Nuclear Power

Nuclear energy has the advantage of not burning any fuel so there are no pollutants released into the air.

Nuclear energy is energy that is stored in the nucleus or center core of an atom. The nucleus of an atom is made of tiny particles of protons (+ positive charge) and neutrons (no charge). The electrons (- negative charge) move around the nucleus. Nuclear energy is the force that holds the nucleus together in an atom.

How it Works

In order to use this energy, it has to be released from the atom. There are two ways to free the energy inside the atom:

1. Fusion

Fusion is a way of combining the atoms to make a new atom.

For example, the energy from the sun is produced by fusion. Inside the sun, hydrogen atoms are combined to make helium. Helium doesn't need that much energy to hold it together, so the extra energy produced is released as heat and light.

2. Fission

Fission is the term for splitting an atom into two smaller atoms. The two smaller atoms don't need as much energy to hold them together as the larger atom, so the extra energy is released as heat and radiation.

Nuclear power plants use the heat released from fission to make electricity. By splitting uranium atoms into two smaller atoms, the extra energy is released as heat. Uranium is a mineral rock, a very dense metal found in the ground, and it is non-renewable. Non-renewable means we cannot make more of the substance. Currently, it is a cheap and plentiful fuel source.

Heat created by fission is used inside a nuclear reactor to turn water into steam. The steam turns huge turbines that drive generators to make electricity. The steam is then changed back into water and cooled down in a cooling tower. This water can then be used over and over again.