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Browns Ferry Nuclear Reactor and the EPA

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

How does the water released from a nuclear power plant affect the environment surrounding it?

Unit Summary:

This lesson will allow students to investigate the environmental issues that can arise surrounding a nuclear power plant. It will also discuss some of the history behind the Tennessee Valley Authority and how they created the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant. It will take a deeper look at the research conducted at Browns Ferry by the Environmental Protection Agency and the problems they discovered. The students will then have to solve a similar problem themselves.

Hook Event:

The students will begin the lesson with a formative assessment. This formative assessment is called twitter board. The students will use strips of paper to answer three separate questions. The students will be required to answer in 140 characters or less, just like Twitter.
1.What do you think TVA does and why is it important?
2.What does the Environmental Protection Agency do?
3.How could these two organizations be linked together?

Culminating Event:

The students will give a presentation at the end of the lesson. They will conduct research to provide a solution to help clean up algal blooms caused by nuclear power plants.


Science Standards:

ES 1: Investigate and analyze the use of nonrenewable energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels, nuclear, natural gas) and renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal) and propose solutions for their impact on the environment.

Math Standards:

ELA and Other Standards:

ELA 9.26: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (W.9-10.7)
L11.7: Explain strengths and weaknesses of the New Deal in managing problems of the Great Depression through relief, recovery, and reform programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Social Security Act.

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

DescriptionResources and Materials
Activity OneThe first activity will be the formative assessment Twitter board.  The students will be required to answer three questions on the topic of this PBL. 
Activity TwoThe second activity will require the students to participate in a classroom discussion of the TVA and the EPA.  There will be a PowerPoint associated with this discussion that will open up questions for the students.  The students will learn the history of the TVA,  how and why they built Browns Ferry, and the EPA’s involvement and research in the project. 
Activity ThreeThe students will then complete an algae lab activity. This will be a week long activity. The students will prepare their algae solution and then select an “environment” for their algae to live in over the next week.  The students will observe and take notes on their algae every day to monitor its progress.

Lab Goggles

Safety Gloves

Plastic water bottles

Tap Water

Pond/Lake/River Water

Measuring Cup

Liquid Fertilizer

Activity FourOnce the week is up there will be a classroom discussion about what they observed with their algae and how it compared to their hypothesis. 
Activity Five

The students will then create a presentation on water temperature and algae growth and how they could prevent it. The presentation will be required to contain:

– Explain the group’s hypothesis.
– Explain the results. 

–Was it what they expected to happen?

–How would they get rid of overgrowth of algae in the river?

–Research actual solutions to this problem.

–Correctly site all sources.

Technology Integration: The students will need the use of their computers in order to conduct research on ways to combat the overgrowth of algae. Students will need to think of ways to actually solve this problem and accurately source sites in the process

Community PartnersContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information

Environmental Protection Agency

Multiple Resources


Multiple Resources

Capstone Presentation:

For the capstone presentation the students will work in small groups. There will be requirements to meet in the presentation and all students must participate equally. Each group will give a presentation explaining their group’s hypothesis, along with the results of their algae experiment data, and how they would solve the overgrowth of algae.

Lesson Resources