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Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is the energy in the nucleus, or core, of an atom. Atoms are tiny units that make
up all matter in the universe. Energy is what holds the nucleus together. There is a huge amount
of power in an atoms dense nucleus. In fact, the power that holds the nucleus together is
officially called the "strong force.
Nuclear energy can be used to create electricity, but it must first be released from the atom. In
nuclear fission, atoms are split to release the energy.
This energy, available as nuclear energy, can be used to produce electricity (nuclear power) or as
a nuclear weapon. When a large nucleus splits into pieces, excess energy is emitted as photons
(gamma rays) and as kinetic energy of a number of different ejected particles (nuclear fission
products).

Nuclear Reactors and Process of fission


A nuclear reactor, or power plant, is a series of machines that can control nuclear fission to
produce electricity. Nuclear fission is the main process generating nuclear energy. Radioactive
decay of both fission products and transuranic elements formed in a reactor yield heat even after
fission has ceased. The fuel that nuclear reactors use to produce nuclear fission is pellets of the
element uranium. In a nuclear reactor, atoms of uranium are forced to break apart. As they split,
the atoms release tiny particles called fission products. Fission products cause other uranium
atoms to split, starting a chain reaction. The energy released from this chain reaction creates
heat.
The heat created by nuclear fission warms the reactors cooling agent. A cooling agent is usually
water, but some nuclear reactors use liquid metal or molten salt. The cooling agent, heated by
nuclear fission, produces steam. The steam turns turbines, or wheels turned by a flowing current.
The turbines drive generators, or engines that create electricity. Nuclear fission can occur without
neutron bombardment as a type of radioactive decay. This type of fission (called spontaneous
fission) is rare except in a few heavy isotopes.

Nuclear Food: Uranium


Uranium is the fuel most widely used to produce nuclear energy. Thats because uranium atoms
split apart relatively easily. Its also a very common element, found in rocks all over the world.
However, the specific type of uranium used to produce nuclear energy, called U-235, is rare. U235 makes up less than one percent of the uranium in the world.
Although some of the uranium the United States uses is mined in this country, most is imported.
The U.S. gets uranium from Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. Once
uranium is mined, it must be extracted from other minerals. It must also be processed before it
can be used. Because nuclear fuel can be used to create nuclear weapons as well as nuclear
reactors, only nations that are part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are allowed to
import uranium or plutonium, another nuclear fuel.

Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India after thermal, hydroelectric and
renewable sources of electricity. As of 2013, India has 21 nuclear reactors in operation in 7
nuclear power plants, having an installed capacity of 5780 MW and producing a total of
30,292.91 GWh of electricity.

India's domestic uranium reserves are small and the country is dependent on uranium imports to
fuel its nuclear power industry. Since early 1990s, Russia has been a major supplier of nuclear
fuel to India. Due to dwindling domestic uranium reserves, electricity generation from nuclear
power in India declined by 12.83% from 2006 to 2008.
Large deposits of natural uranium, which promises to be one of the top 20 of the world's
reserves, have been found in the Tummalapalle belt in the southern part of the Kadapa basin in
Andhra Pradesh.

Future of Nuclear Energy


Nuclear reactors use fission, or the splitting of atoms, to produce energy. Nuclear energy can also
be produced through fusion, or joining (fusing) atoms together. The sun, for instance, is
constantly undergoing nuclear fusion as hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium. Because all life on
our planet depends on the sun, you could say that nuclear fusion makes life on Earth possible.
Nuclear power plants do not have the capability to safely and reliably produce energy from
nuclear fusion. Its not clear whether the process will ever be an option for producing electricity.
Nuclear engineers are researching nuclear fusion, however, because the process will likely be
safe and cost-effective.

Advantages of nuclear power

The generation of electricity through nuclear energy reduces the amount of energy
generated from fossil fuels (coal and oil). Less use of fossil fuels means lowering
greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 and others).
Another advantage is the required amount of fuel: less fuel offers more energy. It
represents a significant save on raw materials but also in transport, handling and
extraction of nuclear fuel. The cost of nuclear fuel (overall uranium) is 20% of the cost of
energy generated.
Nuclear power stations do not contribute to carbon emissions - no CO2 is given out - it
therefore does not contribute to global warming. Nuclear power stations do not produce
smoke particles to pollute the atmosphere or emit gases that contibute to acid rain.
The production of electric energy is continuous. A nuclear power plant is generating
electricity for almost 90% of annual time. It reduces the price volatility of other fuels such
as petrol.
The set up costs of nuclear power plants is relatively high while running cost is low. The
average life of nuclear reactor range from 4.-60 years depending upon its usage. These
factors when combined make the cost of producing electricity very low.

Disadvantages of nuclear power

Probably the most alarming disadvantage is the use of the nuclear power in the military
industry. The first use of nuclear power was the creation of two nuclear bombs dropped on
Japan during World War II. This was the first and the last time that nuclear power was used
in a military attack.

One of the main disadvantages is the difficulty in the management of nuclear waste. It
takes many years to eliminate its radioactivity and risks.
Like fossil fuels, nuclear fuels are non-renewable energy resources. And if there is an
accident, large amounts of radioactive material could be released into the environment. In
addition, nuclear waste remains radioactive and is hazardous to health for thousands of
years.
:There are power reactors called breeders. They produce plutonium. It is an element which
is not found in the nature however it is a fissionable element. It is a by-product of the
chain reaction and is very harmful if introduced in the nature.
Unlike fossil fuels which are available to most of the countries, uranium is very scarce
resource and exist in only few of the countries. Permissions of several international
authorities are required before someone can even thought of building a nuclear power
plant.

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