Nuclear Energy

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Chapter 4 : Nuclear Energy

Energy Released during the Splitting or Fusing of Atomic Nuclei arrow_upward

  • Nuclear energy can be released by both
    • Nuclear fusion
    • Nuclear fission
  • Nuclear fission is either a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts (lighter nuclei), releasing energy.
  • Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei collide at very high speed and join to form a new type of atomic nucleus, releasing energy.
  • Figure: Nuclear Fission

    Figure: Nuclear Fusion

    What are Nuclear Reactors? arrow_upward

  • A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction.
  • Nuclear energy can be released by controlled nuclear fission in nuclear reactors.
  • Many reactors provide electricity in the world.

  • Nuclear Power and Electricity arrow_upward

  • “It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes [nuclear generated] electrical energy too cheap to meter”.
    • (Quote from Chairman of the US atomic
    • Commission, 1954).
  • Core idea is to boil water using nuclear energy and use that energy to drive a turbine.
  • A nuclear reactor can initiate and control a self-sustaining series of nuclear fissions.
    • Fission is the process in which a heavy nucleus splits into two smaller fragments.
    • A large amount of energy is released in this process, and this energy is the basis of fission power systems.
    • Nuclear reactor is used for generating electricity.
  • The United States is the world's largest supplier of commercial nuclear power.
    • There are 100+ commercial nuclear generating units that are fully licensed to operate in US.
    • Together, they provide about 20 percent of the US electricity.
  • 200+ plants in the Europe.
  • France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy.

  • Nuclear Power Plants arrow_upward

  • Work best at constant power.
  • 442 licensed plants operating in 31 countries.
  • Produce about 17% of global electrical energy.

  • Type of Nuclear Power Plants arrow_upward

  • There are two kinds of nuclear power plants in the United States:
    • Boiling water reactors
    • Pressurized water reactors

    Mass and Energy arrow_upward

  • Einstein suggested that mass and energy are related by:
  • 2
  • Where,
    • E: Energy
    • m: Mass
    • c: Speed of light

    Nuclear Force arrow_upward

  • The Nuclear Force is the force between two or more nucleons.
  • It is responsible for binding of protons and neutrons into atomic nuclei.
  • The nuclear force is hundred times stronger than the electromagnetic force.
  • The nuclear force is also known as the Strong Force.

  • Radioactivity arrow_upward

  • Radioactivity refers to the particles which are emitted from nuclei as a result of nuclear instability.
  • Radiation is the release of particles or energy.
  • The most common types of radiation are called alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
  • The  are called Alpha (a) particles.
    • Mass of 4 u,
    • Charge of +2 (2 p+, 0 e–)
    • The is an electron.
    • If beta  particle is released,  is an positron.
    • If beta particle is released, is called Gamma particle.
    • Gamma particles possess no charge or mass.
    • Gamma rays are emitted by the nucleus.
    • It results in the loss of certain amount of radiant energy by nucleus.
  •  X rays are emitted by electrons outside the nucleus.

  • Types of Radiation arrow_upward

  • Alpha Radiation
    • Cannot penetrate the skin,
    • Blocked out by a sheet of paper,
    • Dangerous for the lung.
  • Beta Radiation
    • Can penetrate into the body,
    • Can be blocked out by a sheet of aluminum foil.
  • Gamma Radiation
    • Can go right through the body,
    • Requires several inches of lead or concrete, or a yard or so of water, to block it.
  • Neutron Radiation
    • Normally found inside a nuclear reactor.

    Fission and Fusion arrow_upward

  • Fission:
    • In nuclear fission the nucleus of an atom breaks up into two lighter nuclei.
    • The process may take place spontaneously in some cases or may be induced by the excitation of the nucleus with a variety of particles.
    • A large amount of energy is released in nuclear fission.
  • Fusion:
    • Nuclear fusion is the process by which multiple nuclei join together to form a heavier nucleus.
    • It is accompanied by the release or absorption of energy depending on the masses of the nuclei involved.
    • Nuclear fusion of light elements releases the energy that causes stars to shine and hydrogen bombs to explode.
    • Nuclear fusion in stars and supernovae is the primary process by which new natural elements are created.

    Advantages of Nuclear Energy arrow_upward

  • Substantial base load energy producing capability.
  • No greenhouse gas emissions during operation.
  • Does not produce air pollutants.
  • The quantity of nuclear waste produced is small.
  • Small number of major accidents.
    • Only one (Three Mile Island)
  • Low fuel costs.
  • Large fuel reserves.
  • Ease of transport and stockpiling of fuel.

  • Nuclear Safety arrow_upward

  • Public remains wary of nuclear power due to Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Japan accidents.
  • Nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
  • Both nuclear fission and nuclear fusion reactions can be used to generate large amounts of energy for destructive purposes.
  • When an atom of 235U is bombarded by a neutron.
    • It splits into atoms of Cesium (Cs) and Rubidium (Rb), releasing a large amount of energy and three additional neutrons.
    • These neutrons, if not controlled, can then cause more 235U atoms to split, leading rapidly to a nuclear explosion (A-bomb).
  • Fusion reactions release energy when two light nuclei combine to make a heavier atom.

  • Current Technology arrow_upward

  • Boiling water reactors and pressurized water reactors (only 2 commercial designs in the U.S.).
  • Use thermal energy from nuclear fission to generate steam, power a turbine, and produce electricity.
  • Only use Uranium-235 as a fuel source.
  • Single pass systems generate large amount of radioactive wastes.

  • Problems with Nuclear Energy arrow_upward

  • Safety,
  • Waste disposal,
  • Possible disastrous accidents,
  • Nuclear waste dangerous for thousands of years unless reprocessed,
  • Risk of nuclear proliferation associated with some designs,
  • High capital costs,
  • Long construction periods largely due to regulatory delays,
  • High maintenance costs,
  • High cost of decommissioning plants,
  • Radioactive waste storage,
  • Finite amount of Uranium for fuel.

  • Thank You from Kimavi arrow_upward

  • Please email us at and help us improve this tutorial.

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