Nuclear energy is the energy contained in the nucleus or nucleus of an atom. Atoms are small units that make up all matter in the universe and energy is what holds the components of the nucleus together. There is a lot of energy in the dense nucleus of an atom. In fact the force that binds the basic components together is officially called the strong force or strong nuclear force.
Nuclear energy can be used to generate electricity but first this energy must be released from the atom. In the process of nuclear fission, the atoms split to release this energy.
A nuclear reactor or nuclear power plant is a set of machines that can control nuclear fission to generate electricity. The fuel used by nuclear reactors to produce nuclear fission is uranium pellets. In a nuclear reactor, uranium atoms are forced to decay. When atoms divide, the atoms release small molecules called fission products. The fission products cause other uranium atoms to split apart, starting a chain reaction. The energy released from this reaction creates a heat chain.
The heat generated by the fission of the reactor cools the core. This cooling agent is usually water but some nuclear reactors use liquid metal or molten salt. The cooling agent heated by nuclear fission produces steam. This steam causes turbines or wheels to be turned by the fluid flow. Turbines generate generators or engines that generate electricity.
Rods of a substance called “nuclear poison” can regulate energy generation. Nuclear nuclei contain substances such as xenon, which absorb some of the fission products. The more nuclear syringe rods there are during the chain reaction, the slower and more controlled the reaction. Removing the rods causes a stronger chain reaction and generates more electricity.
Since 2011, about 15 percent of the world’s electricity is generated by nuclear power plants. The United States has more than 100 reactors although most of its electricity comes from fossil fuels and hydropower. Countries like Lithuania, France, and Slovakia generate almost all of their electricity from nuclear power plants.
Uranium is food for nuclear power
Uranium is the fuel that produces most nuclear energy. The reason for this can be found in the fact that uranium atoms can be easily separated. Uranium is also a very common element found in rocks around the world. However, a special type of uranium used to generate nuclear power called U-235 is rare. In fact, Uranium-235 makes up less than 1% of the world’s uranium.
Although some of the uranium used by the United States is mined in the country, most of it is imported. The United States imports uranium from Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. After uranium is extracted, it must be separated from other minerals and processed before it can be used.
Because nuclear fuel can be used to make nuclear weapons as well as nuclear reactors, only countries that are part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are allowed to import uranium or plutonium, which is Another nuclear fuel. The treaty promotes the peaceful use of nuclear fuel as well as the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
A typical nuclear reactor uses about 200 tons of uranium annually. Complex processes result in some uranium and plutonium being re-enriched or recycled. This reduces the amount of mining, extraction, and technology that needs to be done.
How is nuclear fuel obtained from uranium?
Uranium is the main fuel for nuclear reactors and can be found in many parts of the world. To produce fuel, uranium is mined, refined, and enriched before being loaded into a nuclear reactor.
Uranium is found in small amounts in most rocks and even in sea water. Uranium mines operate in many countries but more than 85% of the uranium is produced in six countries: Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Nigeria and Russia. Historically, traditional mines (such as open pit mines or underground mines) were the main source of uranium.
After extraction the ore is crushed in a mill and water is added to produce a slurry of fine particles and other materials. The slurry is washed with sulfuric acid or an alkaline solution to dissolve the uranium and does not dissolve the remaining rock and other minerals.
However, more than half of the world’s uranium mines now use a method called in situ washing, which means that the extraction is done without impurities. In this method, water containing oxygen (or an alkaline, acidic, or other oxidizing solution) circulates in the uranium ore and extracts the uranium. The uranium solution is then pumped to the surface.
The uranium solution extracted from the mines is filtered and dried to produce uranium oxide concentrate which is often referred to as yellowcake.
Most nuclear power reactors use the isotope Uranium-235 as fuel. However, this isotope constitutes only 0.7% of the natural uranium extracted, so this amount must be increased through a process called enrichment.
This process increases the concentration of uranium-235 from 0.7% to 3% to 5% which is used in most reactors. A few reactors, especially the CANDU reactors in Canada, are powered by natural uranium that does not require enrichment.
The enrichment process requires that the uranium be gaseous. This is achieved through a process called transmutation in which uranium oxide is converted to a different compound (uranium hexafluoride) at a relatively low gas temperature.
Uranium hexafluoride is sent to a centrifuge, which separates the isotope U-235 from the slightly heavier isotope U-238 with thousands of rapidly spinning tubes. Centrifuges separate the uranium into two streams, one that is rich in U-235 and the other, called the tail, which has a lower concentration of U-235 and is known as depleted uranium (DU).
