What is Nuclear Energy? Definition, Concept and Parts

Meaning of Nuclear Energy

What is nuclear energy:

Nuclear energy is that energy that is extracted from the nucleus of an atom, being that energy is the force that holds the nucleus together and the atom a small unit of which all the matter in the world is composed.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power is an alternative to generating energy like electricity.

Definition of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is the energy in the atomic nucleus, that is, the central part of an atom. Atoms are the smallest particles into which a material can be divided.

In the nucleus of each atom, there are two types of particles (neutrons and protons) that are held together. Nuclear energy is the energy that holds neutrons and protons together.

Nuclear technology allows us to transform this type of energy into other types of energy: electrical energy (in nuclear power stations), kinetic energy (in certain propulsion systems).

The most common and well-known use of nuclear energy is the production of electrical energy or electricity.

Atomic energy, or nuclear energy, is a renewable energy that is obtained spontaneously or artificially in nuclear reactions.

The term atomic energy has been associated with the atomic explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and the concept of nuclear energy became widespread.

Following the atomic bombs, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created in 1957 to deal with the problems arising from this discovery.

In addition, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has existed since 1968 to prevent atomic energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes and in the safest possible manner.

All countries of the Americas, except the United States, are committed to this treaty.

Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power

Advantages of today’s nuclear power

  1. A decrease in the use of energy generated by fossil fuels (coal and oil).
  2. Decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other gases produced by fossil fuels.
  3. Nuclear fuel is cheaper because it requires less fuel for more energy.
  4. A nuclear power plant generates electricity continuously avoiding price volatility.
  5. Disadvantages of today’s nuclear power.
  6. The decrease in the use of fossil fuels is not significant.
  7. Nuclear power plants create a great impact on the human aspect because of the accidents that can occur, such as the cases of Chernobyl and Fukushima.
  8. The difficulty of handling nuclear waste, as it takes years to eliminate radioactivity and its risks.
  9. Nuclear power plants have a validity period and the construction of a new plant is costly and time-consuming.

Types of nuclear energy

Nuclear fission energy

This form is currently used to extract energy. Nuclear fission divides atoms to extract their energy. Uranium is used as fuel to produce nuclear fission.

Nuclear fusion energy

The sun is an example of nuclear fusion because instead of splitting atoms, they are collapsed to generate more energy.

It is a clean and safe form of energy generation, but unfortunately, it has not been possible to reproduce this phenomenon for the extraction of energy.

Nuclear energy in the world

The energy produced by nuclear power plants accounts for 15% of the total electricity used in the world.

The only countries that create most of their electricity through nuclear power plants are France, Lithuania, and Slovakia.

Ways of harnessing nuclear energy

In order to take advantage of the nuclear energy present in the nucleus of atoms, it can be done in two ways: by splitting the nucleus of an atom or by fusing the nucleus of two atoms. In the first case, we call it nuclear fission and in the second case nuclear fusion.

The energy produced by the Sun, for example, comes from nuclear fusion reactions. But it is currently very difficult to reproduce nuclear fusion reactions artificially so that all nuclear reactors generate fission reactions.

Nuclear Power Plants

People have been using nuclear energy for a long time to obtain electricity and have built nuclear power stations for this purpose.

Nuclear power plants are facilities that produce electricity through the use of nuclear reactors, which are devices designed to produce a controlled nuclear reaction. An uncontrolled one would be the one that happened in Hiroshima, that is, an atomic bomb.

In order to produce electricity through nuclear reactions, the power plants use as raw materials the so-called fissile materials, which provide heat through their reactions.

This heat is then used by a thermodynamic cycle to move an alternator to produce electrical energy. This is the typical operation of a nuclear power plant.

Most commonly, nuclear power plants use chemical elements such as uranium or plutonium for the necessary nuclear reactions.

Nuclear fuel

The vast majority of nuclear power reactors use enriched uranium as nuclear fuel.

Uranium is a naturally occurring element that is enriched by a certain process to make it more unstable.

That it is unstable means that it is easier to divide, which is precisely what is intended to be done in a nuclear reactor.

The planet’s uranium reserves are not considered unlimited, so nuclear energy is not considered a renewable energy source such as solar or wind power.

Nuclear energy applications

Although electricity production is the most common utility, there are many other applications of nuclear energy in other sectors.

These applications can be for civil or military use. There are a large number of treaties and agreements to regulate these activities.

Within the civil applications, we would find the generation of electrical energy or medical, environmental, industrial applications.

On the other hand, military applications would include military weapons such as atomic bombs or the propulsion of military vehicles such as submarines or the propulsion of long-range missiles.

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