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The energy demands of the world are continuously increasing. Experts are worried about the future of power generation because there are not enough supplies of coal, water and gas to fulfill the needs of mankind in the long term future. Alternative sources of energy such as nuclear energy are being developed. Nuclear energy has several advantages over other sources of energy because it is not limited by space or location. In this article we will learn about nuclear power plants and some of the basic underlying concepts.
What is a Nuclear Power Plant?
As the name itself suggests, a nuclear power plant is a facility where nuclear energy is harnessed to generated electricity. For those of us who haven¶t heard about this term, it may seem like a new concept since we usually hear of atomic and hydrogen bombs which use nuclear energy for large scale destruction. But the same power is used for constructive purposes in nuclear power plants The basic underlying principle of a nuclear power plant can be understood from the equation of mass-energy equivalence which is stated as follows E = ¨mc2 Where E is the amount of energy released when a change in mass occurs during a nuclear reaction. This equation may not seem very complicated to you, but as you know ³c´ represents the speed of light which is of the order of 3 lakh kilometers per second. Just imagine the amount of energy released even if a tiny amount of mass is converted into energy. This gives an edge to nuclear power plants over conventional sources like coal or gas because it means freedom from geographical factors and parameters. Furthermore since the amount of fuel required is much less as compared to conventional sources of power generation, there is no need to have extensive storage facilities and transportation networks for the same amount of power generated.
Basic Nuclear Reactions
Nuclear reactions fall into two major categories: fission and fusion. Fission refers to the nuclear reaction where a heavy nucleus is broken into nuclei of intermediate atomic number. Fusion refers to the nuclear reaction wherein light nuclei get combined to form a new nucleus. Energy can be either released or absorbed during the process depending on whether the final mass of the products is greater than or less than the initial mass of the reactants.
The Chain Reaction
The above mentioned types of reactions are not of much use for generating electrical energy on their own. We require something known as a controlled chain reaction if power is to be generated in a nuclear power plant. When fission is started in a nuclear material it could die out slowly, sustain itself constantly or develop into an uncontrolled reaction. The first and the last options are not useful for generation of electricity. It is only when we have a sustained reaction, that we can utilize nuclear energy in an effective manner There are lots of other interesting things to be learnt about nuclear power plants regarding their working, layout, processes and so forth which we shall do in later articles in this series.
How Does a Nuclear Power Plant Work?
Whenever the term nuclear power plant is mentioned, it usually brings images of the Chernobyl disaster into mind, or related images of the nuclear technology triggered device which destroyed 2 cities of Japan during the Second World War. I agree that these incidents were very unfortunate and should have never happened in the first place, but believe me when I say that nuclear power is quite safe. Though nuclear energy has devastating capabilities such incidents or accidents mainly happen due to human errors of carelessness or prejudice. Otherwise nuclear technology is as safe as any other technology used to generate electricity and possibly much more effective in several situations. You will appreciate this viewpoint better once you know how does a nuclear power plant work?
The Energy Mass Ratio
In order to give you an idea about the scale of fuel quantities involved in a nuclear power station vis-à-vis traditional power stations, I ask you to imagine that around a pound of nuclear fuel like say Uranium gives the energy equivalent to burning a million gallons of gasoline. This should not come as a surprise since we have already learned that the energy released in a nuclear
reaction is the equivalent of the mass change which takes place during the process. It is therefore huge compared to energy which is released as a result of combustion and related chemical reactions during traditional fuel burning.
How Does it All Work?
It is all very well to hear that tremendous energy lies within atomic particles, which is converted into electrical energy in a nuclear power plant. The million dollar question is- how is it achieved? Well the nuclear energy isn¶t converted directly into electricity but the heat released during the fission reaction is used to convert water into steam which in turn runs a turbine. The turbine turns the alternator which produces electricity to be fed into the power grid. Of course the overall process is not as simple as it seems and there are several types of nuclear power plants which are classified according to different parameters, which will be discussed in separate articles on this topic. One concept which must be well understood in context of nuclear power plants is the critical mass of the fuel used. We know that fission occurs whenever an atom splits into two or more components. Let us take the case of U 235 which splits to give 2-3 neutrons in the process which in turn strike other atoms and cause further splitting. This chain can only be sustained if the mass of U 235 is of a certain minimum value known as the critical mass. Below this critical value the reaction would ultimately die out, while if the critical value is exceeded it may result in the likes of an atomic bomb. The above statement might have sent jitters down your spine, but just relax. Technology is quite advanced these days and so nuclear power plants simply do not blow up every other day as if they were nuclear bombs . The very few incidents that have occurred to date were mainly caused by carelessness.
Safety Measures for Nuclear Power Plants
No industrial activity or operation is without its inherent risks. In fact the same goes for all facets of life. Nevertheless certain activities and operations have the potential of great damage not only for the person handling those operations but for society in general. Nuclear technology and nuclear power generation are certainly one of those areas where the potential for damage is literally unlimited if something goes wrong. This has been observed time and again through
It would not be possible to go into the full details of the safety aspect in this article. These waste materials come in different forms such as solid. liquid and gaseous. it would ensure that the tremendous energy which lies in the atom is harnessed in a proper manner without causing damage to men. Appropriate measures must be taken to maintain ideal conditions via control rods and core cooling. Nuclear Power Plant Safety Safety should be ensured in a nuclear power plant from all aspects and during all stages: from the inception of the plant as an idea to its full fledged commissioning providing continuous source of power to the requisite purpose. material. The best thing is to be prepared for such a situation and have properly trained personnel as well as the requisite equipment in order to deal effectively with such situations. The Core: this is the place where the actual reaction takes place. The standards laid down in this regard should be strictly adhered to and the working environment should be regularly checked for radiation levels. fauna and the natural environment. y y y y If the above mentioned dictums are followed properly. Monitoring: human beings working inside the power plant need to be constantly monitored for any over exposure of radiation as a result of their routine job operations. flora. Hence safety measures for nuclear power plants must be followed strictly. All these types of wastes have their own methods of disposal and the main idea is to dispose off these wastes in a manner which is least harmful for human beings. Proper Emergency Response Plans: nobody wants an accident to happen but things do go out of control sometimes either due to human error or machinery failure. but we will certainly have a look at some of the most basic features relating to nuclear power plant safety. it is very important that the structure housing this reactor should be made from relevant materials which have the appropriate capacity to shield the outside environment both during normal operations as well as minimize risk of damage in case of unfortunate accidents such as the Chernobyl blast. or environment.various accidents which happened in different parts of the world at different times such as that of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. so that nuclear power becomes an obedient servant and not a terrible master to humanity. Waste Disposal: one of the most challenging tasks is the proper disposal of waste materials from the nuclear power plant. y The Building: since the nuclear power plant has exothermic nuclear reactions going on inside its core. Fission occurs with the release of neutrons causing further fission thus sustaining a chain reaction. Types of Nuclear Power Plants Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) 4 Comments .
Home > Engineering > Mechanical Engineering > Energy/ Power Plants Types of Nuclear Power Plants Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) is a type of a nuclear power reactor that uses enriched Uranium as a fuel which in turn heats the light water used for producing steam. In one of the circuits water is heated to a high temperature and kept at high pressure as well. except for heat transfer which takes place in the boiler or heat exchanger. so that it does not get converted into a gaseous state. One feature which makes a PWR reactor very suitable for practical applications is its positive demand coefficient which serves to increase the output as a direct proportion to demand of power. This superheated water is used as a coolant and a moderator for the nuclear reactor core hence the name PWR or pressurized water reactor. The point of interaction between these two circuits is the heat exchanger or the boiler wherein heat from the superheated high pressure water converts the water in the secondary circuit to steam. In fact for a typical 1000 MW plant just around 5 dozen control rods are sufficient. leads to the construction of very compact core size for a given power output. Advantages of PWR y y y y y Much fewer control rods are required in a PWR.e. The water used in the primary circuit is different from that used in the secondary circuit and there is no intermixing between the two. A PWR has got a high power density and this. combined with the fact that enriched Uranium is used as fuel instead of normal Uranium. Since the two circuits are independent of each other. steam which is used to run the turbine-alternator arrangement. it makes it very easy for the maintenance staff to inspect the components of the secondary circuit without having to shut down the power plant entirely. The main feature which differentiates it from a BWR nuclear reactor is that a PWR has a separate arrangement to make steam in the form of a heat exchanger The Arrangement of PWR A pressurized water reactor (PWR) is a type of power plant reactor consisting of two basic circuits having light water as the working fluid. The secondary circuit consists of water at high pressure in the gaseous state i. This means that the water used in the turbine side is free .
right from the pressure cooker which makes those stubborn pulses soft. coolant. but then here water is not boiled by traditional heat sources but using the heat of the atom. and the source for steam which drives the turbine blades. PWR fuel charging requires the plant to be shut down and this certainly requires a long time period of the order of at least a couple of months. in the form of exothermic heat from a nuclear fission reaction. Read on for some interesting information about BWR. Introduction Steam possesses immense power and we see that in a lot of applications in every day life. you might say. It basically consists of a dome shaped structure which has heating coils which are used to increase or decrease pressure as and when required depending on varied load conditions Types of Nuclear Power Plants Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) are types of power plants that work similar to a pressure cooker where steam is generated from heat within the reactor core which in turn is used to drive the turbine blades that turns the generator. This means that the vessel should be constructed of very strong material such as stainless steel which adds to construction costs of PWR. Water passes over . This is achieved by installing a device known as pressure equalizer in the primary circuit.from radioactive steam hence the piping on that side is not required to be clad with special shielding materials. This steam can also be used to generate electricity by driving a turbine alternator arrangement with it. The pressure in the secondary circuit is relatively quite low as compared to the primary circuit hence the thermodynamic efficiency of PWR reactors is quite low of the order of 20 Pressure Equalizer One important point to note here is that despite the changing loads the pressure in the primary circuit needs to be maintained at a constant value. to driving the heavy steam engine (although they are hardly seen these days). BWR or boiling water reactor plants form an important variety amongst the commonly used types of power plants. Nothing new. high pressure water which accelerates corrosion. Drawbacks of PWR y y y The primary circuit consists of high temperature. The BWR Reactor: 3 in 1 Functionality The main beauty of a BWR lies in the fact that the same water is used for all three purposes as a moderator.
Since the same water is used for all purposes including moderation and cooling. Moreover this leads to a reduced size of the reactor for a given amount of output. Gas Cooled Reactors in Nuclear Plants As the name itself suggests. However the good news is that the half life of the radioactive steam is just of the order of 15 minutes which is manageable. it tends to be slightly radioactive. A BWR has self controlling characteristic which stems from the fact that an increase in reactivity causes increase of steam formation in the reactor. The chances of fuel getting "burnt out" are significant in a BWR reactor mainly because water is in direct contact with fuel and when the same water gets converted to steam it may blank parts of the fuel surface from coming in contact with water thus leading to such a situation. thus completing the closed loop cycle. The used steam from the turbines is then fed into the condenser which coverts it into liquid state to be fed again into the reactor core. a gas cooled reactor is cooled using a gas. they need to be shielded for this very reason. moderator and steam generator. This increase of steam is accompanied by a decrease of density of the coolant which also acts as the moderator hence pushing the fuel towards sub-critical zone. This is due to the very fact of self balancing as explained in the previous point which is good for a fixed load but makes it a drawback when dealing with sudden increases of load. . Benefits and Drawbacks y y y y y Since there is no need for a separate boiler arrangement to produce steam unlike in some other types of nuclear reactors. One of the biggest drawbacks of a BWR reactor is its inefficiency to deal with sudden increase in load.the reactor core absorbing heat and turning into steam which is fed to the turbine blades. and the heat extracted by the gas during the process of cooling the reactor is used either indirectly to generate steam which in turn is used for turbine propulsion. or this heated coolant could be used directly as the working fluid of the gas turbine thus eliminating the need for a separate steam circuit. The moderator used in these types of reactors is Graphite which offers the advantages of being stable under conditions of high radiation as well as high temperatures. Hence we see that a boiling water reactor is pretty useful due to its good thermal efficiency. The Fuel used in this type of reactor is enriched Uranium. it reduces the complexity of the arrangement and related costs. Of course both these approaches have their own set of features and limitations. smaller size per unit power output and its characteristic to use water as coolant. Hence when this water is fed to the turbines.
