Nuclear energy is the energy that is obtained from the division (nuclear fission) or from the union (nuclear fusion) of an atom. Despite the existence of a large number of applications related to nuclear energy (medicine, industry, transport, etc.), the main application of this technology is the generation of electrical energy.
Electricity of nuclear origin is generated in nuclear power plants. At present, all nuclear power plants operate through nuclear fission reactions. The nuclear fuel they use is usually uranium or plutonium (by an artificial process). Because uranium resources are not unlimited, nuclear energy is considered a non-renewable energy source.
Nuclear power plants
Currently all nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to operate. Nuclear fusion is a technology that has many advantages but is still not in a position to use it, mainly for technical reasons.
Nuclear power plants are responsible for transforming the energy stored in the nucleus of atoms to convert it to electrical energy.
Operation of a nuclear power plant
The most important part is done in the nuclear reactor. Nuclear fuel rods are deposited in the nuclear reactor (usually uranium or plutonium) and, by projection of a neutron, a series of physical and chemical chain reactions are generated that release a large amount of thermal energy.
The thermal energy generated in the nuclear reactor is used to heat water and convert it to high pressure steam. The steam obtained will be responsible for operating large turbines, which connected to a dynamo, will generate electricity.
The nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants is uranium or plutonium.
Uranium is a mineral, not very abundant, that is extracted from Earth. It has a very unstable structure and it is very easy for it to change its atomic structure. This property is ideal for use, since precisely, what is intended is to change its atomic structure. Even before being used in a nuclear power plant, it passes through a nuclear fuel processing plant where it is enriched and becomes even more unstable.
The amount of energy that is obtained per gram of uranium is very high, but even so, the Earth has limited reserves of uranium that do not regenerate. For this reason, nuclear energy is considered a non-renewable source of energy.
The other material used is plutonium. Plutonium is not found in nature, it is a material obtained artificially. It is a residue of nuclear fission reactions with uranium.
Advantages and disadvantages of the use of nuclear energy
Advantages of the unilization of this non- renewable energy resource:
- You can get a lot of electric power with very little amount of nuclear fuel.
- It does not emit greenhouse gases abroad, which does not contribute to the global warming of the planet.
- All the energy generated by nuclear energy implies a reduction in the energy produced by thermal power plants. Therefore, a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
- The weather conditions do not influence the production of electrical energy obtained. Thanks to this, an electricity production planning can be established.
Disadvantages of the use of nuclear energy:
- Although there are few accidents, the accidents produced are extremely dangerous for the environment and public health.
- The nuclear fuel used is limited.
- Nuclear power plants are a potential target for attacks.
- The management of the nuclear waste they generate is not very well resolved and it takes millions of years to lose their radioactivity.