at home and in the workplace..." State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford)
  • "Now, more than ever, Texans need to work together to conserve energy and to make more efficient use of the energy we consume. The TexasIsHot.org website is an extraordinary resource for people who want to save money and help conserve our precious natural resources..." State Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas)
  • "By partnering with the TexasIsHot Coalition we can extend our effort’s reach, leverage our resources, and ensure that Austin’s energy grid continues to be a test-bed for technologies, products, and services that will transform our state’s energy system." Brewster McCracken, Executive Director, Pecan Street Project
  • "The City of Houston is working harder than ever to make Houston green and energy efficient, but we need the help of every citizen. I would encourage everyone to take a moment to explore the TexasIsHot website to learn what we can all do to make Houston, and the rest of Texas, the green and energy efficient example for the rest of the nation." Mayor Annise Parker, Houston
  • "Energy efficiency is one of our top priorities. Partnering with the TexasIsHot Coalition will help us educate citizens and local businesses about energy-efficient practices in order to meet our goal of reducing residential and commercial electric use." Gavin Dillingham, Chief of Sustainable Growth – General Services Department, for the City of Houston
  • "We are excited about the new partnership that the City of Corpus Christi has entered into with the TexasIsHot Coalition. TexasIsHot.org provides a platform to educate policy makers, city employees and citizens on how to save money and help the environment by conserving energy..." Mayor Joe Adame, Corpus Christi
  • "I am excited that the City of Corpus Christi has joined the TexasIsHot Coalition and look forward to working with them to help Texans become smarter energy users. Energy efficiency is by far the best way for people to reduce their bills and help the environment, but we need education and outreach to make this happen." State Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr (D-Corpus Christi)
  • "Because of its fast growth and hot summers, Texas has to get smarter about energy conservation. I applaud the efforts of Corpus Christi and TexasIsHot to help businesses and residents reap the benefits of increased efficiency." Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
  • "Energy efficiency is the cleanest, quickest and cheapest way to get smart about energy use, saving both money and the environment. I applaud the TexasIsHot Coalition in their effort to educate Texans about the benefits of energy efficiency..." Luke Metzger, Director, Environment Texas
Get Connected

Enter your email address and receive tips and helpful info from Texasishot.org