3. Gas cooled reactors are more stable and safe because the reactivity of the reactor is not a function of the quantity of gas present in the core. 2.Gases used for Cooling There are several options available to choose for the coolant including gases but mainly carbon dioxide and helium are used as coolants apart from hydrogen in certain situations. The main feature of such a system is that it gives the highest thermal efficiency of all types of nuclear reactors which are currently being used in the industry and typically gives efficiency of the order of nearly 42% within moderate operating temperatures. Of course certain practical considerations do limit these ranges but certainly they are more than those available for water. Hence if a gas leak occurs accidentally the reactor would be much safer than a similar leak developed in water cooled reactor Direct Circuit As described above the direct system uses the same gas which is used as a coolant to act as the working fluid rotating the turbine blades from the enthalpy generated during heat absorption during the reactor cooling process. Thermodynamically speaking Helium offers the best alternative since it has a high specific heat and low capture cross section for thermal neutrons but it is much expensive as compared to carbon-dioxide. Indirect Circuit And indirect circuit consists of cooling gas in the primary circuit while the secondary circuit consists of water as the working fluid which is converted into steam using a heat exchanger. There is no need for cladding the metallic fuel which leads to simple fuel processing techniques as compared to other types of reactors where cladding is necessary 3. The advantages that a gaseous coolant offers over light or heavy water are as follows 1. Features of Gas Cooled Reactors 1. If CO2 is used as the cooling gas it eliminates the possibility of explosion which is always present in water cooled reactors 2. The gases are less prone to react chemically with the structural material of the reactor unlike water which has higher affinity for chemical reactions with these elements. Gases are more flexible in terms of the temperatures and pressure ranges to which they can be subject to as compared to water. The main drawback of these plants is there low power density which requires large size of the reactor for relatively smaller power requirements .
We will study one very important component of nuclear power plants here. Pu-239 and Pu-241. Although Helium is an excellent cooling medium from the thermodynamic point of view. let me explain the reason to you. If you are wondering why the name fertile is given to a seemingly infertile nucleus. a fertile nuclide is one which requires neutrons of more than a certain level of energy to achieve the same usually in the range of 1-MeV. U-235. A fissile material is that which attains fission when hit by a neutron of any energy level. . Both these processes are exothermic but the latter leads to much more release of thermal energy as compared to chemical reactions for similar quantities of fuel. There are two types of reactors based on the manner in which the fuel and moderator are placed within the core as follows. its low neutron absorbing capacity makes it unsuitable for load control Components of Nuclear Power Plant Fuel A nuclear power plant is not much different from a conventional power plant except for the manner in which heat is generated using nuclear reactions. whilst alternation takes place in the nuclear reactions. We all know fertile nuclide include the U-235 isotope of Uranium and Thorium Th-232. No doubt fuel rods top the list in the components of nuclear power plants for there would be no "fire" without the fuel. Shape of Fuel Used Fuel is usually placed within the reactor core in the form of fuel rods which are fabricated and placed within the reactor in such a manner so that it leads to a uniform production of heat within the reactor.4. What is a Fissile Nuclide? As you must have surely guessed. fissile has something to do with fission and you are right about this. Burning takes place in case of chemical reactions. Introduction Fuel is needed for any energy producing process and refers to the material which is either burned or altered in order to produce energy. and the nuclear fuel cycle. namely the fuel rods used in the reactor core. What is a Fertile Nuclide? Whereas a fissile nuclide can achieve fission with any neutron. The commonly known fissile nuclides are isotopes of Uranium and Plutonium namely U-233. Actually a fertile nuclide becomes fissile upon absorption of the appropriate neutron hence the name fertile.
Neutrons which fall above that range are known as fast neutrons and they are not readily absorbed by the target nucleus and hence not useful in sustaining a chain reaction.1. These fuel materials certainly act as the backbone of nuclear industry and will help to achieve a powerful source of viable alternative energy for our future energy requirements. Components of Nuclear Power Plant Moderator Moderation is necessary in all aspects of life if one has to achieve success. The homogenous reactor is one in which the fuel and moderator are mixed to form a uniform mixture which is then placed in the form of rods and plates inside the reactor core. burning of fuel and final disposal. Stainless Steel or Zirconium which help to prevent oxidation of Uranium. Of course in the former case. This makes the target unstable and makes it split into two parts accompanied with the release of energy which is utilized to generate electricity. fuel is not thrown or dumped away at any random place but is placed and packaged properly in order to prevent contamination of the biosphere. . A heterogeneous reactor on the other hands has pure fuel in the form of rods or plates while the moderator surrounds the fuel elements separately. but that does not mean that above that threshold any neutron can cause fission. 2. There is a certain threshold below which the neutron will not be absorbed by the target nucleus. It is no wonder the same principle applies to nuclear reactions as well. In this case the fuel rods are often clad with different materials including Aluminium. Usually extreme of anything is bad. no matter whether it is good or bad. A moderator is one of the important components of nuclear power plant helping to maintain neutron population in the thermal energy range. Just learn few basic concepts about moderation and moderators in context of nuclear power plants Introduction The nuclear fission reaction consists of bombarding fuels such as Uranium with energetic neutrons. Infact there is a range of energy within which they can cause fission. The Fuel Cycle The fuel cycle with regards to the nuclear power plant refers to the total process of preparation of fuel. If the fuel from the last stage is recycled to be used again in the nuclear reactor. We learnt a few basic things about the fuels used in nuclear power plants in this article. it is known as a closed fuel cycle otherwise it is known as open fuel cycle.
It is here that the concept of a moderator comes in the picture. The mechanism of speed control works in such a way that fast moving neutrons strike the nuclei of moderator material which is not efficient at absorbing them but simply slows them down with repeated collisions thus bringing them into the thermal zone.also known as heavy water in common terminology. As you must have understood above. There is a special class of reactors known as fast reactors which do not use moderators but depend on the use of fast moving neutrons for causing fission. Even otherwise it must be remembered that fast moving neutrons have lesser probability of getting absorbed and causing fission but it does not mean that they are incapable of causing the fission reaction. Just to give you a relative idea a fast moving neutron travels with a speed which is nearly in the region of 10% of the speed of light. Materials for Moderator There are several materials which are used for the purpose including the following y y y Normal or Light Water is used in majority of the reactors simply because of its cheap and abundant availability. Beryllium. Lithium are used in different types of reactors as moderators Is it always necessary? Although moderators are necessary in most nuclear reactors this does not mean to say that all reactors require moderators. a moderator is a medium which is used to absorb a portion of the kinetic energy of fast neutrons so that they come in the category of thermal neutrons which help to sustain a controlled chain reaction.Several materials such as Graphite. cold neutrons. The only flipside of using light-water is that the fuel has to be enriched to use with water Deuterium . Deuterium is costly to manufacture as compared to light water but gives the option of using un-enriched fuel in the reactor which is a big advantage Miscellaneous . There are also other categories of neutrons based on their energy levels such as slow neutrons. Now these fast neutrons have to be slowed down and brought to lower energy levels if they have to cause successful fission in turn. .The Moderator The problem lies in the fact that whenever a thermal neutron causes fission it also leads to the release of fast neutrons. ultra cold neutrons and so forth. while a thermal neutron travels with a speed which is typically of the order of a few kilometers per second.
Low absorption . High reflection . It is the same principle of reflection which lets you see how you look in a mirror by reflecting the light waves. Materials used as Reflectors There are a variety of materials which are used as a reflecting medium for neutrons and whatever material is used for the process. In fact the term reflection refers to any wave or particle being thrown back after hitting a reflecting surface. Radiation stability .Components of Nuclear Power Plant Reflector The chain reaction inside a nuclear reactor is what sustains combustion of the fuel which in turn depends on ample supply of thermal energy neutrons within the core.this is an obvious property and does not need any explanation for that is the very purpose for which the reflector exists in the core 3. The moderator is used to control the speed of these neutrons so that they act usefully in creating more fission. the lack of which could simply extinguish the fission process.since the reflector material will be exposed to high levels of radiation. These neutrons fly randomly in all directions and are usually in the region of fast moving energy neutrons. it is but natural to assume that it should have a high stability towards radiation . but many of these neutrons may simply get lost by flying off the reactor core and thus serving no useful purpose. The Reflection Process As we know the reactor consists of the fission process which occurs when a thermal energy neutron is absorbed by the target nucleus leading to its division into two nuclei and emission of 2 or 3 neutrons apart from the heat energy. This principle is extremely useful in the reactor core and helps to maintain an ample amount of thermal energy neutrons. This might hinder the progression of a chain reaction which is very necessary for the nuclear reactor.this is necessary since if the reflecting material itself starts to absorb the very neutrons it is supposed to reflect back. 1. 2. Hence a reflector holds an important position amongst the components of nuclear power plant. A reflector material is used to ensure that neutrons do not simply fly off the reactor leaving little room for the chain reaction to continue Introduction The principle of reflection is fairly simple and we come across it in our everyday lives. In order to reduce this process of neutron loss the inner surface of the reactor core is surrounded by a material which helps to reflect these escaping neutrons back towards the core of the reactor and these materials are known as reflecting materials. then the purpose of installing the reflector material would itself be defeated and it would be better not to install any reflector at all. rendering the device useless for producing power. it must possess these properties.
This also helps to keep the working temperature of the core within safe limits for the materials used in the construction of the reactor. Therefore a coolant is necessary to ensure that this heat is taken away and utilized in a proper manner. Properties of an Ideal Coolant There are some properties of the coolant which are necessary to ensure safety of the reactor and well as proper performance of the coolant for the intended purpose. There light water. heavy water and carbon are mostly used as reflectors since they possess the above mentioned characteristics. Some of the desired properties of an ideal coolant are as follows y A coolant should not absorb neutrons or should have a minimum neutron absorption cross section. Introduction The immense amount of heat energy present in the nuclear reactor core needs to be transferred in some manner so that it is converted into electrical energy.the material should not get oxidized otherwise it will fail to serve the requisite purpose In actual practice there may not be a different material for moderator and reflector for the simple reason that most of the moderators also possess the above mentioned properties of a good reflector as well. Hence they serve the dual purpose of a reflector and a moderator as well. Components of Nuclear Power Plant Coolant A nuclear reactor is a source of intense heat which is generated through the exothermic fission reactions taking place inside the core. The reason for this is obvious since this function should be left to the moderator and not the coolant. Resistance to Oxidation . . The use of a proper reflector helps to reduce the size of the reactor core for a given power output since the number of neutrons leaking are lesser and help to propagate the fission process instead. It also reduces the consumption of the fissile material.4. Hence a coolant plays an important role in components of nuclear power plant and serves the dual purpose of removing the heat from the reactor as well as transferring it to the electricity generation circuit either directly or indirectly depending on the type of nuclear reactor being used for the purpose.
different coolants are used in different circumstances and some of the commonly used coolants are light water. it is obvious that it should posses excellent resistance to both high temperatures as well as high levels of radiation. It can be seen that the coolants used vary from solids.y y y y Since a coolant is exposed to high temperatures and well as severe levels of radiation. Since a coolant needs to circulate using a pump it should be capable of being pumped easily so that least amount of energy is spent in pumping the coolant. It can be well imagined that the above list is quite extensive and therefore there is hardly any material which satisfies all the above criteria to the maximum possible extent. . liquids and gases and depending on the type of the reactor. It must be also kept in mind that sometimes a coolant is used to transfer heat to the working fluid in the secondary circuit through a heat exchanger while in other cases it is directly used in the turbine to rotate the blades and then fed back to the reactor after cooling in the condenser. Coolants used in nuclear reactors could be either in the liquid state or in the solid state. Therefore different types of coolants are used in different types of reactors depending on various factors and parameters. But in case it is a solid it should have a relatively low melting point due to obvious reasons. In case the coolant is a liquid it should have a high boiling point so that it does not get evaporated due to the high heat inside the reactor. sodium-potassium mixture and so on. heavy water. Commonly Used Coolants Since no single material qualifies as an ideal coolant. helium. the appropriate coolant is preferred. sodium. nitrogen. carbondioxide. A coolant should be non-corrosive in nature otherwise it might tend to damage and corrode the very core which is meant to be protected by it through proper removal of heat.
