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What is nuclear energy?

Everything around you is made up of tiny objects called atoms. Most of the
mass of each atom is concentrated in the center (which is called the nucleus), and
the rest of the mass is in the cloud of electrons surrounding the nucleus. Protons
and neutrons are subatomic particles that comprise the nucleus (see figure 1).
Nuclear energy is the energy found in the core, or the nucleus, of an atom.
Energy is what holds the nucleus together. There is a huge amount of power in an
atomically dense nucleus. In fact, the power that holds the nucleus together is
officially called the "strong force". Nuclear energy can be used to create electricity,
but it must first be released from the atom.
Under certain circumstances, the nucleus of a very large atom can split in
two. In this process, a certain amount of the large atom’s mass is converted to pure
energy following Einstein’s famous formula E = MC2, where M is the small amount
of mass and C is the speed of light (a very large number).
In the 1930s and ’40s, humans discovered this energy and recognized its
potential as a weapon. Technology developed in the Manhattan Project successfully
used this energy in a chain reaction to create nuclear bombs. Soon after World War
II ended, the newfound energy source found a home in the propulsion of the nuclear
navy, providing submarines with engines that could run for over a year without
refueling. This technology was quickly transferred to the public sector, where
commercial power plants were developed and deployed to produce electricity.
Fission and Fusion

Fusion reactions occur in the sun. releasing energy. you have to hit it with a neutron. called fission products. In nuclear fusion. due to its promise of nearly limitless. generally using Hydrogen as fuel and producing Helium as waste (fun fact: Helium was discovered in the sun and named after the Greek Sun God. These reactions can release more energy than fission without producing as many radioactive byproducts. But first the energy must be released. atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms. Applications Nuclear energy produces electricity that can be used to power homes. All commercial nuclear power plants in operation use this reaction to generate heat which they turn into electricity.Nuclear energy can be used to make electricity. To split an atom. businesses. and non-proliferative energy. This reaction has not been commercially developed yet and is a serious research interest worldwide. energy is released when atoms are combined or fused together to form a larger atom. Fusion is the combining of two small atoms such as Hydrogen or Helium to produce heavier atoms and energy. It can be released from atoms in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. This is how the sun produces energy. This nuclear reaction was the first of the two to be discovered. producing a nuclear chain reaction of sustained energy release. Fission is the energetic splitting of large atoms such as Uranium or Plutonium into two smaller atoms. Helios). low-pollution. The first nuclear reactor to produce electricity . schools. Several neutrons are also released which can go on to split other nearby atoms. and hospitals. In nuclear fission. Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to produce electricity.

or to heat neighborhoods. most nuclear power plants are located in the developed world. Idaho. where it does no harm as clean water vapor (see figure 2). It is cooled down in a separate structure called a cooling tower.Nuclear power plants produce renewable. The Experimental Breeder Reactor began powering itself in 1951. 2. Independence . Building nuclear reactors requires a high level of technology. among many other industrial processes. Additionally. Russia.With nuclear power. For these reasons. . in 1954. and do not radically alter the environment around them. They do not pollute the air or produce greenhouse gases. The first nuclear power plant designed to provide energy to a community was established in Obninsk. many nuclear reactor designs can provide high-quality process heat in addition to electricity. we could reduce our oil demands by orders of magnitude.S. Clean and ecological . Advantages 1.was located near Arco. in the U. The steam turns back into water and can be used again to produce more electricity. which can in turn be used to desalinate water. They can be built in urban or rural areas. many countries can approach energy independence. prepare hydrogen for fuel cells. clean energy. Being "addicted to oil" is a major national and global security concern for various reasons. Excess steam is simply recycled into the atmosphere. and only the countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty can get the uranium or plutonium that is required. The steam powering the turbines and generators is ultimately recycled. Using electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) powered by nuclear reactors.

This complexity causes the up-front cost of a nuclear power plant to be much higher than for a comparable coal plant. Cost . Once the plant is . 2.Three major accidents have occurred in commercial power plants: Chernobyl. This nuclear waste must be controlled and kept out of the environment for at least that long. Radiation was released and the public was evacuated. killing over 50 people. When atoms split to release energy. These three accidents are very scary and keep many people from being comfortable with nuclear power. the smaller atoms that are left behind are often left in excited states. Fukushima was a station black-out caused by a huge Tsunami. Some of the longest lived atoms don’t decay to stability for hundreds of thousands of years.Nuclear power plants are larger and more complicated than other power plants. Accidents . No one was hurt and very little radiation was released. Three Mile Island. Radioactive waste . causing the operating company and its investors to lose a lot of money. and Fukushima. where coolant levels dropped below the fuel and allowed some of it to melt. Four neighboring plants lost cooling and the decay heat melted the cores.Nuclear waste is on major downside to this form of energy. but the plant had to close. and causing up to 4000 cancer cases (see figure 3).Disadvantages 1. Chernobyl was an uncontrolled steam explosion which released a large amount of radiation into the environment. requiring a mass evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. Many redundant safety systems are built to keep the plant operating safely. emitting energetic particles that can cause biological damage. Designing systems to last that long is a daunting task — one that been a major selling point of anti-nuclear groups. Three Mile Island was a partial-core meltdown. 3.

Diagram of Inner Workings of Nuclear Reactor . In general. the more money its operators make. Figure 1.built. The large capital cost keeps many investors from agreeing to finance nuclear power plants. the fuel costs are much less than fossil fuel costs. the older a nuclear plant gets.Structure of an Atom Figure 2 . http://sustainablebalance.Aftermath of Chernobyl Disaster References: http://nationalgeographic.nnr.html .ca/what-is-nuclear-energy/ https://www.Figure 3.