nukeinfo Helen O'Neil
I am a student at St. John's school.  After listening to a man who spoke at my school about nuclear disarmament, the idea of creating a web page about nuclear energy came to me.  I hope that whoever reads this finds it very informative.
       The first knowledge of the fact that uranium (a nessecary element in creating anything nuclear) could be used to make a powerful bomb came via the studies of Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, two German chemists.  These two men announced in 1938 that they had created the elements of barium and krypton by bombarding uranium with nuetrons.  Later, two Austrian physisists, Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch, her nephew, would prove that Hahn and Strassman had actually created the first known artificially made fission reaction.  Modern scientists then took information from Hahn and Strassman's experiment and their own knowledge of modern science to discover that if they fissioned one pound of uranium, it would exert the energy of 8,000 short tons of TNT.
       Since these discoveries, humans have harnessed the awesome power of nuclear energy.  Now, we use some of this power for peaceful acts.  Generally, nuclear energy is used to generate electricity.  This is because it exerts great heat that can be used to make steam, which in turn then generates electricity.  Nuclear power also powers some ships and submarines.  The steam that the nuclear energy produces is used to turn the ships' propellers.  Nuclear plants make up seven percent of the world's electricity and uses less fuel than a fossil-fuel plant.  However, nuclear plants cost more to build.  Also, the nuclear plants can be dangerous to the environment and to the humans in the vicinity.
       While there are peacful uses for nuclear energy, there are also violent uses.  Nuclear power is often used to create high-power bombs and weapons.  Two of the most common are the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb.  During World War II, the United States was informed by Albert Einstein, who had fled his homeland of Germany from Nazi persecution, that the Germans might be working on developing a nuclear bomb.  The U.S. responded to this information by establishing the secret Manhattan Project.  Its object was to create a nuclear bomb.  The Project was successful and the U.S. dropped such bombs on Japan in August of 1945 and so quickly ended the war.  After WWII, the U.S. exploded the first hydrogen bomb, and Russia followed, exploding its experimental bomb first, then the full power one four years later.  China, France, Great Britian and India have also exploded nuclear bombs of their own.
       Now, because of the great tragedies related to nuclear war and testing, many people desire to limit nuclear tests and to stop the growth of nuclear weapons.  A treaty that supports this went into effect in 1970.  The Nonproliferation Treaty prohibits the countries that have signed the document from giving nuclear weapons to countries that do not already possess them.  It also prohibits nations and countries that do not have nuclear weapons from getting them.  The treaty, however, does not prohibit the buying and selling of nuclear reactors.
       As the future generation, we must continue to work towards stopping growth in nuclear weaponry, and keep working towards preventing the threat of nuclear war.  Keeping the peace is most important.  As a student, there are some things you can do to help in the fight for nuclear disarmament.  You could write to your local congressman or to world leaders asking them what they are doing on the nuclear front.  You could join a club or make one of your own and deal with nuclear issues and what you think could or should be done about them.  But most effective of all would be to become more educated about nuclear energy and weapons.  Your local library is a good place to start.

Resource:"Nuclear Energy" World Book Encyclopedia, The.  World Book, Inc. U.S.A. Copyright 1985
Last updated  2008/09/28 10:58:17 PDTHits  159