Nuclear energy is a form of energy that is produced by using the heat generated from the fission of Uranium-235.
Methods of Energy Production Edit
One way to produce nuclear energy is called a pressurized water reactor system. Nuclear fission is induced to heat pressurized water to a temperature of up to 270° Celsius (518° Fahrenheit). Because a pressure of about 2000 to 2500 psi, the water does not boil. The heat exchange causes the water to be turned into steam, which is sent through a steam turbine in order to generate energy and then condensed by either a natural body of water or a cooling tower. With a pressurized water reactor system, the main safety issue is the possibility of the reactor overheating, which can be caused by the cooling system pipes breaking. Thus, reactors are surrounded by pressure containment buildings and have backup cooling systems in case of emergency.
The other form of energy production by nuclear fission is called a boiling water reactor system. The main difference between this system and a pressurized water reactor system is that in this system, the water is allowed to boil. There is far less pressure involved (1000 psi), but the operating temperature is higher--299° Celsius (570° Fahrenheit). Once the water is boiled, it is passed through a moisture separator, and then through the electricity-producing turbines. Boiling water reactor systems also have a torus, which is a cooling system for events when large amounts of steam are emitted from the reactor.
Pros and Cons Edit
There are several benefits to nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants are capable of producing large amounts of energy. A total of 442 power plants in the world account for 19% of the world's energy. The power plants in the United States produced 674 billion kilowatt-hours in 1996. Nuclear energy also reduces dependence on oil and fossil fuels, which are believed by many to be destroying the atmosphere.
However, nuclear power has an equal number of downsides. Nuclear waste must be stored away for extremely long periods of time--the half life of Uranium-235 is 704 million years. The main cause of fear is that these radioactive materials are being stored in the earth. Another source of fear is the connectio between nuclear power and the atomic bomb.
These two sides to nuclear power have fueled political debates for decades.