heat and energy which is associated with nuclear fission cannot be left on its own but needs to be controlled in a predictable manner. Even though a nuclear reactor in a power plant has got peaceful intentions. In the absence of such a reaction the process would soon die out. We have seen the reasons for controlling and taming the wild nuclear power and the best method to achieve this is through the use of control rods which can be inserted or withdrawn from the core and help to control the nuclear reactions taking place inside the reactor. Introduction Nuclear fission is a source of tremendous energy which could be either used for destructive purposes such as nuclear weapons or constructive purposes such as a nuclear reactor for producing electrical energy. Some of the basic reasons are as follows. What do Control Rods Do? . y y y y A nuclear chain reaction should be started when a reactor fires from the cold condition. the reactor needs to be shut down quickly in order to prevent any major disaster like say Chernobyl which could be very costly in terms of loss to life and environment. Why the Need to Control? It does not require much reflection to imagine why proper control is necessary with in nuclear reactor. the tremendous power. Unless there is something to control the immense power that a nuclear reaction wields. It is here that controls rods come in the picture and form an important part of the components of nuclear power plant. It is not only necessary and sufficient to start the chain reaction but it is equally necessary to ensure that the reaction is sustained in the long run as long as the power requirements are present. In case of emergency situations such as a sudden mechanical or structural damage. This maxim is usually associated with politics but applies equally to a nuclear reactor as well. Fuel rods inside the reactor should be prevented from melting or getting disintegrated and therefore a control mechanism is absolutely necessary.Components of Nuclear Power Plant Control Rods What do control rods in a nuclear power plant do? It has been often said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. the reactor would simply go haywire.
Another property of control rods is that the material should not start a fission reaction despite the heavy absorption of neutrons. Because of the risk. beta rays. Components of Nuclear Power Plant Shielding A nuclear reaction is a source of intense radiation apart from the heat generated in the exothermic process. These by-products in the form of different kinds of radiation would simply leak out into the atmosphere in the absence of proper arrangements to prevent this. gamma rays and of course the fast moving neutrons. Hence we see that control rods tend to provide a mechanism wherein the immense nuclear energy can be tamed within reasonable limits and ensure safety and security of the reactor as well the outside environment. Infact you can imagine the function of a control rod just like a blotting paper which sucks the extra ink that has spilled somewhere but doesn't let it spread in a wider region. Introduction As you know when a nucleus gets split into two parts during the fission process it results in the production of large amounts of heat energy since the reaction is exothermic in nature. The commonly used materials which satisfy these criteria include cadmium.One property which is a must for control rod material is the heavy absorption capacity for neutrons so that they can carry out the control function effectively. Radiation leakage would be very harmful for the personnel working in the nuclear plant as well as the nearby flora and fauna. radiation shielding is required to prevent this harmful radiation from leaving the reactor and affecting the outside men and materials. The fast moving neutrons are controlled. The mechanism of control consists of arranging control rods in assembles which are usually mounted vertically within the reactor core and are inserted into the guide tubes with the fuel elements. But this is not the only product of nuclear fuel "combustion" but there are several other by-products such as alpha rays. The Radiation Yes. silver and hafnium. boron. iridium. moderation and reflected in order to contain them within the reactor core so that a sustained and controlled chain reaction takes place but what do you think happens to the other by-products? Just read on to find out why a shielding is one of the important components of nuclear power plant. For purposes of safety of a reactor in case the lifting mechanism also suffers a failure. . you guessed it right. the control are arranged in such a way that they will get into the stop position and shut down the reactor completely in such a case.
This makes clear the case for having a proper shield so that these radiations get absorbed within the reactor without having a chance to escape into open air. This is done by using materials which are good absorbents of the same. Concrete and steel are very good at absorbing radiation and they are equally strong as well, hence used in forming the shielding material.
The question now arises that how much thickness of these materials should be used to prevent radiation from leaking out into the atmosphere? If you just compare it with the amount of thickness of typical steel plate required for preventing a powerful bullet from going across it you are in for a surprise. Although I am not a weapons expert but I know for sure that for stopping ordinary bullets a few mm of steel plate should be sufficient and a few cm of plate should be sufficient to stop even the most powerful of guns. You might wonder that if such a thickness is required for a bullet which is quite bulky and dangerous, then only a couple of mm should be sufficient for humble intangible rays and neutrons but if you think so you are utterly wrong. A typical reactor core would require an inner lining which is of the order of nearly half a meter thickness of steel (don't gasp for breath). The icing on the cake is that even this much thick steel is not considered entire safe. It is further reinforced by using a few meters of concrete to make it safer. This should give you an idea about how powerful these radiations are and their penetrating capability. It is also interesting to note that the amount of radiation to which human beings could be exposed safely without causing any harm to the body is expressed in units of rad and rem which give the amount of absorbed radiation from different perspectives.
Components of Nuclear Power Plant Reactor Vessel
A nuclear reactor consists of various parts which carry out different functions related to heat generation by burning of nuclear fuel, but a housing is needed to contain all these parts and act as a covering for all these paraphernalia
Just imagine if your beautiful body did not have the cover of the skin, and when you met any individual you could simply see through their various organs and into their "dirty" workings. This would certainly be not a very pleasing sight and would take out the very charm of human personality. This is not much different in the case of nuclear reactors as well. I cannot imagine going to a nuclear power plant just to find that the reactor core, fuel rods, control rods etc are all lying bare bones without any proper cover of enclosure. Hence the outside component of nuclear power plant is very important and is known as the reactor vessel.
Vessels are often used to cook food, and though a nuclear reactor may not be cooking food directly for you, it certainly provides a source of an equally valuable food for the society: electrical energy. But apart from the cooking business there are a lot of functions which a nuclear reactor vessel has to perform and some of these are as follows.
It acts to enclose the various parts inside the reactor including the core, shield, reflector etc. The coolant needs a passage to flow through the reactor so that it can be used to transfer the heat to the working fluid or the turbine directly, as the case may be, and this passage is provided by the reactor vessel. To withstand the high pressure with exists inside the reactor and could be of the order of 200 kgf/cm2, to provide a safe working environment for all concerned. Control of the nuclear reaction is absolutely necessary and this is done with the help of control rods. The reactor vessel provides a place to insert these control rods in the nuclear reactor and move them in or out of the reactor core depending on the requirements of power.
The Pressure Vessel
Although the reactor vessel has been compared to a cookery vessel in the common usage of the term, technically speaking it is more of a pressure vessel. There are legal implications associated with defining a pressure vessel and these vary with the country in which it is being used or manufactured. Different countries have different authorities which govern rules and regulations regarding pressure vessels and in the US this is done by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. The material used for the construction of a nuclear vessel is usually steel which would be expected as the material has to be very strong and resilient. Pressure vessels of all kinds are subject to various tests to check for their strength against laid down standards which is very important to ensure safety of these vessels. This is more so important in the case of nuclear reactor vessels which house source of intense raditaions and heat energy. Hence we see that though a nuclear reactor vessel may not be performing any useful function directly in the generation of electrical energy, it acts to hold together all major components of the power plant.
Nuclear Waste Disposal Methods
Every useful process does leave behind some waste in one form or the other. When the process is as sensitive as the nuclear reaction, the waste obviously has to be handled very carefully. Read here how nuclear power plant waste is treated!
It is all very well to eat the fruits (electricity) of labour (nuclear reaction) in a nuclear power plant setup but the reaction also leaves behind some waste materials which should be disposed off and discarded in a proper manner, simply because of the reason that it is a radioactive waste hence cannot be dumped like some ordinary waste material A nuclear reaction leads to the production of various types of wastes during different stages of the reaction. These waste materials could include all three phases of matter namely solid, liquid as well as gaseous. Needless to say these wastes are radioactive in nature and need to be disposed off in such a manner that human society, flora, fauna and the environment in general are not harmed by them. Different methods are used to dispose off each of these wastes and these are disposed off in ground, air or water as the case may be.
Ground is a resource which is available in plenty and offers one of the cheapest methods of disposal of nuclear waste. Earth has got good radio activity absorption capacity but the problem is that if the waste is buried at the ground water level, the water would get poisoned from "radioactivity" and hence they have to be buried at a lesser depth. Sometimes used coal mines which are not mined for coal anymore and the solid wastes are buried in them within heaps of sodium chloride. Usually solid radioactive waste is buried few meters deep in water for nearly 3 months. This leads to disappearance of a major proportion of their radioactivity after which it is buried in the ground.
The gaseous wastes can be left freely in the air but the problem here is that these gases will get absorbed by the plants and finally will get into the human food chain thus entering the human body and causing serious health hazards in the long run as the number of nuclear reactors in the world increases. Hence another safe method is to collect the gases in solid containers and keep them buried in ground; then disperse them off in the air when their radioactivity levels fall to considerably lower level.
Whatever be the method of disposal of radioactive waste materials. . it must be always kept in mind that the safety of all forms of life is of utmost importance and should not be compromised even if it means taking some extra pains or incurring some extra costs to properly dispose off the waste material.Liquid Liquid wastes of highly radioactive nature are first enclosed in concrete containers and buried inside the ground just like solid wastes till the decay of their radioactivity. Other lesser toxic wastes are disposed off directly into the oceans but care should be taken to see that the sea life is not affected in a harmful manner. Only then the nuclear energy would be useful for the human race in the long run and our future generations will also benefit from it.
when the first Russian nuclear plant generated power for their national grid. Uranium and Thorium Nuclear Power Nuclear power has been producing thermal energy since the mid-fifties. Nowadays however. and in particular the use of uranium and thorium as nuclear fuel and subsequent radioactive waste produced. producing High Level Wastes such as Plutonium-238 (half life 87 yrs). traditional open pit and underground mining being the most popular techniques. with Thorium being one of these options. The Extraction and Processing of fuels used in Nuclear Power Generation. when irradiated Thorium-232 is used as a fuel. Uranium Extraction and Enrichment. it is projected to produce up to 10. and Australia in that order.000 times less long-lived radioactive waste than uranium-235. These remain at very high temperatures and must be kept under water in ponds.7% U235. The uranium ore contains about 99. for five or six years. However. This is another article on Nuclear Energy.Nuclear Power Generation Perspective Uranium ± 235 is currently used as fuel in the world¶s nuclear reactors. but it has the ever present inherent trait of producing high level waste and actinides in the form of plutonium and curium. Since then many types of nuclear reactors have been designed and are operating world-wide. Thorium 90 Compared . Canada. Underground mining for uranium ore used to be a very hazardous occupation with many miners suffering from effects of radon gas.Uranium 235 Vs. Alternative fuels have been investigated to power nuclear reactors. We begin with a look at how the different fuels can be extracted and processed. 0. The top three countries mining uranium ore are Kazakhstan. normally at the nuclear plant.25% U238. . and trace amounts of U234. Enriched uranium is used as thq fuel in reactors. underground workings are well ventilated with large air ducts expelling the radon gas. y Mining the Uranium Ore There are several methods currently in use to mine uranium ore.
this is carried out in a fast or thermal reactor where the thorium-232 is irradiated with uranium 233 and absorbs a neutron converting it to thorium±233U. Countries with Nuclear Power Plants Which country generates most of it electricity from nuclear energy power plants? Which country has the most number of nuclear energy power plants? How many countries have nuclear energy power plants? Countries that Use Nuclear Energy Power Plants Generating electricity from nuclear energy causes little pollution when compared to the pollution caused when the same amount of electricity is generated using thermal energy or other nonrenewable energy resources. with the help of modern technology many countries use nuclear power plants to generate electricity and the number of nuclear power plants is increasing every year. (U3O8) The yellow cake is calcined and purified. This is then fed into a dilution vessel where water at 100C is injected to dissolve the valuable sodium phosphates that are later extracted. crushed. Even with such an advantage. Basically. and leaching in acid. it is further processed to yellow cake that contains many uranium oxides. In spite of that. it is not popular among the common people because the advantage comes at a huge cost. and nitric acid added forming an aqueous solution. the solution is then filtered to remove mixed hydrous oxides that are heated to 150 C. Disposing of the nuclear waste is very difficult and needs to be done after a lot of planning by the experts. This is further processed using various screening/filtration techniques from which Thorium Oxide (ThO2) is produced which can now be further processed to nuclear fissile material.The U235 is extracted from the ore through crushing. Thorium Extraction The sodium hydroxide is heated in a vessel to around 140 C (284 F) for 3 hours which produces a mud-like solution. . then being further processed into 3-4% enriched uranium dioxide (UO2) discs or pellets. milling. a fertile material which can now be used as a fuel in a thorium nuclear reactor. Let us look look at some statistics that throw more light on the countries that use nuclear energy power plants. converting U3O8 into UO3 in the process. The radioactive waste takes years to be no longer hazardous. In addition there is a risk of a nuclear accident like the one at Chernobyl. Following this. The fuel is now ready to be loaded into fuel cells and installed into the reactor core.