Nuclear fuel production
The enriched uranium is transported to a fueling station where it is converted into powdered uranium dioxide. In the next step the powder is pressed to form small fuel pellets and heated to produce a solid ceramic material.
Pellets are then placed inside thin tubes known as fuel rods which are then put together to form fuel assemblies. The number of fuel rods used to build each fuel assemblage varies from 90 to over 200 depending on the type of reactor. Once loaded, the fuel usually remains in the reactor core for several years.
About 27 tons of uranium or about 18 million fuel pellets are needed in more than 50,000 fuel rods for a 1,000 megawatt water reactor each year. In contrast, a coal-fired power plant of equivalent size requires more than two and a half million tons of coal to generate electricity.
Nuclear energy and people
Nuclear power generates electricity that can be used to power homes, schools, businesses, and hospitals. The first nuclear reactor to generate electricity is located near Arco, Idaho. The pilot plant began production in 1951 and the first nuclear power plant designed to power a city in Obninsk Russia was constructed in 1954.
Building nuclear reactors requires a high level of technology and only countries that have signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons can obtain the required uranium or plutonium. For these reasons, most nuclear power plants are located in developed countries.
Nuclear power plants produce clean and renewable energy. It does not pollute the air and does not emit greenhouse gases. These power plants can be built in urban or rural areas and do not completely change the environment.
The steam in the turbines and generators is finally recycled and cooled in a separate structure called a cooling tower. In this process the steam is converted back into water and can be used to generate more electricity. Excess steam can be easily recycled into the atmosphere and because clean water vapor does not harm nature so much.
Radioactive waste is what remains from the operation of a nuclear reactor. It is mostly protective clothing worn by workers or tools and any other material that has been in contact with radioactive dust. It is very stable and items such as clothing and tools can remain radioactive for thousands of years. Governments regulate the disposal of these materials so that other materials are not contaminated.
However, the by-product of nuclear energy is radioactive material. Radioactive material is a collection of unstable atomic nuclei. These nuclei lose their energy and can affect many materials around them including organs and the environment. Radioactive materials can be highly toxic causing burns and increasing the risk of cancer, blood diseases and bone loss.
The fuel used and the nuclear hose rods are also highly radioactive. Used uranium pellets should be stored in special containers resembling large swimming pools. The water cools the fuel and isolates the outer space from contact with radioactivity. Some nuclear power plants store spent fuel in dry storage tanks on the ground.
Radioactive waste disposal sites have become highly controversial in the United States. For years, for example, the government had planned to build a massive nuclear waste facility near Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Environmental groups and local citizens protested the plan. They were concerned about radioactive waste leaking into the water source and environment of Yucca Mountain about 40 miles [130 km] from the greater Las Vegas area in Nevada. Although the government launched an investigation into the matter in 1978, it stopped planning for a nuclear waste facility on Yucca Mountain in 2009.
Nuclear power critics point out the potential for radioactive waste stocks to leak, crack, or be destroyed. In this case, radioactive materials can contaminate the soil and groundwater near the facility. This can lead to serious health problems for people and members of the district and the entire city must be evacuated.
This is what happened in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986. In this accident, a steam explosion in one of the four nuclear reactors of the power plant caused a fire called a plume. The fire spill spread to the Chernobyl facility as well as the surrounding areas and was dispersed by winds, causing particles to enter the water cycle in the form of rain. Radioactivity detected in Chernobyl rained down on Scotland and Ireland during the rainy season, with the greatest impact of this radioactive material occurring in Belarus.
The environmental effects of the Chernobyl disaster flared up very quickly. Pine forests dried up and disappeared for miles around the facility. The red color of the dead pines in this area has led to the forest being called the Red Forest. The fish in the Pripyat River near the factory was so radioactive that people could no longer eat it and the cattle and horses of the area died.
More than 100,000 people fled the area after the disaster, but it is difficult to determine the number of Chernobyl victims. The effects of radiation poisoning appear only after years and it is very difficult to detect all kinds of cancers and other diseases related to this radiation.
Atomic bombs and nuclear bombs are powerful weapons that use nuclear reactions as a source of explosive energy. Scientists first developed nuclear weapon technology in World War III
Instantaneous. Atomic bombs were used only twice in war, both times by the United States against Japan at the end of World War II in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The war was followed by a period of nuclear proliferation during which the United States and the Soviet Union vied for supremacy in a global nuclear arms race.
