Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is the largest and best clean-air energy source. It has the advantage of not burning any fuel so there are no pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions released into the air.

Nuclear energy is energy that holds together the nucleus or center of the uranium 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.

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. The energy is produced by smashing together the atoms of lighter elements.

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.

Without fusion there would be no life on earth! The energy produced by the sun gives us light and heat, therefore sustaining life.

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.

Uranium Ore

Uranium ore is a mineral and one of the more common elements found in the Earth’s crust. It is a silvery-gray metallic with very weak radioactive chemical elements.

Uranium ore is mined from the ground like coal in open pit or underground mining. Some uranium ore lies in groundwater and is mined using a process called In situ leach (ISL), a process that dissolves the uranium and pumps it out. Some 20 countries operate uranium mines with the largest producers being in Canada, Kasakhstan, and Australia.

The uranium atom is used because it can be readily “split” under controlled conditions yielding a lot of energy – this process is called nuclear fission.

Electricity is generated by first using heat that is created by fission 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.