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Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Energy

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Published by Akash Prajapati

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Published by: Akash Prajapati on Jan 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Nuclear Energy
The sun and stars are seemingly inexhaustible sources of energy. That energy is theresult of nuclear reactions, in which matter is converted to energy. We have been able toharness that mechanism and regularly use it to generate power. Presently, nuclear energy provides for approximately 16% of the world's electricity. Unlike the stars, thenuclear reactors that we have today work on the principle of nuclear fission. Scientistsare working like madmen to make fusion reactors which have the potential of providing more energy with fewer disadvantages than fission reactors.
 Nuclear power is generated using Uranium, which is a metal mined in various parts of the world.The first large-scale nuclear power station opened at Calder Hall in Cumbria, England, in 1956.Some military ships and submarines have nuclear power plants for engines. Nuclear power produces around 11% of the world's energy needs, and produces hugeamounts of energy from small amounts of fuel, without the pollution that you'd get from burning fossil fuels.Changes can occur in the structure of the nuclei of atoms. These changes arecalled
nuclear reactions
. Energy created in a nuclear reaction is called
, or 
atomic energy
. Nuclear energy is produced naturally and in man-made operations under humancontrol.
Some nuclear energy is produced naturally. For example, theSun and other stars make heat and light by nuclear reactions.
Nuclear energy can be man-made too. Machines called
nuclear reactors
, parts of 
nuclear power plants
, provide electricity for many cities. Man-made nuclear reactions also occur in the explosion of atomic and hydrogen bombs. Nuclear energy is produced in two different ways, in one, large nuclei are split torelease energy. In the other method, small nuclei are combined to release energy.
: In nuclear fission, the nuclei of atoms are split, causingenergy to be released. Theatomic bomb and nuclear reactors work by fission. The element uranium is the main fuel used to undergo nuclear fission to produce energy since it has many favorable properties. Uraniumnuclei can be easily split by shooting neutrons at them. Also, once auranium nucleus is split, multiple neutrons are released which are used tosplit other uranium nuclei. This phenomenon is known as a
Fission of uranium 235 nucleus.
: In nuclear fusion, the nuclei of atoms are joined together,or fused. This happens only under very hot conditions. The Sun, like allother stars, creates heat and light through nuclear fusion. In the Sun,
hydrogen nuclei fuse to make helium. Thehydrogen bomb, humanity'smost powerful and destructive weapon, also works by fusion. The heatrequired to start the fusion reaction is so great that anatomic bomb is used to provide it. Hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium and in the processrelease huge amounts of energythus producing ahuge explosion.  Natural uranium is only 0.7% "uranium-235", which is the type of uranium that undergoesfission in this type of reactor.The rest is U-238, which just sits there getting in the way. Modern reactors use "enriched"uranium fuel, which has a higher proportion of U-235.The fuel arrives encased in metal tubes, which are lowered into the reactor whilst it's running,using a special crane sealed onto the top of the reactor.With an AGR or Magnox station, carbon dioxide gas is blown through the reactor to carry theheat away. Carbon dioxide is chosen because it is a very good coolant, able to carry a great dealof heat energy. It also helps to reduce any fire risk in the reactor (it's around 600 degrees Celsiusin there) and it doesn't turn into anything nasty (well, nothing long-lived and nasty) when it's bombarded with neutrons.
As of 2005, nuclear power provided 6.3% of the world's energy and 15% of the world'selectricity, with theU.S., France, andJapantogether accounting for 56.5% of nuclear  generated electricity. In 2007, theIAEAreported there were 439 nuclear power reactorsin operation in the world, operating in 31 countries. As of December 2009, the world had436 reactors. Since commercial nuclear energy began in the mid 1950s, 2008 was the firstyear that no new nuclear power plant was connected to the grid, although two wereconnected in 2009.
Annual generation of nuclear power has been on a slight downward trend since 2007,decreasing 1.8% in 2009 to 2558 TWh with nuclear power meeting 13–14% of theworld's electricity demand. One factor in the nuclear power percentage decrease since2007 has been the prolonged shutdown of large reactors at theKashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan following the Niigata-Chuetsu-Oki earthquake.

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