The Manhattan Project was the code name for the US government’s effort to build an effective atomic bomb during World War II. The Manhattan Project was actually launched in response to concerns that German scientists had been working on weapons using nuclear technology since the 1930s.
On December 28, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Project to bring together various scientists and military officials working on nuclear research.
Who was the first to invent the nuclear bomb?
Most of the work on the Manhattan Project was done in Los Alamos, New Mexico under the direction of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated at a remote desert site near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This explosion is known as the Trinity experiment. The explosion caused a mushroom-like cloud about 12 kilometers high to explode and the atomic age began.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The United States and the Soviet Union took the lead in negotiating an international agreement in 1968 to stop further nuclear proliferation.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was implemented in 1970. The agreement divided the world into nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states.
The countries that had nuclear weapons at that time were the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China.
Under the treaty, the nuclear-weapon states agreed not to use nuclear weapons or help other states obtain nuclear weapons. They also agreed to gradually reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons to achieve the ultimate goal of complete disarmament. The non-nuclear-weapon states also agreed not to possess or produce nuclear weapons.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s thousands of nuclear weapons were still scattered across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Many of these weapons were in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine but were gradually decommissioned and returned to Russia.
Countries that possess illegal nuclear weapons
Some countries wanted the option of developing their nuclear arsenals and did not sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. India was the first country outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to test nuclear weapons in 1974.
Other countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty include Pakistan and the occupation regime in Jerusalem and South Sudan. Thus Pakistan has a known nuclear weapons programme. The occupying regime in Jerusalem is also widely believed to possess nuclear weapons although its government has neither officially confirmed nor denied the existence of a nuclear weapons programme. In the case of South Sudan, it is not clear whether it has nuclear weapons.
North Korea initially signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but announced in 2003 that it was withdrawing from the agreement. Since 2006, North Korea has publicly tested its nuclear weapons and has been sanctioned by various countries and international institutions.
In 2017 North Korea tested two long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, one of which is said to be capable of reaching the mainland United States. In September 2017, North Korea claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb that could land on an ICBM.
The difference between a nuclear bomb and a hydrogen bomb
A discovery made possible by nuclear physicists in a laboratory in Berlin, Germany in 1938 to build the first atomic bomb. Actually this possibility came after the discovery of nuclear fission by the three physicists of the time, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassmann.
In this process, when an atom of a radioactive substance splits into lighter atoms, a large amount of energy is produced and released suddenly. Enables the discovery of nuclear fission from nuclear technologies including nuclear weapons.
Atomic bombs are weapons that derive their energy from fission reactions. On the other hand, nuclear weapons or hydrogen bombs rely on a combination of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is another type of reaction in which two light atoms combine to release a large amount of energy.
The future of nuclear energy
In nuclear reactors fission or splitting of atoms is used to generate energy. Nuclear energy can also be generated by fusion or bonding of atoms together. For example, the sun is constantly fusing due to the fusion of hydrogen atoms and the formation of helium. Since life on our planet depends on the sun, it can be said that nuclear fusion makes life on Earth possible.
Nuclear power plants do not have the capacity to safely generate power from nuclear fusion and it is not clear if this process would be an option for power generation. Nuclear engineers are currently researching nuclear fusion because the process is likely to be safer and more cost-effective.
The benefits of nuclear energy
There are many pros and cons of nuclear power and it is important to understand both sides to understand what this power source has to offer. Knowing the pros and cons of nuclear energy will help you decide for yourself if this energy source is a good decision to meet the future energy needs of us and our planet. Here are some of the positive aspects of this energy.
After the initial cost of construction, nuclear power has the advantage of being one of the most efficient energies available
the cost. The cost of generating electricity from nuclear power is much lower than the cost of generating power from gas, coal or oil unless these sources are located near a fossil fuel power plant. Another advantage of nuclear power is that it has less risk of price increases in the face of inflation unlike fossil fuels which fluctuate with price fluctuations and inflation.
Reliable source of energy
While some energy sources such as solar and wind energy depend on climatic conditions, nuclear energy has no such limit. It doesn’t matter if the wind is blowing or the weather is cloudy. Nuclear power plants are largely unaffected by external climatic factors and produce predictable and sustainable energy production. A fully operational nuclear power plant can generate power for a year without interruption which allows for a good return on investment because there is no delay in power production.
Nuclear power plants are also very reliable in terms of resources because we have enough uranium on the planet that can produce energy for the next 70 to 80 years. Although this may not seem like enough time, this period is longer than the remaining life of many fossil fuels and other nuclear energy sources are currently being explored to fuel nuclear power plants.
