power is generated inside a facility called a
nuclear reactor. The plant's source of power is
the heat produced by a controlled nuclear fission
chain reaction, of either uranium or plutonium.
This reaction involves an element such as uranium
or plutonium being struck by a neutron and splitting
apart. The result of the fission of these large
and unstable atoms is the creation of new, smaller
atoms, radiation, and more neutrons. Those neutrons
then speed out and strike other uranium or plutonium
atoms, creating a chain reaction. The chain reaction
is controlled by neutron moderators, which vary
in type depending on the design of the reactor.
These can be anything from graphite rods to simple
Once the heat has been released, a nuclear reactor
produces electricity in exactly the same manner
as any other thermal-based power plant. The heat
converts water into steam, and the steam is used
to turn the blades of a turbine, which in turn
runs the generator. In this way, heat energy is
converted to mechanical energy, and then into
The other major use
of nuclear power is for generating electricity.
Sixteen percent of the world's electricity is
generated by nuclear power, and 19.4 percent of
electricity within the United States. According
to the IAEA, there were 436 nuclear power plants
in operation in 2007. A wide range of reactor
designs is used in commercial nuclear power.
Uranium-235 is the form commonly used for energy
production because, unlike uranium-238, its nucleus
splits easily when bombarded by a neutron. Thorium
is much more abundant in nature than uranium.
Thorium can also be used as a nuclear fuel through
breeding to uranium-233.
Nuclear power is
power (generally electrical) produced from controlled
(i.e., non-explosive) nuclear reactions. Commercial
plants in use to date use nuclear fission reactions.
Electric utility reactors heat water to produce
steam, which is then used to generate electricity
Nuclear energy can
be used to make electricity. But first the energy
must be released. It can be released from atoms
in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.
In nuclear fission, atoms are split apart to form
smaller atoms, releasing energy. Nuclear power
plants use this energy to produce electricity.
In nuclear fusion, energy is released when atoms
are combined or fused together to form a larger
atom. This is how the sun produces energy.
nuclear power accounted for about 20% of the
total net electricity generated in the United
States in 2008, about as much as the electricity
used in California, Texas, and New York Economically
recoverable uranium deposits have been discovered
principally in the western United States, Australia,
Canada, Africa, and South America. 14% of delivered
uranium came from the United States
86% of delivered uranium was of foreign-origin:
42% was from Australia and Canada
33% originated in Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan
11% came from Brazil, Czech Republic, Namibia,
Niger, South Africa, and the United Kingdom
Tarapur (Maharashtra) ,
Rana Pratap Sagar (Rajasthan),
Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu),
Power Comes from Fission
Most power plants, including nuclear plants,
use heat to produce electricity. They rely on
steam from heated water to spin large turbines,
which generate electricity. Instead of burning
fossil fuels to produce the steam, nuclear plants
use heat given off during fission.
In nuclear fission, atoms are split apart to
form smaller atoms, releasing energy. Fission
takes place inside the reactor of a nuclear
power plant. At the center of the reactor is
the core, which contains the uranium fuel.
India has a flourishing and largely indigenous
nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000
MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000
MWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity
from nuclear power by 2050.
Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty due to its weapons program, it has been
for 34 years largely excluded from trade in
nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered
its development of civil nuclear energy until
Due to these trade bans and lack of indigenous
uranium, India has uniquely been developing
a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves
Now, foreign technology and fuel are expected
to boost India's nuclear power plans considerably.
All plants will have high indigenous engineering
India has a vision of becoming a world leader
in nuclear technology due to its expertise in
fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle.
of Nuclear Energy
The Earth has limited supplies of coal and oil.
Nuclear power plants could still produce electricity
after coal and oil become scarce.
Nuclear power plants need less fuel than ones
which burn fossil fuels. One ton of uranium produces
more energy than is produced by several million
tons of coal or several million barrels of oil.
Coal and oil burning plants pollute the air. Well-operated
nuclear power plants do not release contaminants
into the environment. nuclear power plants produce
no air pollution or carbon dioxide.
Nuclear energy also offers an alleviation of the
global carbon dioxide (CO2) problem that the world
can do without.
Disadvantages of Nuclear
The nations of the world now have more than enough
nuclear bombs to kill every person on Earth. The
two most powerful nations -- Russia and the United
States -- have about 50,000 nuclear weapons between
them. What if there were to be a nuclear war?
What if terrorists got their hands on nuclear
weapons? Or what if nuclear weapons were launched
Nuclear explosions produce radiation. The nuclear
radiation harms the cells of the body which can
make people sick or even kill them. Illness can
strike people years after their exposure to nuclear
One possible type of reactor disaster is known
as a meltdown. In such an accident, the fission
reaction goes out of control, leading to a nuclear
explosion and the emission of great amounts of
In 1979, the cooling system failed at the Three
Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Radiation leaked, forcing tens of thousands of
people to flee. The problem was solved minutes
before a total meltdown would have occurred. Fortunately,
there were no deaths.
In 1986, a much worse disaster struck Russia's
Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In this incident,
a large amount of radiation escaped from the reactor.
Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to
the radiation. Several dozen died within a few
days. In the years to come, thousands more may
die of cancers induced by the radiation.
Nuclear reactors also have waste disposal problems.
Reactors produce nuclear waste products which
emit dangerous radiation. Because they could kill
people who touch them, they cannot be thrown away
like ordinary garbage. Currently, many nuclear
wastes are stored in special cooling pools at
the nuclear reactors.
The United States plans to move its nuclear waste
to a remote underground dump by the year 2010.
In 1957, at a dump site in Russia's Ural Mountains,
several hundred miles from Moscow, buried nuclear
wastes mysteriously exploded, killing dozens of
Nuclear reactors only last for about forty to
cost of producing electricity from nuclear energy
is somewhat higher than the cost of producing
electricity from coal.
nations can create nuclear weapons of mass destruction
t is particularly disturbing. Atomic weapons are
created through the splitting of the atom and
detonated through the process of fission, while
hydrogen bombs are detonated through the process