Image Source . Japan takes the third place followed by Russia and Germany. The Top 10 Countries that use Nuclear Energy Power Plants in Terms of Megawatts of Energy 1) United States of America 2) France 3) Japan 4) Russia 5) Germany 6) South Korea 7) Ukraine 8) Canada 9) United Kingdom 10) Sweden .Wikipedia Top 10 Countries that use Nuclear Energy Power Plants in Terms of Power Generated in Megawatts The energy produced by nuclear energy power plants is measured in megawatts. The United States tops the list with more than 101 megawatts of power produced. This is roughly one-fourth of the total nuclear energy produced in the world. which completes the list of the top five countries that produce electricity from nuclear energy power plants. France follows at a far second with energy output of 63 megawatts.
Many more countries are planning to build one and many have already built and are undergoing final checks before the nuclear energy power plants are up and running. 6 and 4 nuclear power plants under construction.2% 10) South Korea . South Korea.43. All these countries generate an average of more than 50% of the total electricity generated from nuclear energy.42% 7) Slovenia and Croatia share the same place .2% 2) Slovakia .Top 10 Countries that use Nuclear Energy Power Plants in Terms of Percentage of Electricity Generated from Nuclear Energy Although the United States ranks first in the amount of energy produced (in megawatts) from nuclear power plants.53.39. The U.35.7% of the total electricity produced is produced from nuclear energy. France generates more than 76% of its total electricity from nuclear energy.2% 9) Hungary . Russia.76. The Top 10 Countries that Use Nuclear Energy Power Plants in Terms of Percentage of Electricity Generated from Nuclear Energy 1) France .4% 5) Armenia .4% 3) Belgium .37.41.S. Surprisingly smaller countries like Slovakia.56. wind power. 10.47. Ukraine and Armenia complete the top five list. and India have 24.8% 4) Ukraine .6% The Future of Nuclear Energy The future of generation energy from nuclear energy looks strong as countries like China.5% 6) Sweden . 14% of electricity produced in the world is generated from nuclear energy. Belgium. comes far behind at 16th as only 19. . it is France that leads the pack when the percentage of electricity generated from nuclear energy is concerned. Until there is enormous progress in generating power from renewable energy resources like solar power.7% 8) Switzerland .
The resources are limited and the process of mining and refining it is hazardous for the environment. Facts Suggesting that Nuclear Power is not Renewable The most widespread point of view states that nuclear power is not a renewable form of energy. Nuclear reactors use radioactive fuel (uranium). and this is based on a number of clues: y Uranium is not a renewable fuel. and curium. y . The processing of uranium results in radioactive waste which consists of unconverted uranium. the nuclear storage sites can always become a target of terrorists. According to the National Academy of Sciences. Their recycling is costly and ineffective. The question is whether nuclear energy is actually renewable or not. The elements produced have extreme storage requirements and may stay radioactive and dangerous for thousands of years. and they cannot be safely stored.. power generation from nuclear energy will be more popular than power generation using other conventional methods. plutonium. Is Nuclear Energy a Renewable Resource? Defining Nuclear and Renewable Energy Nuclear power originates from controlled nuclear reactions (basically fission) taking place inside nuclear reactors. The secure transport of uranium can raise the cost and consumption of energy significantly. large quantities of radioactive waste are produced. and minimum environmental impact. in order to heat up water and produce steam. The definition of renewable energy entails the long term availability of the energy source. etc. The steam is then used for the production of electric power. After processing.tidal energy. the ability to replenish over time.
nuclear energy cannot be characterized as renewable. nuclear energy could be redefined. . This procedure reduces the radio-toxicity and volume of high-level nuclear waste.that uses deuterium as a fuel extracted from water (which is regarded as infinite source) . allowing separate handling (destruction or storage) of the nuclear waste components.Facts Suggesting That Nuclear Power Could Become Renewable Although uranium supplies are limited. fast breeder reactors or IFRs use uranium-238 (99. The reprocessing of nuclear waste is a politically controversial issue and the anti-technology lobby strives to stop nuclear proliferation by emphasizing the high cost of reprocessing and the possibility of terrorism. For more information on nuclear waste reprocessing. Another benefit is that the remaining waste becomes less hazardous. After a few hundred years. their conversion to plutonium can considerably extend the available resources. Uranium is still a finite fuel source and the breeder reactors processing can become unstable and dangerous.3% of all natural uranium). the waste stops being radioactive Nuclear waste can be reprocessed in reprocessing units so that 95% of the spent fuel can be recycled and be returned to usage in a power plant. much longer than the conventional fuel. check the following article: "Is Nuclear Waste Recycling Possible?" Is Nuclear Energy Renewable or Not? Despite the contradiction. The overcoming of practical difficulties regarding nuclear fusion .could also redefine nuclear energy under a completely new scope.7% of all natural uranium). at least not if we take into account the current conditions of production and waste disposal. However if the adjustments of the new reactors and processability of waste would take place after all. This process of obtaining more reactor fuel than the original could provide the characterization of "semi-renewable" to nuclear energy. The reprocessing of nuclear waste is still a procedure that doesn't take place the way it should. Fast-breeder nuclear reactors have the capability to produce large amounts of fissionable plutonium that could sustain nuclear reactions (the splitting of uranium atoms). Light water reactors use uranium-235 (0.
The damage stopped the power source to the reactors before they could shutdown. On March 11th of 2011.The Fukushima I nuclear accident raising questions about the future nuclear energy. It was the worst earthquake that the world has ever seen.0 triggered another incident that would have been as disastrous as the damage caused by the earthquake . an earthquake. of magnitude 9. in deep thoughts about the future of nuclear energy.0 on the Richter scale. This has led them to adopt building architectures that are capable of withstanding earthquakes all the way to 6. was something out of the blue. that Japan saw on March 11th.0. The earthquake of magnitude 9. Japan and Earthquakes The entire land mass that Japan rests is present in a region that experiences lots of earthquakes each year. earthquakes are nothing new as they experience a few every year. the backup generators kicked in and the reactor proceeded with its shutdown process. The earthquake caused damage to the Fukushima nuclear reactors. This earthquake not only triggered a tsunami but also damaged the Fukushima I reactor to such an extent that many were afraid of a possible Chernobyl-like incident or something even worse. A Brief About the Japan Nuclear Incident For those who came in late. But an earthquake of the magnitude 9. here is a brief about the series of events that has now left all the countries with nuclear power plants. To the Japanese.0 on the Richter scale. As designed. .Japan Nuclear Meltdown: How it Happened? It is hard not to have come across about what happened in Japan on March 11th. hit Japan.
the damage may happen just to the building. so far.However this earthquake triggered a tsunami that ravaged a huge area of land and made its way to the Fukushima nuclear reactors. This was something that was not expected when the reactor was designed. The tsunami reached the reactor and damaged the backup power supply before the nuclear reactor shutdown totally. In case of damages to thermal power stations. the best way to tap energy among the non-renewable energy resources but in the event of natural disasters like the one at Japan. although it was designed to withstand earthquakes up to the magnitude of 8.2.S Navy Imagery Lessons Learned After the Japan Nuclear Incident Tapping energy from the nuclear energy resources is. This led to the increase in nuclear radiation level around the surrounding areas.Official U. The incomplete shutdown led to the explosion of two reactors (not a nuclear explosion but an explosion due to the build up of gases inside the reactor). a few kilometers of land in the surrounding area can become so highly contaminated with radiation that the entire region may be rendered useless for decades to come. Image Credit: Flickr . After this incident. anything can happen. only the property is damaged. Also there is a rise in switching over to renewable energy resources that causes no pollution and in the wake of disasters. . which can be constructed again in a matter of months but when a nuclear reactor is damaged and the radiation leaks out of the reactor. things can go wrong and cause damage of a very large degree. various countries that have and are building nuclear power reactors have been exposed to the fact that when it comes to mother nature. Therefore these countries have started to spend more on research and development on making the nuclear reactors safer when disasters like above occur. The damage caused to the nuclear reactor was so bad that the core of the nuclear reactor was exposed in the days that followed.
the energy released is used as heat to make steam to generate electricity.) . A nuclear reactor produces and controls the release of energy from splitting the atoms of certain elements. Usually pellets of uranium oxide (UO2) are arranged in tubes to form fuel rods. Those at Oklo in west Africa. to the system. In most naval reactors. radium or other alpha-emitter.* In some PWR reactors. consumed about six tonnes of that uranium. Usually this is beryllium mixed with polonium. The steam is used to drive the turbines which produce electricity (as in most fossil fuel plants). Control rods. New designs are coming forward and some are in operation as the first generation reactors come to the end of their operating lives. each less than 100 kWt. Restarting a reactor with some used fuel may not require this. steam drives a turbine directly for propulsion. Components of a nuclear reactor There are several components common to most types of reactors: Fuel.Nuclear Power Reactors (updated March 2011) y y y Most nuclear electricity is generated using just two kinds of reactors which were developed in the 1950s and improved since. (In a research reactor the main purpose is to utilise the actual neutrons produced in the core. The energy released from continuous fission of the atoms of the fuel is harnessed as heat in either a gas or water. It is usually water. hafnium or boron. moderated by percolating rainwater. These are made with neutron-absorbing material such as cadmium. Alpha particles from the decay cause a release of neutrons from the beryllium as it turns to carbon-12. This is material in the core which slows down the neutrons released from fission so that they cause more fission. The rods are arranged into fuel assemblies in the reactor core. the energy was not harnessed since these operated in rich uranium orebodies for a couple of million of years. (Secondary shutdown systems involve adding other neutron absorbers. special control rods are used to enable the core to sustain a low level of power efficiently.) The principles for using nuclear power to produce electricity are the same for most types of reactor. Over 16% of the world's electricity is produced from nuclear energy. as there may be enough neutrons to achieve criticality when control rods are removed. Moderator. In a nuclear power reactor. more than from all sources worldwide in 1960. and are inserted or withdrawn from the core to control the rate of reaction. but may be heavy water or graphite. Uranium is the basic fuel. and is used to produce steam. or to halt it.* * In a new reactor with new fuel a neutron source is needed to get the reaction going. In the world's first nuclear reactors about two billion years ago. usually as a fluid.