Fixed base energy value
About 20% of all electricity generated in the United States comes from nuclear power. It is powered by 98 nuclear power reactors generated in about 30 different states in the United States. The sustainable production of energy generated from nuclear power plants means that it can be ideally used in conjunction with other forms of renewable energy.
Wind turbines, for example, generate a large amount of energy when the wind blows. In this way, when the wind blows, nuclear power plants can regulate the amount of energy produced to a lesser degree. Conversely, when the wind is not blowing and more energy is needed, nuclear power can be modified to compensate for the lack of energy produced by the wind (or the sun).
Nuclear energy causes low pollution
When it comes to pollution it is clear that there are pros and cons to nuclear power and we will look at nuclear waste later. However, the total pollution output from the nuclear power plant is very low compared to the energy production from fossil fuels. Consumption of nuclear energy currently reduces emissions by more than 555 million tons per year. Reducing greenhouse gases is a good indicator of how pollution will change nuclear energy use which may help reduce our impact on global climate change in the long term.
Availability of sufficient fuel
Like fossil fuels, the uranium used to power nuclear power plants is limited. However, it is estimated that our uranium reserves will last for another 80 years. Fossil fuel reserves have been in constant use since the Industrial Revolution. In fact, if we continue to consume fossil fuels in the same way and take into account the increase in the world’s population, it is estimated that by 2052, by 2060, and by 2088, we will run out of coal.
Of course there are more discoveries about fossil fuels that we haven’t been able to find yet but they are fewer and farther than ever and they will eventually come to an end. Using uranium can give us more time to find better and cleaner renewable energy sources. In addition, some countries such as India, China and Russia are trying to use large amounts of recyclable thorium to power nuclear reactors. We have over 80 years of fuels available using thorium. However, if scientists can make nuclear fusion a reality in theory, we will never run out of electricity. Converting nuclear energy into sustainable energy requires the use of nuclear fusion and generation reactors to keep us going for the foreseeable future.
High energy density in nuclear energy
In the list of pros and cons of nuclear energy this feature is very curious. Nuclear fission (the process used to produce nuclear energy) releases more energy than burning fossil fuels such as gas, oil, or coal. The question is how efficient is this energy? Nuclear fission is about 8,000 times more efficient at generating energy than conventional fossil fuels. This amount is very important. Since nuclear power is more efficient it requires less fuel to run the plant and thus generates less waste.
Disadvantages of nuclear energy
In the list of benefits of nuclear energy we mentioned the case that makes nuclear energy a suitable option to meet future needs of electricity. However, when examining whether this energy source is the best form of environmentally friendly energy for our future, we point out its drawbacks. The following are some of the major disadvantages of nuclear power.
Despite the low cost of operating nuclear power plants, they are very expensive to build and the cost continues to rise. From 2002 to 2008 the estimated cost of building a nuclear power plant increased from $2 billion to $9 billion and power plants often exceed estimated costs during construction. In addition to the cost of building a power plant, nuclear power plants must allocate funds to protect the waste generated and store it in refrigerated structures with security methods. All of these costs make nuclear energy very expensive.
One of the first things most people think of when they hear about a nuclear power plant is the Chernobyl disaster. Although we do not know exactly how many people died in the Chernobyl accident, it is estimated that 10,000 deaths were caused by the long-term effects of radiation in the region. I showed
The Fukushima power plant crisis in 2011 showed that no matter how safe nuclear power plants are designed, accidents can happen and spell disaster.
Although nuclear power generation does not emit any radiation, it generates radioactive waste that must be stored safely so as not to pollute the environment. Although this radiation may seem frightening, we are constantly exposed to a small amount of cosmic rays, or radon, in the air we breathe. Small amounts of radiation are not harmful but radioactive waste from nuclear power generation is very dangerous.
Radioactive waste disposal is a major challenge facing nuclear power plants. Since there is no way to dispose of nuclear waste, the current solution is to seal it securely in containers and store it deep underground where it cannot pollute the environment. As technology advances, we hope to find better ways to store radioactive waste in the future.
impact on the environment
Nuclear power plants have a greater impact on the environment than the waste they produce. Uranium mining and enrichment are not environmentally friendly processes. Daily uranium mining is safe for miners but leaves behind radioactive particles that cause corrosion and even contaminate nearby water sources. Basement mining is also safe and exposes miners to high levels of radiation while extracting and processing radioactive waste.
