What is nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy is the energy that comes from core of an atom and is non-renewable source of energy. Atoms are relatively tiny parts and are enormous source of energy which is released after breaking the bonds that nucleus of atom holds. Nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are two best ways used to release energy from bonds that hold atom together. In nuclear fission atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms, releasing energy. Nuclear power plants use this energy to produce electricity. While in nuclear fusion, energy is released when atoms are combined or fused together to form a larger atom. This field is under study and it has not been decided yet that this subject will provide electricity or not.
Uranium is the fuel used widely in nuclear plants for purpose of nuclear fission. Because of this fuel nuclear power is considered as non-renewable source of energy as this is natural material that comes from rocks all over the world. There are different types of uranium available to use, but in nuclear plants one certain kind is used whose atoms are easy to split apart. Although uranium is quite common material but this special type of it comes in head of some rare materials and this reason makes its expensive as well.
Once uranium is mined and extracted now just it has to be refined before using it as fuel to generate electricity. A survey in 2005 tells us that nuclear power provided 6.3% of the world’s energy and 15% of the world’s electricity in that year. Commercial use of nuclear energy began in 1950’s and in 2009 two new nuclear power grids were installed in US only. Besides using uranium as source of energy, it is also used by military ships and space vehicles.
Demand for Nuclear Energy:
Nowadays nuclear power is considered as an important source of energy all over the world and more than 25% of world electricity is produced through this non-renewable source. Lithuania, France, Slovakia and Belgium rely on nuclear power for more than 50% of their total electric power. Higher oil and gas prices are responsible for high rate of use of nuclear energy. Constantly changing prices made nuclear power more attractive and are expected to lead to growth in nuclear generating capacity worldwide.
Nuclear energy is playing important role in medicine, agriculture, industry, science and food preservation etc. It is used to identify different diseases and treat them as well. Nuclear irradiation of food is used popularly as it causes less vitamin loss than canning, freezing or drying in food preservation.
Types of nuclear reactors:
To get energy from uranium, nuclear reactors are used which are large machines. These machines control the nuclear chain of reaction at controlled rate when energy is released. In a nuclear power plant heat supplies are used to turn water into stream and run turbine generators to generate electricity. Two main types of reactors are used for this purpose
Boiling water reactor: in this reactors water is boiled so that it turned into steam and reach to the reactor vessel.
Pressurized-Water reactor: in this reactor, the water heated by the reactor core is kept under pressure so that it does not turn to steam at all and remains liquid. This liquid then flows towards the steam generator which turns the clean water into steam outside the hot tubes. This steam runs the turbine generator and generates electricity.
Pros and cons of nuclear energy:
- Uranium releases low carbon dioxide In process of power generation
- Its operating cost is low
- Nuclear waste can be recycled to save the cost
- Unknown risks are involved with this non-renewable source
- Long construction time for plants
- It is difficult to spot the right place for mining uranium easily