In light water reactors the water moderator functions also as primary coolant. but some are delayed.3 natural UO2 natural U (metal). France. Japan. Reactors may have up to four "loops".4 water heavy water water heavy water Canada 44 24. Sweden Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor 'CANDU' (PHWR) 94 86. Japan. most of the neutrons are released promptly. Coolant. (not in BWR) Part of the cooling system where the primary coolant bringing heat from the reactor is used to make steam for the turbine. Containment. China Number GWe Fuel enriched UO2 enriched UO2 Coolant Moderator 265 251. Steam generator.3 water graphite . Usually a robust steel vessel containing the reactor core and moderator/coolant. Except in BWRs.8 CO2 graphite Light Water Graphite Reactor (RBMK) Russia 12 12. (see also later section on primary coolant characteristics) Pressure vessel or pressure tubes. It is typically a metre-thick concrete and steel structure. A liquid or gas circulating through the core so as to transfer the heat from it. Russia. These are crucial in enabling a chain reacting system (or reactor) to be controllable and to be able to be held precisely critical. Nuclear power plants in commercial operation Reactor type Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) Main Countries US. there is secondary coolant circuit where the steam is made. . There are several different types of reactors as indicated in the following Table. but it may be a series of tubes holding the fuel and conveying the coolant through the moderator.6 water water Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) US.* In fission. The structure around the reactor core which is designed to protect it from outside intrusion and to protect those outside from the effects of radiation in case of any malfunction inside. each with a steam generator. enriched UO2 enriched UO2 Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR & Magnox) UK 18 10.
it is less efficient as a moderator than heavy water or graphite. so very pure 'nuclear grade' Zr is used to make the zircaloy. when a quarter to a third of the fuel assemblies are replaced with fresh ones. During operation. enriched uranium has had the proportion of the fissile isotope (U-235) increased by a process called enrichment.Reactor type Fast Neutron Reactor (FBR) Main Countries Japan. In most reactors the fuel is ceramic uranium oxide (UO2 with a melting point of 2800°C) and most is enriched. Fuelling a nuclear power reactor Most reactors need to be shut down for refuelling. some of the U-238 is changed to plutonium. The CANDU and RBMK types have pressure tubes (rather than a pressure vessel enclosing the reactor core) and can be refuelled under load by disconnecting individual pressure tubes. The fuel pellets (usually about 1 cm diameter and 1. commonly to 3. Because the light water absorbs neutrons as well as slowing them. In this case refuelling is at intervals of 1-2 years. so that the pressure vessel can be opened up. If graphite or heavy water is used as moderator. the zirconium being hard. It is normally contaminated with hafnium. *Zirconium is an important mineral for nuclear power.7% U-235. which is about 98% Zr plus tin. In the most common reactors these are about 3.2% U-238). iron.05 386.0%. It is therefore subject to controls on trading. Natural uranium has the same elemental composition as when it was mined (0. and Pu-239 ends up providing about one third of the energy from the fuel. which is an open lattice and can be lifted into and out of the reactor core.5 to 4 metres long. corrosion-resistant and permeable to neutrons. and such reactors are collectively called light water reactors. over 99. a neutron absorber. where it finds its main use. it is possible to run a power reactor on natural instead of enriched uranium. In this case the moderator can be ordinary water.5 graphite GWe = capacity in thousands of megawatts (gross) Source: Nuclear Engineering International Handbook 2010 For reactors under construction: see paper Plans for New Reactors Worldwide. chromium and sometimes nickel to enhance its strength.* Numerous rods form a fuel assembly.5.5 .5 cm long) are typically arranged in a long zirconium alloy (zircaloy) tube to form a fuel rod. . Russia Number GWe Fuel 2 1.0 PuO2 and UO2 enriched UO2 Coolant liquid sodium water Moderator none Other TOTAL Russia 4 439 0.
or an average figure. so normally the lower summer figure.) and the rest of the plant. and also takes into account the ambient temperature for the condenser circuit (cooler means more electric power. warmer means less). explains some gross to net differences between different reactor types. The best known is gadolinium. . which is the power available to be sent out from the plant to the grid. The power rating of a nuclear power reactor Nuclear power plant reactor power outputs are quoted in three ways: Thermal MWt. so reactors are designed to run more than a decade between refuellings. Gross electrical MWe indicates the power produced by the attached steam turbine and generator. Some design options.Burnable poisons are often used (especially in BWR) in fuel or coolant to even out the performance of the reactor over time from fresh fuel being loaded to refuelling. which is a vital ingredient of fuel in naval reactors where installing fresh fuel is very inconvenient. If the summer figure is quoted plants may show a capacity factor greater than 100% in cooler times. etc. Net electrical MWe. is used. These are neutron absorbers which decay under neutron exposure. Rated gross power assumes certain conditions with both. after deducting the electrical power needed to run the reactor (cooling and feed-water pumps. and relates to the quantity and quality of the steam it produces.* * footnote: This (as also actual gross MWe) varies slightly from summer to winter. The EPR has a relatively large drop from gross to net MWe for this reason. such as powering the main large feed-water pumps with electric motors (as in EPR) rather than steam turbines (taking steam before it gets to the main turbine-generator). which depends on the design of the actual nuclear reactor itself. compensating for the progressive build up of neutron absorbers in the fuel as it is burned.
The relationship between these is expressed in two ways: y y Thermal efficiency %. the ratio of net MWe achieved to thermal MW. Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) This is the most common type. and allows for plant usage. the ratio of gross MWe to thermal MW. Net efficiency %.water-moderated and -cooled. generally net MWe is used for operating plants. This relates to the difference in temperature between the steam from the reactor and the cooling water. with over 230 in use for power generation and several hundred more employed for naval propulsion. and gross MWe for those under construction or planned/proposed. and a secondary circuit in which steam is generated to drive the turbine. In Russia these are known as VVER types . This is a little lower. The design of PWRs originated as a submarine power plant. It is often 33-37%. The design is distinguished by having a primary cooling circuit which flows through the core of the reactor under very high pressure. PWRs use ordinary water as both coolant and moderator. . In WNA papers and figures and WNN items.
A PWR has fuel assemblies of 200-300 rods each. In the primary cooling circuit the water is also the moderator. This negative feedback effect is one of the safety features of the type. Since the water around the core of a reactor is always contaminated with traces of radionuclides. it means that the turbine must be shielded and radiological protection provided during maintenance. and if any of it turned to steam the fission reaction would slow down. The reactor is designed to operate with 12-15% of the water in the top part of the core as steam. Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) This design has many similarities to the PWR. The cost of this tends to balance the . and is then condensed and returned to the heat exchangers in contact with the primary circuit. and hence with less moderating effect and thus efficiency there. The secondary shutdown system involves adding boron to the primary circuit. Pressure is maintained by steam in a pressuriser (see diagram). The steam passes through drier plates (steam separators) above the core and then directly to the turbines. except that there is only a single circuit in which the water is at lower pressure (about 75 times atmospheric pressure) so that it boils in the core at about 285°C. hence it must be kept under about 150 times atmospheric pressure to prevent it boiling. The steam drives the turbine to produce electricity. BWR units can operate in load-following mode more readily then PWRs. which are thus part of the reactor circuit. and a large reactor would have about 150-250 fuel assemblies with 80-100 tonnes of uranium. arranged vertically in the core. Water in the reactor core reaches about 325°C. The secondary circuit is under less pressure and the water here boils in the heat exchangers which are thus steam generators.
Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR or CANDU) The PHWR reactor design has been developed since the 1950s in Canada as the CANDU.7% U-235) oxide as fuel. so the turbine hall can be entered soon after the reactor is shut down.a cost trade-off. and there are up to 750 assemblies in a reactor core. the moderator is enriched (ie water) rather than the fuel. * mostly N-16. hence needs a more efficient moderator.** ** with the CANDU system. in this case heavy water (D2O). by isolating individual pressure tubes from the cooling circuit. . The moderator is in a large tank called a calandria. reaching 290°C. with a 7 second half-life A BWR fuel assembly comprises 90-100 fuel rods. The pressure tube design means that the reactor can be refuelled progressively without shutting down. The secondary control system involves restricting water flow through the core so that more steam in the top part reduces moderation. As in the PWR. cooled by a flow of heavy water under high pressure in the primary cooling circuit. Most of the radioactivity in the water is very short-lived*.savings due to the simpler design. . the primary coolant generates steam in a secondary circuit to drive the turbines. It uses natural uranium (0. penetrated by several hundred horizontal pressure tubes which form channels for the fuel. holding up to 140 tonnes of uranium. and more recently also in India.
5-3. The fuel is uranium oxide pellets.5%. The heavy water moderator circulating through the body of the calandria vessel also yields some heat (though this circuit is not shown on the diagram above). using graphite moderator and carbon dioxide as coolant. reaching 650°C and then past steam generator tubes outside it. The carbon dioxide circulates through the core. and a secondary shutdown system involves adding gadolinium to the moderator. in stainless steel tubes. with 12 bundles lying end to end in a fuel channel. Control rods penetrate the moderator and a secondary shutdown system involves injecting nitrogen to the coolant. Control rods penetrate the calandria vertically. Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) These are the second generation of British gas-cooled reactors.A CANDU fuel assembly consists of a bundle of 37 half metre long fuel rods (ceramic fuel pellets in zircaloy tubes) plus a support structure. . CANDU reactors can readily be run on recycled uranium from reprocessing LWR used fuel. Newer PHWR designs such as the Advanced Candu Reactor (ACR) have light water cooling and slightly-enriched fuel. with addition of depleted uranium. but still inside the concrete and steel pressure vessel. enriched to 2. or a blend of this and depleted uranium left over from enrichment plants. About 4000 MWe of PWR can then fuel 1000 MWe of CANDU capacity.
They will tend to have closed fuel cycles and burn the long-lived actinides now forming part of spent fuel. developed from plutonium production reactors. and a positive feedback problem can arise. Many will be fast neutron reactors. Light water graphite-moderated reactor (RBMK) This is a Soviet design. Generation IV designs are still on the drawing board and will not be operational before 2020 at the earliest. Generation III are the Advanced Reactors. Generation II reactors are typified by the present US fleet and most in operation elsewhere. and is cooled by water. They use natural uranium fuel in metal form. probably later. also graphite moderated and CO2 cooled. excess boiling simply reduces the cooling and neutron absorbtion without inhibiting the fission reaction. They mostly used natural uranium fuel and used graphite as moderator. and two of these are still operating in UK. With moderation largely due to the fixed graphite. . They typically use enriched uranium fuel and are mostly cooled and moderated by water. Advanced reactors Several generations of reactors are commonly distinguished. It employs long (7 metre) vertical pressure tubes running through graphite moderator. Secondary coolant is water. the first few of which are in operation in Japan and others are under construction and ready to be ordered. which is why they have never been built outside the Soviet Union. much as in a BWR. so that fission products are the only high-level waste.The AGR was developed from the Magnox reactor. Generation I reactors were developed in 1950-60s and very few are still running today. They are developments of the second generation with enhanced safety. which is allowed to boil in the core at 290°C. Fuel is low-enriched uranium oxide made up into fuel assemblies 3.5 metres long.
