Nuclear Power Webquest


The fifth energy source considered in this course is nuclear power.  As you learned in my presentation on 7 October, nuclear fission is a major form of energy - accounting for 22% of electricity generation in the United States.  Nuclear plants are found worldwide, including 133 separate facilities in the United States.  As I mentioned, however, no new nuclear plants have been constructed in the US since 1974.  Concerns over safety have led to serious restrictions in deployment over new plants.  Moreover, many of the plants constructed in the 1960s are reaching the end of their projected life spans.

Many people believe that concerns over nuclear power are really unwarranted, based on the large-scale safety record of existing plants.  Those people believe that nuclear fission continues to hold great promise as a viable alternative to direct combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity.  Others believe that it has limited applicability and the environmental risks far outweigh the benefits.

The purpose of this webquest is to enable teams of students to learn more about nuclear power, and determine its potential to serve as a significant source of "clean" energy in the future.


The teams assigned to this webquest are to review the websites listed below.  Students in those teams are to answer the following questions:
  • What evidence supports the idea that products of nuclear fission can provide a significant proportion of energy demand in the future?
  • Does everybody agree with that evidence?  If not, explain.
  • My presentation suggested that nuclear energy has been best developed in industrialized locations such as North America, Europe, and Asia. 
    • Can energy production from nuclear energy be enhanced in those areas?
    • Can energy production from nuclear energy be developed in those areas (e.g., South America and Africa) where it has not yet been developed?
  • What environmental problems does nuclear energy pose?  Are those problems real or exaggerated?
  • What social / political problems?
  • Do any laws or regulations prevent the deployment of nuclear energy in the US? Other industrialized countries?  Non industrialized countries? 
  • Are any countries seeking to shut down all their nuclear plants?  If so, what arguments are being used to justify that course of action?  What other forms of energy are they planning to use instead?
  • What is the life expectancy of nuclear energy reserves?
  • What is nuclear fusion?  Does it old much promise for our own energy needs in the next 30-40 years?

On 22 October, student teams will conduct a webquest using the following websites:
Of course, you may work outside of class as a team to further research the topic, generate a synthesis, and formulate a presentation.

On 22 October, student teams assigned this topic will each give a 20 minute Powerpoint-based presentation in which they will answer the questions.


Students will be evaluated using the following rubric.  The grade will reflect both an individual and a team performance.

Team-based items

First one-two minutes clearly understandable, audience led into the objectives of the talk
First one-two minutes mostly understandable, audience should be partly prepared for objectives of the talk
First one-two minutes generally not understanable, audience not really prepared for objectives of the talk
Clearly outlined
Presented in a general way, but one or more details confusing
Not clearly indicated
Number of bullet points addressed
Bullet 1
Discussion provided substantial insight into online resources, accurate presentation of information in articles, clear synthesis that goes well beyond rehashing posted information.
Discussion provided acceptable insight into online resources, presentation of information in articles generally accurate, some synthesis beyond rehashing posted information
Discussion provided superficial insight into online resources, evident inaccuracies in way that presentation of information in articles was presented, little synthesis beyond rehashing posted information
Bullet 2
See above
See above See above
Bullet 3
See above See above See above
Bullet 4 See above See above See above
Consistently and accurately provided
Mostly provided, or some inaccuracies
Generally not provided, or grossly inaccurate
Powerpoint text
Clearly legible
Mostly legible
Poorly legible
All clear and appropriate A few unclear or not appropriate
Many unclear or not appropriate
Integration of Powerpoint between speakers
Well integrated
Partly integrated
Not integrated
Clearly executed, excellent summary of main points and synthesis
Generally well executed with acceptable summary of main points and synthesis
None or poorly executed, with unclear summary and / or no real synthesis
Length 18-21 minutes 16-18 minutes <16, >21 minutes

Individual-based items:

Level of contribution to overall team effort
Clearly an integral part of overall effort
Secondary level of contribution to overall effort
Minor level of contribution to overall effort
Level of knowledge about topic
Clearly excellent grasp
Generally good grasp, some minor uncertainty
Clear level of uncertainty about topic
Upbeat, professional demeanor
Some unprofessional comments / mannerisms at times
Significant unprofessional demeanor
Rate of information delivery
Slightly too fast or too slow
Significantly too fast or too slow
Eye contact with audience
Good (minor reading or a bit too much focus on screen)
Poor (too much reading or excessive focus on screen)
Some sluring or mispronunciation of a few words
Significant sluring or mispronunciations throughout presentation

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This page posted and maintained by Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D., Biology Department, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. (570) 408-4758,