Fast Facts Quiz
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What is the largest source of carbon-free electricity in America?
Question 1 Explanation:
According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2011 Americans got 42% of their electricity from coal, 25% from natural gas, 19% from nuclear, 13% from renewables (mostly hydro-electric), and 1% from petroleum. ( Reference: http://126.96.36.199/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_in_the_united_states )
What is nuclear decay?
A natural process where certain elements give off energy to become more stable.
Something that only happens during a man-made nuclear reaction.
Something that only happens on the surface of stars, like the sun.
The best way to get famous on a reality TV show.
Question 2 Explanation:
Nuclear materials and the process of decay are naturally occurring on our planet and through out the universe. In fact, about half of the earth's heat output is from the nuclear decay process. Naturally occurring elements like Potassium and Thorium keep our planet nice and warm. There is a chain of decay steps that ultimately leads to a stable, non-radioactive isotope, even though each step can be more or less radioactive than the previous step. (Reference: A. Gando, et al. Partial radiogenic heat model for Earth revealed by geoneutrino measurements. Nature Geoscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1205)
Which of these things is naturally radioactive?
Rocks. Not glowing ones, just regular old rocks.
People. Go get your superhero cape!
All of the above. We are radioactive and we live on a radioactive planet.
Question 3 Explanation:
Not only are all of these things radioactive, so are brazil nuts, sea water and the earth's crust. Even some materials we use to build our homes like granite, cement, drywall and brick are all radioactive too. (References: The University of Michigan Health Physics Society http://www.umich.edu/~radinfo/introduction/natural.htm, Environmental Radioactivity from Natural, Industrial and Military Sources by Merril Eisenbud and Tom Gesell, Academic Press, Inc. 4th Edition. )
How many commercial nuclear reactors are there in the United States?
Question 4 Explanation:
There are currently 104 reactors running in the United States, with 2 more under construction in Georgia. (Reference: World Nuclear Association http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf41.html)
How much nuclear fuel does it take to make the same amount of energy as from one ton of coal?
Half of a ton.
A single eraser sized pellet.
Question 5 Explanation:
One pellet of nuclear fuel will create the same amount of electricity as one ton (2000 pounds) of coal or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. And unlike coal and natural gas, there are no CO2 emissions from nuclear fission. In fact, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, "In 2010, nuclear energy facilities prevented nearly 642 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, almost equal to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from all U.S. passenger cars." That's a lot of CO2! (Reference: Nuclear Energy Institute http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/reliableandaffordableenergy/factsheet/nuclear-energy-quick-facts/?page=1)
In the United States, how much of our electricity comes from nuclear energy?
Almost all of it, about 90%.
About half, or 50%.
About one fifth of our electricity comes from nuclear, or 20%.
Only about 5%.
Question 6 Explanation:
Currently about 20% of our electricity comes from nuclear. The other sources of electricity are Coal (42%), Natural Gas (25%), Hydropower (8%) and Wind (3%). Oil, solar, biomass and geothermal each produce less than 1% of our electricity. That means most of our electricity (about 70%) still comes from fossil fuels overall, but some states get half or more of their electricity from nuclear, while other get no electricity from nuclear. (Reference: U.S. Energy Information Administration http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_in_the_united_states)
When was the first man-made nuclear reaction?
Question 7 Explanation:
Yup, that's right! It was only 70 years ago that Enrico Fermi successfully made the first fission reaction in 1942. Fermi’s reactor was located under the abandoned bleachers at the University of Chicago. It is now a National Historic Landmark. However, 2000 Million years ago there was a natural nuclear reactor that spontaneously began fissioning in Oklo, Gabon in Western Africa. The reaction lasted between 500,000 and a million years! (References: Curtain University http://oklo.curtin.edu.au/ International Atomic Energy Agency http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull173/17304780204.pdf )
There is only one kind of nuclear reactor.
Question 8 Explanation:
There are many different kinds of nuclear reactors. Right now in America all of the reactors that we use to make energy are cooled with water. There are several efforts happening right now to make this kind of reactor smaller, more mobile and less expensive. There are also several new types of reactors that are being developed around the world called Generation IV reactors. Generation IV reactors having benefits like using waste materials as fuel and/or passive safety systems. There are even special reactors that we use for research purposes and to make medicine. (Resources: whatisnuclear.com http://www.whatisnuclear.com/articles/nucreactor.html The Carnegie Endowment http://www.carnegieendowment.org/static/npp/reports/nuclear_reactors.pdf )
Only the energy industry uses nuclear materials.
Question 9 Explanation:
Many industries benefit from the use of nuclear materials, especially the medical sector. Nuclear materials are used in X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, mammograms, and even cancer treatment. We also use nuclear materials to irradiate or sterilize medical tools and equipment, as well as food, and even mail as a precaution against biological contaminates. (Resources: Center for Molecular Imaging and Innovation Translation http://www.molecularimagingcenter.org/index.cfm?PageID=7083 The Health Physics Society http://www.radiationanswers.org/index.html)
We can replace nuclear energy with solar panels and wind turbines.
Question 10 Explanation:
In America we use a lot of energy and we use it on demand. For instance, when you walk in the house and turn on the lights and the TV, you don't check to see if it is windy or sunny first, they just turn on no matter the time of day or weather outside. We can do that because we use energy sources that can provide plentiful, reliable energy around the clock like fossil fuels and nuclear. Wind and solar cannot provide energy on demand and do not provide very much energy. When we connect them to our grid system they must be backed up with other energy sources like natural gas or hydropower, and cannot contribute to our grid without these backup systems. That is why they only provide a very small amount if the electricity we use (about 4%). Many people hope that wind and solar will provide more energy in future, however energy experts think of these technologies as mature (about as good as they are going to get). That is because they have been around for a long time. The first solar cells were made in the late 1890's and wind turbines have been around for thousands of years. Although we will hopefully use more renewable energy in the future, we will still need other carbon free energy sources like nuclear energy too to power the world's growing population. (Resources: U.S. Department of Energy http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/pdfs/solar_timeline.pdf The Wind Coalition http://www.windcoalition.org/wind-energy/history)
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