Nuclear reaction is fueled by Uranium pellets. These pellets are
ceramic and about the size of the end of your finger. These pellets are inserted
into long tubes and placed the the power plant's reactor. When the plant starts up
nuetrons are shot at the uranium. When they (the nuetrons) hit the uranium the atoms
split, and neutrons from those split atoms split other atoms and so on. Once a chain
reaction is started the plant is up and running. This splitting of atoms releases so
much heat energy, that it can be trapped and used to boil water. But if the reaction
gets to hot, then a meltdown of the steel containment of the reactor core can occur.
To control such a problem, though, a control rod is necessary to absorb neutrons as
they pass by thus slowing down the reaction to control the heat. Also the cycled
water is used to control heat and act as a coolant.
- Reactor Core -- where the nuclear reaction takes place
- Carbon Steel Vessel -- the containment vessel for the nuclear
reactor, usually many layers thic
- Heated Water -- the hot water used to create steam.
- Water pumps -- the pump that moves the heated water in and out of the
- Heat exchanger -- the pool of water that is heated to create steam to turn
the turbines, also used to cool the water in the reactor core.
- Steam Pipe -- takes the steam from the heat exchanger to the turbines.
- Turbines -- huge wheels that are turned by moving steam to create
electromagnetic fields that are turned into electricity.
- Condenser -- takes steam and puts it back in the heat exchanger as cooled
- Generator -- creates DC electricity and sends it to the inductors that
turn it into AC
- Power lines -- these get the electricity to your home
Public Opinion of Nuclear Power
Many people are very skeptical about nuclear power being commonly used as
a power source throughout the world because of the events that occured at Chernobyl and
Three Mile Island (a melt down and near meltdown respectivly). But, today, the
chance of a melt down in a nuclear power plant is so low that during training nuclear
operators start practicing things that have a one in 10000 chance of happening, and go to
one in one billionth of a chance of happening, because of the many safety systems and computer
operated shut-offs. Even at the Three Mile Island Plant less radioactivity was
introduced in the area per person than turning on an extra TV. Today even the
safety measures have safety measures. Often 15 backup systems have to fail to have
one thing in a nuclear power plant fail, and then everything else and their 15 backup
systems need to fail for something to go wrong.
The nuclear pelets themselves are encased in ceramic. Then they are
placed in steel tubes. These steel tubes are placed in a steel pressure vessel eight
inched thick. Which is surrounded by a layer of concrete. There is another steel
containment layer around the concrete, which is surrounded by anouther Steel reinforced
concrete containment structure with walls about four feet thick. All of that would
have to meltdown AFTER all of the other systems failed in order for any great harm
would come to the people outside the power plant.
Nuclear Power: A Clean Energy Scoure
Unlike many other energy sources, nuclear power is remarkably clean. It emits no
sulfur dioxide, no nitrous oxide, and no carbon dioxide like cola oil
and natural gas plants do. In fact, the only by product of nuclear power is
radioactive waste which is carefully controlled, and in many countries, recycled into
new nuclear fuel.