Here are suggested ways to engage students with this video and with activities related to this topic.
- Beginning a lesson: Ask students: Where does electricity come from? Have them brainstorm a list of sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, water, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Discuss the environmental impacts of the various methods of electricity generation. Which sources produce high levels of greenhouse gas emissions? Which sources are renewable?
- Viewing the video: Use the following suggestions to guide students' viewing of the video.
- Before: Introduce the video by discussing some of the controversies surrounding the use of nuclear power. What are some advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power? Explain that Germany had been debating when to phase out its nuclear power program when the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan (in 2011) prompted the government to make a decision; they immediately shut down several older plants and announced plans to abandon all nuclear power by 2022.
- During: Have students take notes about the sources of energy that Germany currently uses. What percentage of electricity is currently supplied by nuclear sources? What are their energy goals for the future?
- After: Why must there be a "bridge" to a future of electricity supplied primarily by renewable energy? What sources of energy are possible bridges? What are the possible environmental repercussions of closing down nuclear power plants before renewable energy sources are able to provide baseload power? Are there any other alternative solutions to this problem?
- Doing research projects—groups: Have students work in groups to create presentations about sources of electricity. Assign one source (coal, natural gas, nuclear, water, wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass) to each group. Have each group create a short presentation for the rest of the class about how electricity is produced from that source. Students should also provide information about the advantages and disadvantages of their source and discuss how widely it is used. Encourage students to create visual aids as part of their presentation.
- Taking a stand: Have students take sides (or assign them to a side) supporting or opposing whether a hypothetical country should end its nuclear program within the next 10 years. In this scenario, the hypothetical country currently has the following sources of electricity: 35% nuclear power, 30% renewable sources, and 35% fossil fuels. The country is located in a region with ideal conditions for solar and wind energy and a very limited supply of fossil fuels. The existing nuclear power plants are in excellent condition but there is widespread anxiety about nuclear energy because of the recent Fukushima disaster. If the country needs to import electricity, it comes from a neighboring country that uses fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources. Have each team prepare arguments to support their position. They should consider:
This activity will help students get an idea of the complex factors involved in the issue and demonstrate that there is no easy solution.
- the environmental impact of continuing to use nuclear power;
- the environmental consequences of abandoning nuclear power;
- the stability of the supply of electricity;
- the safety of the residents of the country; and
- the economy of the country.