Nuclear power can be a national and security threat to countries that have nuclear power plants. Because in this case, terrorists may target nuclear power plants with the intent of causing a catastrophe, and the uranium used for power generation can become a nuclear weapon if it falls into the wrong hands. This is why security around nuclear materials and nuclear power plants is so important.
Limited fuel supply
There may be significant pros and cons to nuclear power but one of the most important considerations to keep in mind is that nuclear power relies on uranium and thorium for energy production. We will not be able to generate energy with the nuclear power plants that we have built for the future until we can find a way to build nuclear fusion or build nuclear fusion reactors before we run out of resources. Finally, nuclear power is only a temporary solution, with a very high price tag.
What are the applications of nuclear energy?
The first power plant began operating in the 1950s using the heat generated by the splitting of uranium atoms. Most people today are aware of the important role that nuclear power plays in providing a large portion of the world’s low-carbon electricity.
The applications of nuclear energy other than power generation in power plants are less known. Radioisotopes, thermonuclear reactors, and non-stationary power plant reactors are used in many sectors including consumer products, food, agriculture, industry, medicine, scientific research, transportation, and water and environmental resources.
Isotopes are certain types of chemical elements that have nuclei with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Some isotopes are called stable because they do not change with time. Others are unstable or radioactive because their nuclei change over time with the loss of alpha and beta particles.
The properties of naturally decaying atoms, known as radioactive isotopes, give these atoms many different uses in many aspects of modern life. The first practical application of radioisotopes was identified in 1911 by a Hungarian named Georg de Hoys.
One of the most commonly used medically diagnosed isotopes of technetium (Tc-99m) is molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Mo-99 is generally produced by fission of U-235 in a nuclear research reactor.
Radioisotope Tc-99m max 80% used cases for in vivo diagnostic applications. In fact, this isotope is used in more than 30 million tests a year worldwide. This radioisotope is mainly used to check the functions of the thyroid gland and also to diagnose diseases of other organs of the body such as the lungs, heart, liver, bladder and bones.
Uses of nuclear energy in pharmacology
Many people are aware of the wide spread of radiotherapy and radioisotopes in pharmacology, especially for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. In developed countries, one in 50 people uses diagnostic nuclear medicine each year and the frequency of radioisotope therapy is about one-tenth that.
Application of nuclear energy in agriculture
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UNFPA) estimates that approximately 795 million people (one in nine) will suffer from chronic malnutrition between 2014 and 2016. Radioisotopes and radiation used in food and agriculture help reduce these numbers.
Uses of nuclear energy in consumer products
The performance of many commonly used products depends on the use of small amounts of radioactive material. Cigarette smoke detectors, wristwatches, wall clocks, etc. use the natural features of radioactive isotopes in their design.
Application of nuclear energy in food
About 25-30% of harvested food is destroyed as a result of spoilage of food before it is eaten. This problem is especially prevalent in hot and humid countries. Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to gamma rays to kill bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, in addition to increasing the shelf life of the food.
Industrial applications of nuclear energy
Craftsmen use radioisotopes as tracers to control fluid flow and filtration, detect leaks, engine wear, and process equipment wear. By adding a small amount of radioactive material to materials used in various processes, the mixing rate and flow rate can be studied for a wide variety of materials including liquids, powders, and gases.
Leakage can be identified.
Transportation uses of nuclear energy
Nuclear power is suitable for ships that have to stay at sea for a long time without refueling or for propelling submarines vigorously. Radioisotope heat generators (RTGs) are also used in space missions.
The heat from the decay of a radioactive source, mostly plutonium-238, is used to generate electricity.
In the future nuclear energy can be used to produce electricity or heat from nuclear power plants to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to power cars or it can be burned to generate heat in place of gas without producing climate-altering greenhouse gases.
Application of nuclear energy in water resources and the environment
Radioisotopes play an important role in the identification and analysis of pollutants. Nuclear techniques have been used for a wide range of pollution problems including smoke formation, sulfur dioxide pollution in the atmosphere, dispersion of liquid ocean water, and fuel leaks. Isotope hydrological techniques allow accurate tracking and measurement of groundwater resources. These techniques provide important analytical tools in the management and protection of existing water resources and in the identification of new ones.
In this article we talked about nuclear energy. To this end, we first talked about uranium, which is the fuel for nuclear power plants, and it is in fact the main source of nuclear energy, and then we explained how to produce nuclear fuel from uranium. We went on to talk about nuclear weapons and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and finally discussed the pros and cons of nuclear power.