What you will study
For more than half a century, the science of nuclear energy has been harnessed as a source of low carbon electricity, but public perceptions of the nuclear industry during the 1970s had a big impact on its continued development. Today, acknowledging the need to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions has put nuclear energy back on the scientific and political agenda as a possible major contributor to meeting the world’s energy requirements. The issue of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is likely to remain in the public eye for some time and nuclear energy is likely to have a significant role to play.
Inside nuclear energy explores the scientific and technological concepts relating to atoms, nuclei, radioactivity and energy production in power stations to give an appreciation of the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining energy in this way. Building on these foundations, you will go on to learn more about the role of geology in waste storage and disposal issues, and the difficulties of disposing of highly radioactive waste. The idea of burying nuclear waste deep underground for many years until its radioactivity has reduced to a safe level is being investigated by a number of countries, and a portion of your study will focus on the example of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, USA. You will learn more about the scientific considerations of storing nuclear waste underground and consider other issues, such as the political questions, which make Yucca Mountain’s future uncertain.
You will also explore some of the main issues nuclear energy poses to health and safety, focussing on the biological effects of radiation and how it can be both detrimental and beneficial. You will apply this knowledge to consider the contemporary environment, looking at whether nuclear energy is economically advantageous and also looking forward to potential future developments in nuclear technology.
By the end of this course you will have developed a range of study skills associated with retrieving and interpreting information and data from a variety of sources, including in the form of tables, charts and graphs, as well as from articles, audio and video material.
This course is based on a specially written OU study book, together with a website which will link to online study material covering the economics and future of nuclear energy. The study book will provide questions and answers and activities to help test your understanding, and that you can use for self-assessment throughout the course. A number of activities will only be presented online via the website.
The course will be of particular relevance if you are working in the energy supply industry and in particular the nuclear industry. If you have a professional interest in nuclear energy, environmental matters and global warming you will also find this course very relevant.