at very high temperature. 110 MWe. Some are evolutionary from the PWR. Rosatom in Russia has set up a subsidiary to supply floating nuclear power plants ranging in size from 70 to 600 MWe. near Bilibino. generating power from plutonium while making more of it from the U-238 isotope in or around the fuel. The second plant of this size is planned for Pevek on the Chukotka peninsula in the Chaun district of the far northeast. to drive a turbine directly. before being returned to service.More than a dozen (Generation III) advanced reactor designs are in various stages of development. . These are designed to run 3-4 years between refuelling and it is envisaged that they will be operated in pairs to allow for outages. while Generation IV are expected to have full actinide recycle. a few of which are now operating with others under construction. Considering the closed fuel cycle. See also Fast Neutron Reactors and Small Reactors papers. Floating nuclear power plants Apart from over 200 nuclear reactors powering various kinds of ships. Kamchatka peninsula. These will be mounted in pairs on a large barge. The former include the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor. Two units will be mounted on a 21. The first has two 40 MWe reactors based on those in icebreakers and will operate at Vilyuchinsk. Further development of them is likely in the next decade. The best-known radical new design is the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. some are more radical departures. Generation 1-3 reactors recycle plutonium (and possibly uranium). Electricity cost is expected to be much lower than from present alternatives. using helium as coolant. Lifetime of nuclear reactors. The larger VBER-300 PWR is a 325 MWe unit. on barges. At the end of a 12-year operating cycle the whole plant is taken to a central facility for 2-year overhaul and removal of used fuel. and the main designs expected to be built in two decades are FNRs. displacing 49. for remote area power supply. As a cogeneration plant it is rated at 200 MWe and 1900 GJ/hr. they are expensive to build. A larger Russian factory-built and barge-mounted reactor is the VBER-150. Fast neutron reactors (FNR) Some reactors (only one in commercial service) do not have a moderator and utilise fast neutrons.000 tonnes.000 tonne barge. of 350 MW thermal. Here a 150 MWt unit produces 35 MWe (gross) as well as up to 35 MW of heat for desalination or district heating. to ensure sustainable electricity and heat supplies to the naval base there from 2013. originally envisaged in pairs as a floating nuclear power plant. which will be permanently moored where it is needed to supply power and possibly some desalination to a shore settlement or industrial complex. If they are configure to produce more fissile material (plutonium) than they consume they are called Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR). While they get more than 60 times as much energy from the original uranium compared with the normal reactors. with on-board refuelling capability and used fuel storage. BWR and CANDU designs above. The Russian KLT-40S is a reactor well proven in icebreakers and now proposed for wider use in desalination and.
there is considerable scope for running a fleet of reactors in load-following mode. structures and components lives can be extended. and in this respect they are similar to most coal-fired plants. In Candu reactors. Steam generators are the most prominent and expensive of these. in Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors paper. Thus. including building in extra performance margins. However. with major investments in systems. this is not as readily achieved in a PWR. though the ability on any individual PWR reactor to run on a sustained basis at low power decreases markedly as it progresses through the refueling cycle. In respect to all these aspects. Also. and whether it is designed with special control rods which diminish power levels throughout the core without shutting it down. (It is also uneconomic to run them at less than full capacity. running continuously. This is essentially an economic decision. light metal. This is because their power output cannot readily be ramped up and down on a daily and weekly basis. Some components simply wear out. since they are expensive to build but cheap to run.) However. for instance in France. Load-following capacity Nuclear power plants are essentially base-load generators. A second issue is that of obsolescence. older reactors have analogue instrument and control systems. For instance. Lesser components are more straightforward to replace as they age. In the USA most of the more than one hundred reactors are expected to be granted licence extensions from 40 to 60 years. the properties of materials may degrade with age. pressure tube replacement has been undertaken on some plants after about 30 years operation. particularly with heat and neutron irradiation.Most of today's nuclear plants which were originally designed for 30 or 40-year operating lives. See also section on Ageing. and many have been replaced after about 30 years where the reactor otherwise has the prospect of running for 60 years. Thirdly. This justifies significant capital expenditure in upgrading systems and components. investment is needed to maintain reliability and safety. Primary coolants The advent of some of the designs mentioned above provides opportunity to review the various primary coolants used in nuclear reactors. where there is a very high reliance on nuclear power. While BWRs can be made to follow loads reasonably easily without burning the core unevenly. See further information in the Nuclear Power in France paper.gas. water. heavy . These need to be replaced. The ability of a PWR to run at less than full power for much of the time depends on whether it is in the early part of its 18 to 24-month refueling cycle or late in it. periodic safety reviews are undertaken on older plants in line with international safety conventions and principles to ensure that safety margins are maintained. in some situations it is necessary to vary the output according to daily and weekly load cycles on a regular basis. corrode or degrade to a low level of efficiency. and in several countries there are active programs to extend operating lives. There is a wide variety .
Helium must be used at similar pressure (1000-2000 psi. Pb-Bi melts at a relatively low 125°C (hence eutectic) and boils at 1670°C. They are transparent to neutrons. Pb melts at 327°C and boils at 1737°C but is very much more abundant and cheaper to produce than bismuth. so allows several options for use of the heat. The Hyperion reactor will use lead-bismuth eutectic which is 45% Pb. Also. hence is envisaged for large-scale use in the future. and since they do not react with water the heat exchanger interface is safer. aiding efficiency. Low-pressure liquid coolants allow all their heat to be delivered at high temperatures. which originally limited temperatures to 550°C. With today's materials 650°C can be reached. since the temperature drop in heat exchangers is less than with gas coolants. supercritical water around 25 MPa can give 45% thermal efficiency . and US interest in using Pb or Pb-Bi for small reactors has increased subsequently. there are engineering implications. as in present reactors. However. Lead or lead-bismuth eutectic in fast neutron reactors are capable of higher temperature operation. Molten fluoride salt boils at 1400°C at atmospheric pressure. though freezing must be prevented. and in future 700°C is in sight. with a good margin between operating and boiling temperatures. melts at 98°C and boils at 883°C at atmospheric pressure. Sodium. as normally used in fast neutron reactors. but it can be used in the Brayton cycle to drive a turbine directly. 7-14 MPa) to maintain sufficient density for efficient operation. However. basically for small reactors in remote places. It is denser than helium and thus likely to give better thermal conversion efficiency. Carbon dioxide was used in early British reactors and their AGRs. They do not burn when exposed to air. Again. The development of nuclear power based on Pb-Bi cooled fast neutron reactors is likely to be limited to a total of 50-100 GWe. and at ultra supercritical levels (30+ MPa) 50% may be attained. There is now interest in supercritical CO2 for the Brayton cycle.as at some fossil-fuel power plants today with outlet temperatures of 600°C. normally water/steam is used in the secondary circuit to drive a turbine (Rankine cycle) at lower thermal efficiency than the Brayton cycle. including using helium in a secondary Brayton cycle with thermal efficiencies of 48% at 750°C to 59% at 1000°C. or manufacture of hydrogen. This has a major influence on reactor engineering. so despite the need to keep it dry the engineering required to contain it is relatively modest. In 1998 Russia declassified a lot of research information derived from its experience with submarine reactors. A problem is that Pb-Bi yields toxic polonium (Po-210) activation products.metal and salt: Water or heavy water must be maintained at very high pressure (1000-2200 psi. using oxide dispersion-strengthened steels. they are corrosive of fuel cladding and steels. However. 7-15 MPa) to enable it to function above 100°C. passive cooling for decay heat is readily achieved. 55% Bi. .
fission product decay continues and a substantial amount of heat is added to the core. though employing an LWR would not be practical or economic. Lower-temperature reactors can be used with supplemental gas heating to reach higher temperatures. At the moment of shutdown. Primitive reactors . As the above section and Figure show. but it quickly drops to about 1% as the short-lived fission products decay. 860°C for a molten salt reactor (MSR). Nuclear reactors for process heat Producing steam to drive a turbine and generator is relatively easy. other types of reactor are required for higher temperatures. This heat could melt the core of a light water reactor unless it is reliably dissipated. When the fission process stops. and a light water reactor running at 350°C does this readily.The removal of passive decay heat is a vital feature of primary cooling systems. and 950°C for a high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR). The DOE said that high reactor outlet temperatures in the range 750 to 950°C were required to satisfy all end user requirements evaluated to date for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. A 2010 US Department of Energy document quotes 500°C for a liquid metal cooled reactor (FNR). beyond heat transfer to do work. Typically some kind of convection flow is relied upon. this is about 6% of the full power level. See also paper on Cooling Power Plants.
Reactions that need energy to occur are called exothermic reactions. Uranium. Arsenic and Aluminum are important elements of solar electricity. Uranium plays a very important role in the production of energy through nuclear power. Look at Uranium on the periodic table. The initial radioactive products have long since decayed into stable elements but close study of the amount and location of these has shown that there was little movement of radioactive wastes during and after the nuclear reactions.7 percent instead of 0. In a decomposition reaction the first element breaks down and releases components of itself. A special page reviews the basic forms of many chemical reactions and gives examples of them. Uranium has many different isotopes. Not all of its isotopes are stable.7 percent as at present. continued for about 2 million years before finally dying away. At that time the concentration of U-235 in all natural uranium was 3. As Silicon. (U-235 decays much faster than U-238.235 the reaction is summarized: 1 0n + 235 92U ---> 9236Kr + 14156 Ba +200 MeV+ 3 1 0n . During this long reaction period about 5.The world's oldest known nuclear reactors operated at what is now Oklo in Gabon. Plutonium. Boron. different configurations of protons and neutrons in its nucleus. at least 17 natural nuclear reactors achieved criticality in a rich deposit of uranium ore. the Biproducts are neutrons and energy measured in the unit of Joules. West Africa.) These natural chain reactions. whose half-life is about the same as the age of the Earth.5 tonnes of plutonium together with other transuranic elements were generated in the orebody. because energy comes from outside. Plutonium and the other transuranics remained immobile Chemistry & Nuclear Power What are the most important elements to humans? Other than the basic organic elements of Carbon.4 tonnes of fission products as well as 1. Hydrogen and Oxygen. The process of converting uranium to energy involves many decomposition reactions. Nitrogen. Each operated at about 20 kW thermal. All of the chemical equations of this page are listed at the linked page. For the decomposition of Uranium . Many other chemical equations occur within nuclear power. A heavy element located in the Actinide series it has 92 protons as indicated by its atomic number. Phosphorus. If the reaction releases energy it is said to be endothermic. For a indepth lesson on isotopes see the link's page. Decomposition reactions follow this general form: Element A ---> Element B + Biproducts For the nuclear reaction process. and play crucial roles in nuclear power. many elements play an important part of energy conversion and production. started spontaneously by the presence of water acting as a moderator. About 2 billion years ago.
and less energy is produced. A process where the products of one reaction become reactants for the next reaction is called a chain reaction. The following equation summarizes this relationship: equation of Power porport to 1/ Fuel rods# The energy given off is 200 MeV.The leftover neutrons of the reaction come from the nucleus of the Uranium. Energy is released from uranium when an atom is split by a neutron. a relatively common material. but indirectly to heat a liquid such as water to a gas. More nuclear fuel rods means that the reaction is slowed down. This nuclear reaction is called the fission process . The number of these rods is changed periodically to increase or decrease power production as needed. Thermal energy is the technical term applied to the energy given off from the nuclear decomposition reaction NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION Nuclear Power Stations use a fuel called uranium. The uranium atom is split into two and as this happens energy is released in the form of radiation and heat. This energy will not be used directly. These neutrons are either absorbed by system controlling fuel rods or are used to continue the uranium decomposition reaction. equivalent approximately to <value>.
The amount of heat required is controlled by raising and lowering the rods. When they are removed from the water a nuclear reaction takes place causing heat. If more heat is required the rods are raised further out of the water and if less is needed they lower further into it. . The uranium rods are kept cool by submerging them in water.In a nuclear power station the uranium is first formed into pellets and then into long rods.
GENERAL ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION DISADVANTAGES: 1. Many people and environmental organisations are very concerned about the radioactive fuel it needs. Radiation was even detected over a thousand miles away in the UK as a result of the Chernobyl accident. led to 30 people being killed and over 100. 2. 3. There are serious questions to be answered regarding the storage of radioactive waste produced through the use of nuclear power. The amount of electricity produced in a nuclear power station is equivalent to that produced by a fossil fuelled power station. It has been suggested that over time 2500 people died as a result of the accident. 5. . Nuclear power is a controversial method of producing electricity. Nuclear powered ships and submarines pose a danger to marine life and the environment.000 people being evacuated. In the preceding years another 200. ADVANTAGES: 1. Some fear that living in these areas can damage their health. 4.00 people were resettled away from the radioactive area. Storing and monitoring the radioactive waste material for thousands of years has a high cost. Many people living near to nuclear power stations or waste storage depots are concerned about nuclear accidents and radioactive leaks. Some of the waste remains radioactive (dangerous) for thousands of years and is currently stored in places such as deep caves and mines. There have been serious accidents with a small number of nuclear power stations. Old vessels can leak radiation if they are not maintained properly or if they are dismantled carelessly at the end of their working lives. 6. especially the health of young children. 7. Many Governments fear that unstable countries that develop nuclear power may also develop nuclear weapons and even use them. The accident at Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986.
