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ACTIVITY in Renewable Energy, Interdisciplinary, History, Radiation, Pros Cons of Nuclear Power, Radiation. Last updated February 19, 2021.


In this activity, students will conduct research and write a persuasive essay in which they state an opinion about whether the number of nuclear plants should be increased or decreased.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-ETS1-1: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of the lesson, students should be able to:

  • Identify the pros and cons of using nuclear power as an energy source.
  • Make a conclusion supported by specific evidence.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Pros and cons of nuclear power


Teacher Preparation: 15 minutes

Lesson: 90 minutes to 3 hours


  • Internet-capable device (preferably a computer) for research, typing essay
  • Student handout


  • No safety precautions need to be taken for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • Give students 5-10 minutes to review one or two of the sources listed below that provide information on the pros and cons of nuclear power. They should choose a side to argue for their essay – increasing or decreasing the number of nuclear power plants.
  • Articles and websites if you want to provide students with a starting point for their research (please note that some websites require subscriptions and may only allow a certain number of free article views per month without a subscription):
  • Students may find other sources that they would like to use for their essay. If they do, encourage them to assess the quality of the resource so they are sure they are getting scientifically accurate information. This article is a good place for students to look for guidance on evaluating internet resources.
  • You may want to require students to use a minimum number (the student handout suggests 3) or certain type (book, website, encyclopedia, news article, etc.) of sources, and/or use sources beyond the ones suggested above so they have to do some research on their own. As always, students should properly cite any source they use to write their essay. The student handout suggests APA formatting, but you can change that to another format if you wish.
  • Students should briefly describe how nuclear energy is generated and the science involved, weigh the benefits vs. risks of this power source, discuss waste disposal, and list conditions that must be met by these power plants before they come to a community. In their essays, students should also be sure to address the opposing viewpoint and why they disagree with it.
  • A grading rubric and outline are in the student handout. It’s up to the teacher whether they want to share these either or both of these resources with the students.
  • This activity allows students to work on literacy and communication skills – evaluating sources and writing a persuasive argument – as well as science skills. If you want to give students options for formatting their argument (and some of these involve artistic and/or public speaking skills as well), you could allow them to present their position in one of the following ways:
    • Speech
    • Poster
    • Infographic
    • Powerpoint presentation
    • Public service announcement video
  • This project could be introduced in class and then completed outside of class time or as part of a lesson with a substitute teacher. It could also be used as a post-AP Chemistry exam activity.
  • You could ask students to share their work with a congressman, newspaper, or other public forum. Students could also have a class debate on the subject, perhaps with other teachers or students outside the class acting as judges.
  • If you do decide to have a discussion or debate, encourage students to be respectful of each other’s ideas while debating. This article from the University of Michigan provides valuable ways to prepare for and approach discussions that may involve controversial issues or opinions.
  • This activity could be paired with other complimentary AACT nuclear chemistry resources:

For the Student


Do We Need More Nuclear Energy Plants in the U.S.?

Do the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the risks? Would you want to have a nuclear power plant in your state? Would you accept nuclear waste in your state? Are there restrictions you think should be in place, or any other conditions that should be met in order for these power plants to be built and used?

In this activity, you are going to write a persuasive essay based on your ideas about nuclear energy. You are trying to persuade the reader to accept and interpret available information on nuclear power the same way that you do. You need to be very clear about your position state it succinctly and support it with strong arguments and relevant information. Your essay should include the following:

  1. Introduction and statement of your position or claim.
  2. Use each paragraph to support your claim with relevant details and facts.
  3. Use at least three specific sources of information, and cite them appropriately.
  4. Acknowledge at least two reasons why there may be opposing opinions to your own, but explain why you stand by your position.
  5. Give your essay a clear ending by reviewing your strong arguments in a concise conclusion.

Outline for Essay

  1. Introduction
    1. What are nuclear power plants and how do they work?
    2. Why are they controversial?
    3. What is your opinion?
    4. What evidence will you use to support your opinion (summarize)?
  2. Evidence
    1. Reason 1 (specific)
      1. Quote or fact
      2. Analysis, what you think about what they said/did
    2. Reason 2 (specific)
      1. Quote or fact
      2. Analysis, what you think about what they said/did
    3. Reason 3 (specific)
      1. Quote or fact
      2. Analysis, what you think about what they said/did
  3. Opposing views and Rebuttal
    1. The opposition’s strongest argument 1 (general)
      1. Quote or fact
      2.  Rebuttal, why you disagree (specific evidence)
    2. The opposition's strongest argument 2 (general)
      1. Quote or fact
      2. Rebuttal, why you disagree (specific evidence)
  4. Conclusion
    1. Restate your opinion
    2. Review your strong arguments
    3. Review your rebuttal to the opposition
    4. Conclude with a general restatement of your ideas
  5. Bibliography in APA format (use www.calvin.edu/library/knightcite, www.easybib.com, www.bibme.org, or similar sites for help formatting references)


Follow the rubric and assess your own essay. Ask yourself "DID I?" for each criterion? For example, "Did I give clear and accurate reasons in support of my claim?"


Needs Improvement

The claim

___/4 pts

I make a claim and explain why it is controversial.

I make a claim but don't explain why it is controversial. My claim is buried, confused and/or unclear. I don't say what my argument or claim is.

Reasons in support of the claim

___/10 pts

I give clear and accurate reasons in support of my claim. I give reasons in support of my claim but I may overlook important reasons. I give one or two weak reasons that don't support my claim and/or irrelevant or confusing reasons. I do not give convincing reasons in support of my claim.

Reasons against the claim

___/8 pts

I discuss the reasons against my claim and explain why it is valid anyway. I discuss the reasons against my claim but leave some reasons out and/or don't explain why the claim still stands. I say that there are reasons against the claim but I don't discuss them. I do not acknowledge or discuss the reasons against the claim.

Voice and tone

___/2 pts

It sounds like I care about my argument. I show how I think and feel about it. My tone is OK but my paper could have been written by anyone. I need to tell more about how I think and feel.

My writing is bland or pretentious. There is either no hint of a real person in it or it sounds like I'm a fake.

My writing is too formal or too informal. It sounds like I don't like the topic of the essay.

Sentence fluency

___/2 pts

My sentences are clear, complete, and of varying lengths and structures. I have well-constructed sentences. My sentences are sometimes awkward, and/or contain run-ons and fragments. Many run-ons, fragments and awkward phrasings make my essay hard to read.


___/2 pts

I use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I generally use correct conventions. I have a couple of errors I should fix. I have enough errors in my essay to distract a reader. Numerous errors make my paper hard to read.


___/2 pts

I use at least 3 reliable sources and format my citations appropriately. I use at least 2 reliable sources and my citations are mostly correctly formatted.
I use 1 reliable source and/or have significant errors in my citations.
The source(s) I use are not reliable and/or citations have minimal or no formatting.


__/30 pts