• Question: How does nuclear power work?

    Asked by dibbydom to Daniel, Derek, Ian, Phil, Upul on 23 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Derek Mann

      Derek Mann answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      Not an expert by any means but I believe that nuclear power is produced from the energy that is released when highly reactive atoms are split, a process called nuclear fission.

    • Photo: Daniel Mietchen

      Daniel Mietchen answered on 22 Jun 2010:

      That would be a good question over at the Uranium room but since it has not been populated yet, here is the gist: The core of an atom (i.e. its nucleus) is provided with an additional particle (a neutron), which causes the atom to break up in smaller pieces, thereby releasing heat that generates steam, from which turbines can generate electricity.

      An example would be the reaction of Uranium-235 with a neutron, turning it into Uranium-236 that is unstable and breaks up (236=141+92+3) into Barium-141 and Krypton-92 plus three neutrons that can be used to help break up other Uranium-235 atoms in what is called a chain reaction.

    • Photo: Ian Sillett

      Ian Sillett answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      There are two types of nuclear power, fission and fusion.

      Fission is where atoms are ‘split’ by bombarding them with other particles. This causes a huge released of stored energy from within the atom itself. This energy is used to create electricity, or make bombs of course. It does not produce greenhouse gases but the waste is radioactive. This type of power is what is found in a nuclear power station.

      Fusion is the nuclear power that keeps the sun going but as yet we have not managed to use it to create electricity because it is so hot. Hydrogen bombs use this type of nuclear energy. Nuclear fusion is the opposite of nuclear fission as atoms are smashed together to make larger atoms and this reaction releases energy.