5. polluting gases. the number of oil burning vessels would be reduced and consequently pollution. made up of heavy atoms that split when they absorb neutrons. The heat is carried out of the reactor by coolant. Countries such as France produce approximately 90 percent of their electricity from nuclear power and lead the world in nuclear power generating technology . which is most commonly just plain water. producing medical isotopes for imaging and cancer treatment. and for conducting research. Fuel. The coolant heats up and goes off to a turbine to spin a generator or drive shaft. Many developed countries such as the USA and the UK no longer want to rely on oil and gas imported from the Middle East. Nuclear Reactors What is a nuclear reactor? A nuclear reactor is a system that contains and controls sustained nuclear chain reactions. On this page: y y y y Components of nuclear reactors Animated reactor system The nuclear core Types of nuclear reactors . So basically. 6. Many supporters of nuclear power production say that this type of power is environmentally friendly and clean. In a world that faces global warming they suggest that increasing the use of nuclear power is the only way of protecting the environment and preventing catastrophic climate change. nuclear reactors are exotic heat sources. moving aircraft carriers and submarines. 4.proving that nuclear power is an economic alternative to fossil fuel power stations.2. Nuclear reactors can be manufactured small enough to power ships and submarines. Each time an atom splits. a politically unstable part of the world. The neutrons start a chain reaction where each atom that splits releases more neutrons that cause other atoms to split. it releases large amounts of energy in the form of heat. is placed into the reactor vessel (basically a large tank) along with a small neutron source. Nuclear power stations do not burn fossil fuels to produce electricity and consequently they do not produce damaging. If this was extended beyond military vessels. Reactors are used for generating electricity. 3.
The coolant is the material that passes through the core.Components of nuclear reactors The control room Main components y y y The core of the reactor contains all of the nuclear fuel and generates all of the heat. It could be water. or something else. transferring the heat from the fuel to a turbine. In the US fleet of power reactors. liquid sodium. The turbine transfers the heat from the coolant to electricity. heavy-water. just like in a fossil-fuel plant. It contains low-enriched uranium (<5% U-235). . control systems. and structural materials. The core can contain hundreds of thousands of individual fuel pins. water is the standard. helium.
Chernobyl did not have a containment to speak of. The water coming into the condenser and then going right back out would be water from a river. Cooling towers are needed by some plants to dump the excess heat that cannot be converted to energy due to the laws of thermodynamics. or ocean. The nuclear core Fuel pins . steel-reinforced concrete. These are usually dome-shaped. made of high-density. As you can see. It captures the essence of the sytem well. which is in the reactor vessel. It goes out the cooling towers.y y The containment is the structure that separates the reactor from the environment. They emit only clean water vapor. Animated reactor system This image (reproduced from the NRC) shows a nuclear reactor heating up water and spinning a generator to produce electricity. These are the hyperbolic icons of nuclear energy. lake. this water does not go near the radioactivity.
These are typically uranium-oxide (UO2). Fuel assembly . They are surrounded by a zirconium clad to keep fission products from escaping into the coolant.The smallest unit of the reactor is the fuel pin.
The assemblies have some structural material to keep the pins close but not touching. Various fuel assemblies around the core have different fuel in them. Click here to see a 3-D blowup diagram of an assembly. They vary in . so that there¶s room for coolant. Fuel is put in and taken out of the reactor in assemblies. Some assemblies are control assemblies. Full core This is a full core.Fuel assemblies are bundles of fuel pins. made up of several hundred assemblies.
uranium. These use oxide fuel pellets stacked in zirconium tubes. purposes.the PWR uses regular old water as a coolant. making maintenance easy. Pros: y y Strong negative void coefficient -. It goes through a heat exchanger. transferring heat to a secondary coolant loop. which then spins the turbine. among other parameters.reactor cools down if water starts bubbling Secondary loop keeps radioactive stuff away from turbines. These can use metal or oxide fuel. Pros: y Can breed its own fuel. these reactors are cooled by liquid sodium metal. Idaho). a fact that leads to the neutrons moving around at higher speeds (hence fast). Cons: y y Pressurized coolant escapes rapidly if a pipe breaks. necessitating lots of back-up cooling systems. and burn anything you throw at them (thorium. The assemblies may also vary with height.susceptible to "uranium shortage" Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor The first electricity-producing nuclear reactor in the world was SFR (the EBR-1 in Arco. They could possibly burn thorium or plutonium fuel as well. plutonium. Types of nuclear reactors There are very many different types of nuclear reactors with different fuels. The primary cooling water is kept at very high pressure so it does not boil. fuel cycles. add to the list by posting in the forum! Pressurized Water Reactor The most common type of reactor -. higher actinides). with different enrichments at the top of the core from those at the bottom.enrichment and age. effectively eliminating any concerns about uranium shortages (see what is a fast reactor?) . As the name implies. Here¶s an incomplete list of them. Please. Can t breed new fuel -. Sodium is heavier than hydrogen. coolants.
Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor LFTRs have gotten a lot of attention lately in the media. etc. all the fission gases can release instead of just the gases from one tiny pin. This necessitates things like triple-redundant containments.) but are a major setback for these nice reactors. these require reprocessing facilities which can also be used for nuclear proliferation. but is certainly a challenge and disadvantage. They are unique so far in that they use molten fuel. which leads to better neutron efficiency and thus higher fuel utilization Liquid fuel also means that structural dose does not limit the life of the fuel. The folks over at Energy from thorium are totally stoked about this technology. leaks in the pipes results in sodium fires. The operator could easily divert Pa-233 to provide a small stream of nearly pure weapons-grade U-233. as they are in typical reactors. water. natural circulation. allowing the reactor to extract very much energy out of the loaded fuel." Thus. the entire uranium inventory can be separated without much effort. Also. These can be engineered around (by making a pool and eliminating pipes. So there's no worry of meltdown because they¶re already melted. etc. Pros: y y y y Can constantly breed new fuel. Cons: y y Radioactive gaseous fission products are not contained in small pins. All liquid fuel reactors have this problem. In his autobiography. To fully burn waste. The presence of an online reprocessing facility with incoming pre-melted fuel is a proliferation concern. only relying on physics (gravity. eliminating concerns over energy resources Can be maintained online with chemical fission product removal.y y Can burn its own waste Metallic fuel and excellent thermal properties of sodium allow for passively safe operation -. eliminating the need to shut down during refueling. anyone who operates this kind of reactor will have easy access to bomb material. Alvin Weinberg explains how this was done at Oak Ridge National Lab: "It was a remarkable feat! In only 4 days all of the 218 kg of uranium in the reactor were separated from the intensely radioactive fission products and its radioactivity reduced five billion-fold. Thus. No cladding means less neutron-absorbing material in the core. Positive void coefficients are inherent to all fast reactors. etc. So if there is a containment breach.).the reactor will shut itself down without any backup-systems working (or people around). . and can be handled. This is a safety concern. Cons: y y y Sodium coolant is explosively reactive with air.
) Radioactive materials--if handled improperly--or radiation accidentally released into the environment. (A rem is a unit of radiation exposure. i. wind direction and speed and weather conditions (i. What Is Radiation? Radiation is any form of energy propagated as rays. an accident. who must consider the FEMA findings when issuing or maintaining a license. to determine the potential danger in order to protect the public. reception centers for those seeking radiological monitoring and location of congregate care centers for temporary lodging. the phone book. etc. This exposure could come from the release of radioactive material from the plant into the environment. The average American receives 360 millirems of radiation each year 300 from natural sources and 60 from man-made activities. calendars. Preparing For An Emergency Federal. waves or energetic particles that travel through the air or a material medium. develop plans that include a plume emergency planning zone with a radius of 10 miles from the plant. special arrangements for the handicapped. smell. These materials contain educational information on radiation. radioactive elements in the soil and rocks. etc. instructions for evacuation and sheltering. and medical and dental x-rays. Residents should be familiar with these emergency information materials. though unlikely is possible.Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Information & Safety Tips FACT SHEET: NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EMERGENCY Since 1980. Radioactive materials are composed of atoms that are unstable. State and local governments. The process by which an atom changes from an unstable state to a more stable state by emitting radiation is called radioactive decay or radioactivity.e: "Plans and preparedness must be determined to adequately protect the public health and safety by providing reasonabl assurance that appropriate measures can be taken offsite in the event of a radiological emergency." Although construction and operation of nuclear power plants are closely monitored and regulated by the NRC. These levels of natural and background radiation is normal. household appliances (like television sets and microwave ovens). the greater the risk.e. can be dangerous because of the harmful effects of certain types of radiation on the body. Although radiation cannot be detected by the senses (sight. An unstable atom gives off its excess energy until it becomes stable. hence causing increased deposition of radionuclides. with support from the Federal government and utilities. this prompt Alert and Notification System will be . rain. Federal law establishes the criterion for determining the adequacy of offsite planning and preparedness. The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation. These plans are tested through exercises that include protective actions for schools and nursing homes. each utility that owns a commercial nuclear power plant in the United States has been required to have both an onsite and offsite emergency response plan as a condition of obtaining and maintaining a license to operate that plant Onsite emergency response plans are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). utility bills.). The area the radioactive release may affect is determined by the amount released from the plant. it is easily detected by scientists with sophisticated instruments that can detect even the smallest levels of radiation. snow. etc. Residents within the 10-mile emergency planning zone are regularly disseminated emergency information materials (via brochures. the levels of radioactivity will be monitored by authorities from Federal and State governments. usually characterized by a plume (cloud-like) formation. contacts for additional information. and the utility. and an ingestion planning zone within a radius of 50 miles from the plant. If a release of radiation occurs. State and local officials work together to develop site-specific emergency response plans for nuclear power plant accidents. Even the human body itself emits radiation. The plans also delineate evacuation routes.). etc. Radiological emergency plans call for a prompt Alert and Notification system.) which would quickly drive the radioactive material to the ground. People receive some natural or background radiation exposure each day from the sun. If needed. The longer a person is exposed to radiation and the closer the person is to the radiation. Offsite plans (which are closely coordinated with the utility's onsite emergency response plan) are evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and provided to the NRC. The energy emitted is radiation.
you should listen to your radio. in some situations. If you are alerted. Check on your neighbors. General Emergency is the most serious of the four classifications and is declared when an event at the plant has caused a loss of safety systems. The EAS stations will provide information and emergency instructions for the public to follow. please notify and register with your local emergency management agency. If such an event occurs. vents. State and local authorities will take action to protect the residents living near the plant.activated quickly to inform the public of any potential threat from natural or man-made events. NOAA weather radio. to shelter in place. Public transportation should be available for those who have not made arrangements. route alerting (the "Paul Revere" method). No action by the public is necessary. Special plans must be made to assist and care for persons who are medically disabled or handicapped. fans. This system uses either sirens. if so. or a combination to notify the public to tune their radios or television to an Emergency Alert System (EAS) station. or both. to close all windows. television stations. Adequate assistance will be provided during an emergency. in the utilities' public information brochure. etc. Gather personal items you or your family might need: Flash light and extra batteries Portable. In a nuclear power plant emergency. but backup plant systems still work. Emergency Classification Levels Preparedness for commercial nuclear power plants includes a system for notifying the public if a problem occurs at a plant. fans and furnace Close fireplace dampers Go to the basement or other underground area Stay inside until authorities say it is safe When Coming In From Outdoors Shower and change . television and tone alert radios for site-specific information and instructions. Thus. The emergency classification level of the problem is defined by these four categories: Notification of Unusual Event is the least serious of the four levels. radiation could be released that would travel beyond the site boundary. vents. and turn off forced air heating and cooling equipment. If You Are Advised to Evacuate the Area Stay calm and do not rush Listen to emergency information Close and lock windows and doors Turn off air conditioning. chemical spill. When the sirens are sounded. tone alert radios. Tune to your local radio or television station for information. Special rumor control numbers and information will be provided to the public for a nuclear power plant emergency. Follow the evacuation routes provided. Alert is declared when an event has occurred that could reduce the plant's level of safety. etc. no action by the public is necessary. other sources of outside air. Do not call 911. but emergency officials are notified. If Advised to remain at Home Bring pets inside. It means you should promptly turn to an EAS station to determine whether it is only a test or an actual emergency. Emergency agencies are notified and kept informed. Site Area Emergency is declared when an event involving major problems with the plant's safety systems has progressed to the point that a release of some radioactivity into the air or water is possible. flood. Close and lock windows and doors Turn off air conditioning. If You Are Alerted Remember that hearing a siren or tone alert radio does not mean you should evacuate. battery operated radio and extra batteries First aid kit and manual Emergency food and water Essential medicines Cash and credit cards Use your own transportation or make arrangements to ride with a neighbor. you may be advised to go indoors and. If you or someone you know lives within ten miles of a nuclear facility. and the cable TV system. fire. The warning siren could mean a nuclear power plant emergency or the sirens could be used as a warning for tornado. and furnace Close fire place dampers Take a few items with you. but is not expected to exceed Environmental Protection Agency Protective Action Guidelines (PAGs) beyond the site boundary. People in the affected areas could be advised to evacuate promptly or. If you need a place to stay. doors. evacuations will be recommended based on particular plant conditions rather than waiting for the situation to deteriorate and an actual release of radionuclides to occur. chimney dampers. The event poses no threat to you or to plant employees. either during the EAS message. tune to your local EAS station which includes radio stations. In the most serious case. The alert and notification system will be sounded. but no action by the public is necessary. Keep car windows and air vents closed and listen to an EAS radio station. congregate care information will be provided.
