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6.6 Nuclear Power

3 min readjanuary 9, 2023

Karla Jauregui Sandoval

Karla Jauregui Sandoval


AP Environmental Science ♻️

252 resources
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What is Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy is the process of harvesting electrical energy from the nuclear reaction through the process of nuclear fission or fusion. Nuclear energy is harvested through the use of the radioactive element, uranium, or sometimes plutonium. 
The total supply of the world’s uranium is limited (non-renewable) and is replaceable after it has been all used up for energy. The scarcity of uranium makes nuclear energy a hard-to-find resource. Nuclear energy power plants are seen in countries that delegate more money and research to the benefits and usage of nuclear power.

Process of Nuclear Power 

Nuclear Fission 

One way nuclear power is generated is through fission. Nuclear fission is the process where atoms of Uranium-235 (the most common type of uranium) are split after being struck by a neutron. Nuclear atoms are constantly being split into 2 smaller parts which release heat that is converted into energy. This causes a chain reaction of more neutrons being released which causes heat. 
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Control rods are used to control the amount of neutrons inside the reactor chain. The heat from the reaction in turn is used to boil water which will turn into steam. The steam then spins turbines that contain magnets inside, converting kinetic energy into electrical energy.  

Nuclear Fusion 

Nuclear fusion is the result of two or more smaller subatomic particles combining to form different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. For example, in a fusion reactor hydrogen atoms combine to form helium atoms, neutrons, and release massive amounts of energy. This type of reaction most closely resembles the type of reactions that help power the sun. 
Nuclear fission leads to large amounts of heat being released. 
Benefits 👍🏻
Drawbacks 👎🏻
  • Low operating costs 
  • No pollutant pollution 
  • Nuclear Accidents 
    • Thermal pollution
    • Radioactive waste 
    • Explosion 
 

Nuclear Accidents 

Because Nuclear power plants deal with an intense amount of heat, gases, and by products, any sort of accident can lead to damaging health and environmental effects. Some examples of nuclear accidents that can occur are meltdowns, explosions, thermal pollution, radioactive elements being exposed to the environment or people. 
Nuclear energy using Uranium-235 that remains radioactive for a long time and is difficult to dispose of in a way that will not contaminate groundwater. Nuclear power generation is a non-renewable energy source because of the replenishment rate of uranium-235. It is however considered a cleaner energy source because it releases thermal pollution and hazardous solid waste instead of air pollution. 
  1. Three Mile Island, 1970Cooling malfunction in reactor #2 
    1. Effect leakage of radioactive gas 
  2. Chernobyl, 1986  ➱ Nuclear chain reaction lead to a power surge that affected the cooling system 
    1. Fatalities from hot pressurized steam released and then from radioactive waste. 
  3. Fukushima Daiichi, 2011A tsunami struck the nuclear power plants near the shore which led to explosions in reactor buildings after the cooling system failed due to loss of power. 
    1. Radioactive materials leaked into the environment.
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