Our Future - Nuclear Power?

Part of an Access Excellence lesson
Modified for PULSE by Christopher Martin
Edited By: Stephanie Nardei

Time: One class period


Materials: Paper

To conclude our study of radioactivity and the accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine, students will assess the environmental risks nuclear power poses for our society.

Students will be able to
1. Understand there are risks involved with using nuclear power.
2. Write persuasive paragraphs for and against nuclear power.

National Science Education Standard
CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Human activities can enhance potential for hazards. Acquisition of resources, urban growth, and waste disposal can accelerate rates of natural change.

Teacher Background
On Friday, April 25, 1986, as a result of human error during experiments being performed by the staff at Chernobyl, USSR, the cooling system failed resulting in the melting of fuel. Of greater importance to the public, the graphite moderator ignited and began the release of what has been approximated as 1.9 x 1018 Becquerel’s of activity to the environment. The most hazardous isotopes released in this accident are known to Cs-137, I-131, and Sr-90. These isotopes have half-lives sufficiently long to allow them to migrate into the body or, in the case of Iodine, have the tendency to accumulate in the thyroid gland.
The plume from the burning graphite initially traveled in a northwest direction toward Sweden, Finland and Eastern Europe, exposing the public to levels up to 100 times the normal background radiation. A very serious concern was the contamination of grain and dairy products from fallout. This contamination presented the chance for permanent internal contamination. Both Sr-90 and I-131 migrate to vital organs in the body where they are impossible to remove, serving as a constant source of unnecessary radiation and as a cause of cancer or other diseases.

PULSE Chernobyl 1: http://pulse.pharmacy.arizona.edu/math/chernobyl1.html

Global Radiation Patterns: http://users.owt.com/smsrpm/Chernobyl/glbrad.html
See below for more resources.

Related and Resource Websites
CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/isotopes
PULSE digital library on Nuclear Radiation: http://pulse.pharmacy.arizona.edu/resources/chemicals/nuclear.htm
Britannica on Chernybol: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9072288/Three-Mile-Island
Brown University of Three Mile Island: http://envstudies.brown.edu/thesis/2003/Jessica_Galante/pages/tmi.html
Pennsylvania Highways on Three Mile Island: http://www.pahighways.com/features/threemileisland.html
Three Mile Island on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island



  1. Ask students to review questions posed while working on the radioactivity and the Chernobyl Incident.

  2. Have questions been answered and if not, where could we find answers?

  3. Is it possible to know all the answers?

  4. Use a t-chart and as a class, ask them to list arguments for and against nuclear power.

  5. If students have difficulty understanding benefits of nuclear power, suggest they revisit this question again after the next chemistry topic--energy sources.

  6. Students write a peruasaive essay on nuclear power with paragraphs for and against. 

Encourage the students to post their work on a class blog. Examples can be found at http://chemistryathowenstine.blog.com/  (this one discusses the PULSE website)

Not Applicable.

Embedded Assessment
Students can be assessed on their ability to appreciate benefits and risks with nuclear power through development of a t-chart and their individual essays.




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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