which saturates the thyroid and protects it from the uptake of radioactive iodine. Learn your community's warning systems. Unharvested crops are hard to protect. Shielding--Like distance. Livestock Provide as much shelter as possible. Usually. elderly people. Use stored feed and water. States may decide to provide the public with a stable iodine. Information on actions you can take to protect crops and livestock is available from your agricultural extension agent. as a precautionary measure. If a radiological release occurs at a nuclear power plant. In the most serious nuclear power plant accident. local. Ask where nuclear power plants are located. For Farmers and Home Gardeners If a radiological incident occurs at the nuclear facility. nursing homes--anywhere family members might be. Time--Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly. thereby increasing the distance between you and the radiation. Learn emergency plans for schools. and people with disabilities. the better. You may also want to attend post-exercise meetings that include the media and the public. Following an accident. the less radiation you will receive. Such a protective action is at the option of State. Remember your neighbors may require special assistance--infants. In some cases. Distance--The more distance between you and the source of the radiation. industry and federal plans. students in the 10-mile emergency planning zone will be relocated to designated facilities in a safe area. Take care of milk-producing animals. when possible. Crops Normal harvesting and processing may still be possible if time permits. the walls in your home or workplace would be sufficient shielding to protect you for a short period of time. Crops already harvested should be stored inside if possible. Ask about the hazards radiation may pose to your family. dense materials between you and the source of the radiation. Distance. and Shielding. local officials will likely call for an evacuation. who can provide information about radioactivity. especially with respect to young children. . pregnant women and the elderly. Wash and peel vegetables and fruits before use if they were not already harvested. and in some cases. local authorities will monitor any release of radiation and determine the level of protective actions and when the threat has passed. consideration is given to the safety of the children. safety precautions. potassium iodide. Provide plenty of food and water and make sure shelters are well-ventilated. School Evacuations If an incident involving an actual or potential radiological release occurs. What you can do to stay informed: Attend public information meetings. and state. Contact local emergency management officials. If an emergency is declared. local government. The thyroid gland is vulnerable to the uptake of radioactive iodine. periodic information concerning the safety of farm and home grown products will be provided. Three Ways to Minimize Radiation Exposure There are three factors that minimize radiation exposure to your body: Time. the more heavy. school children are relocated prior to the evacuation of the general public. Limiting the time spent near the source of radiation reduces the amount of radiation exposure you will receive.clothing and shoes Put items worn outdoors in a plastic bag and seal it. day care centers. This is why local officials could advise you to remain indoors if an accident occurs.
Control of Radioactivity This requires being able to control the neutron flux. Nuclear Plants in the western world use a "Defense in Depth" concept which is a system with multiple safety components. special arrangements for the handicapped. instructions for evacuation and sheltering. The Union of Concerned Scientists has an extensive website devoted to the detailed safety issues faced by American Nuclear Power Industry.) These materials contain educational information on radiation. contacts for additional information. Hence if we decrease the neutron flux we decrease the radioactivity. In modern nuclear power plants. as the temperature increases the efficiency of reactions decreases. health and safety issues can be found at the Nuclear World Association website. hence fewer neutrons are able to cause fission and the reactor slows down automatically. calendars. the insertion of all the control rods into the reactor core occurs in a few seconds. These control rods can be partially inserted into the reactor core to reduce the reactions.Be familiar with emergency information materials that are regularly disseminated to your home (via brochures. Workers are shielded from radiation via interior concrete walls.8m thick. The main safety concern is the emission of uncontrolled radiation into the environment which could cause harm to humans both at the reactor site and off-site. etc Safety of Nuclear Power Plants Safety is taken very seriously by those working in nuclear power plants. each with back-up and design to accommodate human error. However some reactors which cannot use water use sodium or sodium salts. These provide an interesting perspective on the importance both of a vigilent safety culture and a pro-active regulatory oversight. most reactors are designed so that beyond optimal level. A vacuum building is . Safety Mechanisms of a Nuclear Power Reactor By regulation. Recall that in a nuclear reactor when a neutron is captured by a fuel nucleus (generally uranium) the nucleus splits releasing radioactive particles (or undergoes fission). 3. etc. In addition. thus halting the nuclear reaction as rapidly as possible. utility bills. the design of the nuclear reactor must include provisions for human (operator) error and equipment failure. Generally nuclear reactors use water as a coolant. Maintenance of Core Cooling In any nuclear reactor some sort of cooling is necessary. Maintenance of barriers that prevent the release of radiation There is a series of physical barriers between the radioactive core and the environment. A summary by the nuclear world association on environmental. For instance at the Darling Nuclear Generation Station in Canada the reactors are enclosed in heavily reinforced concrete which is 1. The control rods are very important because the reaction could run out of control if fission events are extremely frequent. The most common way to reduce the neutron flux is include neutron-absorbing control rods. 2. the phone book. The components include: 1.
It is job the of the moderator to slow down neutrons without absorbing them.Several products are produced by nuclear reactions. Safety is also important for the workers of nuclear power plants. Should the facilities where the materials are being held be com promised. pellets are placed in a Zirconium alloyed tube where they are lowered into its core. monitoring of instrumentation and the prevention of a failure of one type of equipment affecting any other. meltdown). enriched tri-uranium oct-oxide. Neutrons are absorbed so as to prevent the reaction from going at an unsafe rate (i.connected to the reactor buildings by a pressure relief duct. In the U. independent systems (two or more systems performing the same function in parallel).Fuel rods are usually composed of fissionable isotopes such as 235U. and graphi te are common moderators. The vacuum building is a 71m high concrete structure and is kept at negative atmospheric pressure. The key parts to a nuclear power plant (fission) reactor are: y y y y Fuel rods . D2O (deuterium oxide--heavy water). If neutrons were permitted to continue uninhibited a chain-reaction would occur causing a meltdown of the facility. absorb neutrons.e. This means that if any radiation were to leak from the reactor it would be sucked into the vacuum building and therefore prevented from being released into the environment. The storage and disposal of these materials is an enormous task. Shielding/Containment . until the level of radioactivity has dropped to suitable levels. Moderators . that area must be sealed for hundreds to millions of years.Control rods. Radiation doses are controlled via the following procedures. Control rods . y y y y The handling of equipment via remote in the core of the reactor Physical shielding Limit on the time a worker spends in areas with significant radiation levels Monitoring of individual doses and of the work environment Nuclear Reactors Current nuclear power plants are powered by nuclear fission. Any isotope present in critical mass will do. with the science of nuclear fusion emerging. The design of the reactor also includes multiple back-up components. U3O 8. most of which are lethal to humans. Further. H2O. normally composed of 10B or Cd. regulation requires that a core-meltdown incident must be confined only to the plant itself without the need to evacuate nearby residence. Inside the reactor several layers of concrete and steel must be laid to prevent radiation from . Moderators must slow down neutrons without absorbing or reacting with them. 233U and 239Pu.S.
What is a meltdown? If the core gets too hot.. that set off a controlled nuclear reaction. heats the water. along with continued rescue efforts in the wake of last week's earthquake.y escaping. the fuel pellets themselves can melt and fall to the reactor floor. the fuel rods can crack and release radioactive gases. The steel mus t be replaced periodically be cause exposure to radiation causes it to warp. only some of the fuel or the reactor core melts. where the hot. The reaction. WSJ's Yukimo Ono reports from Tokyo on a third explosion at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the worst case. which powers a turbine. as well as keeping the reactor cool enough to prevent a meltdown. How Nuclear Reactors Work . creating 550-degree Fahrenheit steam. And the Dangers When They Don't How does a nuclear reactor work? The core of a nuclear reactor contains both water and fuel rods made of zirconium and pellets of nuclear fuel. such as uranium. In a partial meltdown. radioactive material may be able to eat through protective barriers and ultimately reach the surrounding environment. generating electricity. Coolant . reducing the likelihood of breaching the containment structure.The job of the coolant is to carry the heat from the reactor to a steam turbine system where it is converted to electricity. ..
Video courtesy of Reuters What happens when the water pumps fail? Without power to fuel the pumps. That allowed temperatures to rise dangerously. shutting down the nuclear reaction. Even with the plant shutdown. but not enough to run the water pumps. . but those systems failed in the tsunami that followed the quake.Reactor Monitor View Interactive Keep track of reactor incidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. allowing water levels to drop and leaving the fuel at least partially exposed. Emergency batteries provided some power. That system worked properly in this case. The fuel rods began to boil off the remaining water. the nuclear fuel still held tremendous heat. 170 miles northeast of Tokyo. plant operators couldn't circulate water through the reactors to cool them down. What went wrong in Japan? Nuclear reactors in Japan are designed to turn off automatically anytime a disaster knocks out the electric grid. The health of the badly damaged nuclear plant in Japan is deteriorating by the hour. though. Dieselpowered backup generators are meant to pump water into the plant to cool the fuel.
But on Monday. will stabilize the plants. but as the fuel rods begin to break down they can release gases that react with surrounding steam. leaving fuel rods almost entirely exposed.What caused the explosions at Reactors 1 and 3? Details are unclear. But workers have managed to restore water levels for the time being. What is the situation at the different reactors now? Plant operators are trying to pump seawater into all three reactors to cool the fuel. water levels dropped. and temperatures appear to be falling. for reasons that remain unclear. but officials say it isn't enough to be dangerous to anyone outside the immediate vicinity of the plant. The escaping hydrogen reacted with oxygen in the atmosphere. but no explosion had taken place as of early Tuesday morning. That has released at least some radioactive material into the atmosphere. but officials say the main containment structures around the reactor cores²a key safety barrier²remained intact. Workers are struggling to pump in water. fuel rods were left exposed for long enough to allow at least some melting. Many experts consider that unlikely as long as workers can pump seawater into the plant and so long as containment structures remain intact. the plant's operators decided to release some of the pressure from the core by venting the built-up gas and steam. causing an explosion that damaged nearby structures at Reactors 1 and 3. it's hoped. At units 1 and 3. but. experts believe. To prevent more serious damage. What is the risk to the surrounding area? Workers have released built-up gases to ease pressure inside the plant. Unit 2 initially appeared to be in better shape than the other two reactors. however. generating hydrogen and allowing pressure inside the core to rise dangerously. . The worst-case scenario is a full meltdown. in which radioactive material eats through the various protective barriers and reaches the outside. That will cause irreversible damage. Officials now consider Reactor 2 to be the most vulnerable of the three reactors to further damage. It is unclear what other systems were damaged.
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