How Do Nuclear Power Plants Work

Nuclear Power: Energy Generation through Fission

Nuclear power plants work by harnessing the energy produced from nuclear reactions to generate electricity. These plants use a process called nuclear fission, where the nucleus of an atom is split into smaller parts, releasing a tremendous amount of energy. The fuel used in most commercial nuclear reactors is uranium-235, as it is capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction.

Nuclear Power Plant Fuels Reactors

Inside a nuclear power plant, reactor fuel rods containing uranium-235 are placed in a reactor vessel surrounded by a moderator, such as water or graphite. The moderator slows down the neutrons produced during fission, increasing the chances of further fission reactions. When the atomic nucleus of uranium-235 is struck by a neutron, it becomes unstable and splits into two smaller nuclei, releasing energy in the process. This energy is in the form of heat.

Nuclear Fission Generates Steam for Turbines

The heat generated by nuclear fission is used to produce steam. In a nuclear power plant, the steam is created by circulating cool water, often from a nearby river or lake, through pipes that pass by the reactor core. The heat from the reactor system is transferred to the water, which then turns into steam. This steam is at a very high pressure and is directed towards a turbine.

Steam-powered turbines generate electricity efficiently

The pressurized steam flows through the turbine blades, causing it to rotate at high speed. As the turbine spins, its mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy by a generator. The generator consists of a series of coils and magnets, and when the turbine turns the rotor, the magnetic field passing through the coils induces an electric current. This electric current is then fed into the electrical grid, where it is distributed to homes and industries to meet their electricity needs.

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