Home - Machines Theory - Understanding nuclear energy

Understanding nuclear energy

Most people don’t consider nuclear energy as clean energy most especially when comparing with solar energy and wind turbines. Despite the fact, nuclear energy is the second-largest source of low-carbon electricity in the world, following hydropower. Nuclear energy is released in significant amounts in processes that affect atomic nuclei, the dense cores of atoms. It is commonly used for the generation of electricity.

Today you’ll get to know the definition, uses, examples, diagram, working, advantages, and disadvantages of nuclear energy. you’ll also learn about nuclear fission and fusion, nuclear power, nuclear power plant, etc.

nuclear energy

Read more: Understanding biomass energy resource

What is nuclear energy?

Nuclear energy is from the binding energy that is stored in the center of an atom and holds it together. Nuclear energy comes down to atoms, when it splits or fuses together reaction in form of heat energy is created. Well, the important aspect is the power generated during the reaction process.

This energy is also called atomic energy, released in significant amounts in the process that affect atomic nuclei, the dense core of atoms. There is a huge difference between nuclear energy and other atomic phenomena like an ordinary chemical reaction that involve only the orbital electrons of atoms. Controlling nuclear fission in a device called a reactor is the common way of releasing nuclear energy. Also, controlled nuclear fusion is another method for creating nuclear energy.

Nuclear power

Nuclear power is the power created from nuclear energy, harnessed from the reaction. The energy itself is created during the reaction but nuclear power is the end power used to generate electricity. Furthermore, nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions to produce electricity. It can be obtained from nuclear fission, nuclear decay, and nuclear fusion reactions. Although the most common method of generating electricity from nuclear power today is by nuclear fission. Uranium and plutonium are used during the reaction process in nuclear power plants. Also, nuclear decay processes can be used, but in some niche applications like radioisotope thermoelectric generators in some space probes.

Read more: Understanding geothermal energy

Nuclear fusion

From the common English word, fusion can think as something fusing together. This is exactly what happens in nuclear fusion as atoms are fused or combined together to produce energy. Sun is the common form of nuclear fusion because, inside the sun, hydrogen nuclei fuse together to form helium. This creates heat energy that warms the earth. Nuclear fusion is the process by which nuclear reactions between light elements form heavier ones.

Nuclear fission

Unlike nuclear fusion that fuses atoms together, nuclear fission energy can be created when the nucleus of an atom breaks apart. This fission reaction is common as uranium is used in nuclear power plants. In another word, the nucleus of an atom such as uranium or plutonium breaks up into two lighter nuclei of roughly equal mass. In some cases, the process may take place spontaneously or may be induced by the excitation of the nucleus with a variety of particles e.g., neutrons, protons, deuterons, or alpha particles, or with electromagnetic radiation in form of gamma rays. Inside a reactor, the nucleus of the atom is forced apart, creating nuclear energy.

Read more: Understanding solar energy

Nuclear power plants

Nuclear power plants are thermal power stations that produce electricity by harnessing the thermal energy created from nuclear fission. A fission nuclear power plant is generally composed of a nuclear reaction, where nuclear reactions take place. Also, it features a cooling system that removes the heat from inside the reactor, a steam turbine that transforms the heat into mechanical energy. And finally, an electric generator that transforms the mechanical energy into electrical energy.

How it works

When a neutron hits the nucleus of a uranium-235 or plutonium atom, it can split the nucleus into two smaller nuclei. This is called nuclear fission. This fission reaction releases energy and neutrons. The released neutrons can hit other uranium or plutonium nuclei so that a new fission reaction can occur, releasing more energy and more neutrons. This is known as a chain reaction.

In most commercial purposes of nuclear energy, their reaction rate is controlled by control rods that absorb excess neutrons. The controllability of the nuclear reactors is base on the fact that a small fraction of neutrons resulting from fission is delayed. The delayed time between the fission and the release of the neutrons slows down changes in reaction rates and gives time for moving the control rods to adjust the reaction rate.

Read more: Understanding thermal energy

Watch the video below to learn more on the working of nuclear energy:

 

Examples and uses of nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is widely used because it protects air quality by producing massive amounts of carbon-free electricity. It has several uses, not only in the creation of power and weapons but also for medicine, space exploration, etc. nuclear power is used in 28 U.S communities and contributes to many non-electric applications. below are the examples and uses of nuclear energy.

Electricity

Nuclear fission is used to generate electricity, using the power created during the reaction. This is done in a nuclear power plant, where uranium is split within a reactor. The energy created is used to heat water to spin turbines. The spinning turbines produce electricity. Nuclear power is generally reliable and less costly, but its byproducts and water pollutants can be extremely controversial.

Read more: Understanding tidal energy

Nuclear weapons

People will think of weapons when talking about nuclear energy since it is used to create atomic or hydrogen bombs. A powerful explosion is created when both nuclear fission and fusion are used. It is capable of demolishing large areas in seconds. The explosion also creates toxic levels of radiation.

Space exploration

Another popular use of nuclear energy is for space exploration. It is used in generators for exploring deep space. The Cassini-Huygens probe explored Saturn with the use of a radioactive isotope thermoelectric generator. Although it was later destroyed in 2017.

Nuclear medicine

Some byproducts created during a nuclear fission reaction are necessary for the field of medicine. For instance, cobalt-60 can use to sanitize hospitals equipment like implants, catheters, and scalpels as well as complex medical devices and other technology. It can also be used in medical radiotherapy for cancer treatment and in medical imaging. Finally,

Join our Newsletter

Food treatments

Nuclear energy and technology are used within food and agriculture to make processes safer and more effective. Nuclear-related technology is used in sterilizing agricultural pests to reduce the use of pesticides. This increases the control of bug’s reproduction, instead of completely eliminating them. Furthermore, nuclear energy technologies are also used to test foods to ensure harmful contaminants aren’t lingering on products. This can also improve yields from livestock.

Read more: Understanding windmill energy

Diagram of nuclear energy:

diagram of nuclear energy

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy

Advantages:

Below are the benefits of nuclear energy in its various applications.

  • Clean source of energy
  • A most reliable source of energy
  • Job opportunity is created because of the maintenance and monitoring of nuclear power plants.
  • Supports national security
  • Produces minimal waste
  • It protects air quality.
  • It serves purposes in different fields.

Read more: Understanding hydroelectric power

Disadvantages:

Despite the good advantages of nuclear energy, some disadvantages still occur. Below are the limitations of nuclear energy in its various applications.

  • It is viewed as a dangerous and unstable process.
  • The problem of transporting, storing, and disposing of used fuel.
  • Constructing a new power plant can discouraging to investors due to its high cost. Finally,
  • High operating costs.

Conclusion

Nuclear energy comes down to atoms, when it splits or fuses together reaction in form of heat energy is created. The energy is from the binding energy that is stored in the center of an atom and holds it together. Nuclear power is the power created from nuclear energy, harnessed from the reaction. The energy itself is created during the reaction but nuclear power is the end power used to generate electricity. That is all for this article, where the definition, uses, examples, diagram, working, advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy are being discussed. I also throw shad on nuclear fission and fusion, nuclear power, and nuclear power plant.

I hope you got a lot from the reading, if so, kindly share with other students. Thanks for reading, see you next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *