What exactly happens in a nuclear power plant, and why does it matter so much to go from fission to nuclear fusion?

For many people to talk about a nuclear power station It can be something terrifying, the memory of what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is still present. While it may be necessary to understand all the ins and outs of this energy source, it is not difficult to gain a general understanding of it.

Here we will help you understand What’s a nuclear center and some of the most relevant things about her. You will understand why it is an important part of the modern energy mix and how its use can affect everyday life.

What’s a nuclear center?

a nuclear power plant It is a type of power plant that uses the process of nuclear fission to produce electrical energy.. It obtains it through the use of a nuclear reactor, which is combined with the Rankine cycle.

During this process the heat generated by the reactor turns water into steam, this steam is then used to turn a turbine that is connected to a generator. A nuclear reaction can not only produce nuclear fission, it can also produce another type of reaction, called nuclear fusion.

but it is nuclear fission is used to generate energy from nuclear reactors. The reason why it is not used nuclear fusion because there is not a sufficiently mature technology to carry out the process safely and profitably. But they are already looking for a way to create a sustainable fusion of energy.

What is nuclear fission and how does it work?

Nuclear fission is the process used to split an atom. When an atom is split, it releases an enormous amount of energy. Through a nuclear power plant is that today you can harness this power to convert it into electrical energy.

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Atoms have a nucleus and electrons orbiting around it. The atom has a nucleus that is made up of neutrons and protons.. The nucleus is held together by a force acting on it, which scientists call the Strong Nuclear Force. Y this is the most powerful force that can be found in nature.

One of the ways that this force can be overcome and split an atom is by hitting its nucleus with a neutron. In nuclear fission, uranium atoms are used since it has a large atomic size.. This means that the atomic force within it is not as strong and there is a higher chance of splitting the nucleus.

Another reason why a uranium atom is used is because, despite being rare in nature, the radioactivity of uranium generates a constant flow of energy. One pound of uranium can produce the energy equivalent of 3 million pounds of coal.

Fission versus fusion

The two fundamental nuclear processes considered for the production of energy are fission and fusion.

Fission

As we explained earlier, fission is the splitting of the nucleus of large uranium or plutonium atoms to release their energy. To split an atom, you have to hit it with a neutron. Doing so also manages to release several neutrons that can split other nearby atoms.producing a nuclear chain reaction.

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This nuclear reaction was the first of the two to be discovered. All commercial nuclear power plants that are in operation use fission to generate heat that they convert into electricity.

Fusion

Fusion is the combination of two small atoms such as hydrogen or helium to produce heavier atoms of higher energy.. The reaction produced by fission can release more energy than fission without producing as many radioactive byproducts.

Fusion reactions occur in the sun, generally using hydrogen as fuel and producing helium as waste. This reaction has not yet been developed commercially and is of great research interest worldwide, due to its promise of almost unlimited energy, low contamination, and non-proliferative.

Types of nuclear power plants

All nuclear plants are not the same. They are similar in the type of nuclear fuel they use, but they differ in the way the water is heated and turns into steam. In general terms, a plant can be of two types:

boiling water reactor

It is the most common type of nuclear power plant. In the pressurized water reactor there are two containers for water. The first container is inside the reactor and is pressurized using a pressurizer. Pressurizing the water raises the boiling point of the water.

The hot water that comes out of the reactor is passed through tubes that are placed in the second container. The water in the second vessel is not pressurized, so it begins to boil as soon as the hot water passes through the tubes, generating steam to spin the turbine.

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pressurized water reaction

This type of reactor does not use the same approach as the boiling water reactor. Here the water that flows through the reactor is the same water that turns the turbine.. Once the water enters the reactor, it turns into steam, since the temperatures inside the reactor are 285 °C.

The actual efficiency of a boiling water reactor is around 33-34%.

Advantages of a nuclear power plant

There are many advantages to moving from fossil fuel based power plants to a Nuclear Power Plant. These are some of them:

  • Advances in exploration and mining have made it possible to obtain uranium at a relatively low cost.
  • The energy density of uranium is very high, many times that of fossil fuels by weight.
  • A nuclear power plant is capable of producing a constant supply of energy.
  • High power generation for a relatively small area compared to solar or wind alternatives.

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