How is electricity generated inside a nuclear reactor?

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The power of nuclear fission was first realized in the Second World War with the invention of the destructive atomic bomb. But after the war ended and the world witnessed the release of this incredible energy, all attention was focused on using nuclear reactions as a source of power.

How do we generate electricity by splitting atoms inside a nuclear reactor?

Today, we use nuclear energy to power almost everything from space probes to submarines. Even homes in many countries use nuclear power because roughly one in five dwellings in the US and UK are powered by these plants (according to data in the magazine How it works). Just like other methods of electricity generation, these power plants use heat energy to generate water vapor that turns the turbines. This is a very similar process to burning fossil fuel, which is currently the primary method of generating electricity, but its greenhouse gas emissions are much less than it.

The fuel used in nuclear power plants is an unstable form of uranium and releases heat energy when the atom is split in half. It is possible to use this heat for efficient energy production in controlled environments such as in nuclear power plants.

Radioactive waste generated and accidents such as Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 still make many people doubt this power. However, modern plant designs include safety measures that minimize the contact of radioactive particles with external materials. New techniques are also being developed for recycling radioactive waste. That’s why some leading scientists consider nuclear fission one of the most environmentally friendly methods of generating electricity.


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