Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions that release nuclear energy to generate heat, which most frequently is then used in steam turbines to produce electricity in a nuclear power plant.
In nuclear chemistry, nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form one or more different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles (neutrons or protons). The difference in mass between the reactants and products is manifested as either the release or absorption of energy.
Nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller, lighter nuclei. The fission process often produces free neutrons and gamma photons, and releases a very large amount of energy even by the energetic standards of radioactive decay.
Nuclear fusion and Nuclear fisssion
In 1932 physicist Ernest Rutherford discovered that when lithium atoms were "split" by protons from a proton accelerator, immense amounts of energy were released in accordance with the principle of mass–energy equivalence.
The same year, his doctoral student James Chadwick discovered the neutron Experiments bombarding materials with neutrons led Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie to discover induced radioactivity in 1934, which allowed the creation of radium-like elements. Further work by Enrico Fermi in the 1930s focused on using slow neutrons to increase the effectiveness of induced radioactivity.
In 1938, German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, along with Austrian physicist Lise Meitner and Meitner's nephew, Otto Robert Frisch, conducted experiments with the products of neutron-bombarded uranium, as a means of further investigating Fermi's claims. They determined that the relatively tiny neutron split the nucleus of the massive uranium atoms into two roughly equal pieces, contradicting Fermi.
Leó Szilárd, who was one of the first, recognized that if fission reactions released additional neutrons.
The first light bulbs ever lit by electricity generated by nuclear power at EBR-1 at Argonne National Laboratory-West, December 20, 1951. As the first liquid metal cooled fast reactor, it demonstrated Fermi's Experimental fuel Breeding Reactor principle, to maximize the usable energy obtainable from the, initially considered, scarce natural uranium.
How Is Nuclear Energy Used to Produce Electricity?
In most power plants, you need to spin a turbine to generate electricity. Coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear energy use their fuel to turn water into steam and use that steam to turn the turbine.
Nuclear plants are different because they do not burn anything to create steam. Instead, they split uranium atoms in a process called fission. As a result, unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants do not release carbon or pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur oxides into the air.
Nuclear reactors are designed to sustain an ongoing chain reaction of fission; they are filled with a specially designed, solid uranium fuel and surrounded by water, which facilitates the process.
When the reactor starts, uranium atoms will split, releasing neutrons and heat. Those neutrons will hit other uranium atoms causing them to split and continue the process, generating more neutrons and more heat.This heat is used to create the steam that will spin a turbine, which powers a generator to make electricity.
Two Types of Reactors in the United StatesThe nuclear reactors currently operating in the United States are either boiling water reactors or pressurized water reactors.
The names can be a bit misleading:
Both use steam to power a generator, but the difference is how they create it.
A boiling water reactor heats up the water in the reactor until it boils into steam and spins the turbine.
A pressurized water reactor heats up the water in the reactor too. However, that water is kept under pressure so it doesn’t boil and is piped to another supply of water that becomes steam and spins the turbine.
Agriculture and FoodIn many parts of the world, agricultural workers use radiation to prevent harmful insects from reproducing. When insects cannot have offspring, there are fewer of them. Reducing the numbers of pests and bugs protects crops, providing the world with more food.Irradiation also kills bacteria and other harmful organisms in food. This type of sterilization occurs without making food radioactive or significantly affecting the nutritional value. In fact, irradiation is the only way to kill bacteria in raw and frozen foods effectively.
MedicalNuclear energy technologies provide images inside the human body and can help to treat disease. For example, nuclear research has allowed doctors to predict precisely the amount of radiation required to kill cancer tumors without damaging healthy cells.Hospitals sterilize medical equipment with gamma rays safely and inexpensively. Items sterilized by radiation include syringes, burn dressings, surgical gloves and heart valves.
Space ExplorationNuclear technology makes deep space exploration possible. The generators in unmanned spacecraft use the heat from plutonium to generate electricity and can operate unattended for years. This reliable, long-term source of electricity powers these spacecraft, even as they venture deep into space.
Did you know?
About 20% of America’s electricity comes from nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy accounts for 56% of our nation's carbon-free electricity.
Nuclear plants are the lowest-cost provider of large-scale electricity.
Some states generate more than half of their electricity from nuclear power.
The radioactive waste coming from nuclear power plants is a great threat to Mother Nature and humans. The devastating effects of Chernobyl disaster still linger in our minds, where the grave effects on humans can be seen even today. According to records, about 30, 000 people died in the Chernobyl disaster, and over 2.5 million Ukrainians are still dealing with the health tribulations associated with the nuclear waste.
Another practical disadvantage of using nuclear energy is that it needs a lot of investment to set up a nuclear power station. Constructing a nuclear power plantrequires massive capital outlay.
Eutrophication is extensive enrichment of the lake and other water bodies by nutrients, mostly due to runoff from land. This process causes dense growth of plant life eventually leading to death of aquatic life as a result of lack of oxygen.
The impacts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs during the Second World War are still rife in our memories.
Radioactive material is considered waste after it has spent more than 3 years in the reactor producing heat and electricity. This waste comes from nuclearreactors and needs to be disposed of or stored safely and conveniently considering they are highly dangerous and can let off radiations if disposed of incorrectly.