Feb 10

I have decided to broaden my topic choice for my senior project to incorporate multiple methods of energy generation for the future, not just nuclear energy. This is important as I found out during the critique last time that the storage of nuclear waste is one of the hurdles in deploying a large scale network of nuclear generating stations.

I want to work on the project with Jake Neighbors still as he seems to share a passion for energy generation in 2110 with me.

Visually speaking, I am planning to make it a clean, “happy” video of how we were able to “save” Earth by using clean energy. This will include shots that I take of the diverse energy generation stations all over Southern California.

I think Margaret will like it even though it is not a violent film (unlike some SciFi post apocalypse ideas I had.)

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Jan 21


I would like to do my senior project on the global energy crisis but focus on nuclear energy generation. I want to investigate both the pros and the cons citing Three Mile Island and bringing it home to the controversy at San Onofre. A cool video idea to satisfy Margaret’s requirement is to do a 2110 post apocalypse movie that shows what happened when only two people survived a major radiation leak at SONGS. This will be cool to film because SONGS is locally based and the point will hit home to show people what could happen if something goes wrong.

I like the source straight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because they are acknowledging the problems that have occurred but don’t doubt the pros of nuclear power generation. Because of this, I can incorporate nuclear energy as a feasible option for power generation over the next 100 years.

Also, it would be interesting to evaluate nuclear powered aircraft and vehicles as a feasible option for fueling propulsionafter we deplete our fossil fuels that we have stored.

Whatever I do, I want to collaborate with Jake Neighbors as he is doing his senior project on energy as well. The collaboration would work well as we both have our own essential questions but they can be merged into one final deliverable at senior exhibition.

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Jan 21

Nuclear Energy

“Nuclear Energy.” Oracle ThinkQuest Library. Web. 20 Jan. 2010. <http://library.thinkquest.org/3471/nuclear_energy.html>.

Can occur naturally and artificially. The energy produced by the sun is a nuclear reaction and is thus nuclear energy. Artificially, humans create nuclear power in reactors.

There are two main types of nuclear energy generation, Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion.

Fission involves splitting the atoms and fusion involves joining atoms, both create substantial nuclear power.

The atomic bomb is an example of nuclear fission while the hydrogen bomb is an example of fusion.

Nuclear Energy has many advantages, including pollution mitigation (nuclear energy is clean air). One of the main concerns however is the storage of nuclear waste.

This article also shows examples of negative effects of nuclear energy citing the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island incidents of radiation leaks.

Burge, Michael. “Problems at nuclear plant concern regulators.” San Diego Union-Tribune. SignOnSanDiego.com. 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 21 Jan. 2010. <http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/21/problems-nuclear-plant-concern-regulators/>.

This article, published in our local newspaper today is regarding the  San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). On January 13, 2010 engineers found cracks in the reactor’s cooling system and caused them to go into situation mode. Due to a miscommunication, they shut down the wrong cooling system in an attempt to mitigate the problem.

This situation could have been bad had the emergency been severe, and officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) are upset.

“In March 2009, the NRC gave the plant poor marks for a loose connection on a backup battery that’s used to start a backup diesel generator. And in 2008, it disciplined the plant after a contract fire inspector was found to have falsified reports for five years.

In November 2009, two plant employees filed a whistle-blower complaint against the plant, saying that managers retaliated against them after they reported a safety violation. San Onofre officials deny the accusation and say they are improving the safety culture at the plant.” –via SignOnSanDiego.com

The two reactors of the plant generate 2,200 megawatts of electricity.

This is an interesting source as it is of local interest and affects San Diego County.

“Background on the Three Mile Island Accident.” Nuclear Regulatory Committee. 11 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html>.

“The accident at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI‑2) nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa., on March 28, 1979, was the most serious in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, even though it led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community. But it brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. Resultant changes in the nuclear power industry and at the NRC had the effect of enhancing safety. “

The accident happened when cooling pumps failed spontaneously, allowing heat to build up in the steam generators. The reactor automatically shut down, as it was programmed to do so.

Pressure began to build up and the operators opened a relief valve, which did not shut off automatically and drained coolant. Since the coolant drained, the nuclear fuel overheated and the majority of the reactor core melted. This is one of the most dangerous kind of nuclear power accident, as only 1 millirem of radiation was present per 2 million people in surrounding communities (compared to 6 millirem of radiation people are exposed to during a chest x-ray), thus health affects from the accident were not a huge concern.

The main concern was how the operators and personnel at the plant dealt with the accident. The NRC changed many policies in wake of the accident, including minimum requirements for the reliability of automatic shutdown of individual plant components (such as the valves and circuit breakers)

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