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Nuclear: uranium & thorium

Here's an interesting one!

It is really powerful, abundant and doesn't produce carbon dioxide while generating energy, but nuclear power is not used in Australia and many people feel very passionately against it.

Nuclear power comes from some elements, mainly Uranium, in the earth which are radioactive. This means they readily release energy as they decay.

Splitting atoms apart to make energy is called 'fission'. Nuclear energy can also be made by 'fusion' - which is forces atoms together to form a larger atom. Fusion is how the Sun creates its energy.

Radioactivity and radiation were discovered in the late 1800s, and scientists discovered x-rays and other amazing information about radioactive elements.

Since then there has been a lot of research into the use of uranium in producing energy and in countries like France, nuclear energy is a major source of energy for the population.

One concern is that nuclear power plants create radioactive waste that remains dangerous to human health for thousands of years. There may also be a disaster that causes the nuclear power plant to leak radiation, as happened in Fukashima, Japan last year after the tsunami, and in Chernobyl in 1986.

And there is always the chance countries will develop nuclear weapons, which have a catastrophic impact.

Nuclear in Australia

Australia has the world's largest reserves of uranium, but there are no nuclear power plants in Australia.

It is a very difficult situation for the Australian government when it is deciding which countries it should allow uranium to be sold to.

The Australian government recently agreed to sell uranium to India - a developing country with a vast population of people who don't have access to electricity.

But there are many people in Australia and around the world who don't think this is a good idea - at all.

Have a look at these videos and articles to understand nuclear power and the issues that surround it - and then there is thorium - a potential rival for uranium.

Uranium has a rival, called thorium and some people think this could be THE answer to our energy needs. Click here to find out more.

Thorium is said to be the 'most energy-dense substance on Earth', and it has been grabbing the headlines lately.

Touted as the 'biggest energy breakthrough since fire', thorium is said to be a safer, less expensive and more simple form of nuclear energy than that generated by uranium.

Is this plentiful metal, named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor, the game changer?

Read all about it and see what you think.

The Competition
The competition

We asked Australian students to make a video or convince us in writing about their BIG ideas for a sustainable energy future.

Check out the fantastic videos we received, all about sustainable energy solutions!

For teachers

Explore the fascinating science edging us closer to low carbon living. This fun, flexible project includes easy-to-use ICT, oodles of resources and FREE lesson plans from CSIRO Education.

Links to Australian curriculum, plus NAPLAN rehearsal.

Find out more
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