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NFCRC Tutorial: Nuclear

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The production of nuclear energy by fission involves the conversion of matter to energy in which an exceedingly large amount of energy is released. The nuclear reactions generate an excess of neutrons which permits a chain reaction to proceed making it possible to design nuclear reactors in which self-sustaining reactions occur with the continuous release of energy.

Photo of hydrogen bomb explosionFusion of light nuclei, like those of hydrogen, into heavier elements is also an energy producing process. However, nuclear fusion is still in the research phase and only nuclear fission has been commercially practiced.

The heat generated in nuclear fission reactors is transferred to a working fluid, typically water and the steam thus produced powers a steam turbine. Two principal reactor types are the pressurized water reactors (PWR) and the boiling water reactors (BWR). In a PWR, heat generated in the nuclear core is removed heavy water circulating at high pressure through the primary circuit and performs both cooling and moderation of the reactor. Heat is transferred from the primary to the secondary system in a boiler to generate steam. In the BWR the boiling takes place in the reactor itself.

Safety of the reactors in terms of release of radioactive materials to the environment has been a major issue. On the other hand, nuclear energy does not generate any greenhouse gasses like the fossil fuel fired plants do. Disposal and management of the radioactive spent fuel from nuclear reactors is a major challenge and has been an impediment to its wide spread use in many countries. Some countries such as France, however, have a majority of their electricity generated by nuclear fission.

Photo of nuclear power plant

Installed Capacity of Nuclear Energy12

The following table shows the nuclear energy generated in some of the countries and the total generated by the world in 1996:

 

France

Japan

South Korea

U.S.

China

Mexico

Total World

10 KWH

397

293.2

72.5

703.3

14.3

7.9

2,396.3

 

Quiz

1. Which of the following are examples of nuclear reactions:
a) Chernobyl
b) Hiroshima
c) Nagasaki
d) Godzilla
e) a, b, & c

 

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Reference:
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/world/country/