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Nuclear Power Plant

• A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station
in which the heat source is a nuclear reactor. As is
typical in all conventional thermal power stations
the heat is used to generate steam which drives a
steam turbine connected to a generator which
produces electricity. As of 16 January 2013, the
IAEA report there are 439 nuclear power reactors
in operation operating in 31 countries. Nuclear
power plants are usually considered to be base
load stations, since fuel is a small part of the cost
of production.

Nuclear fission

• Nuclear fission is a process in nuclear physics
in which the nucleus of an atom splits into
two or more smaller nuclei as fission
products, and usually some by-product
• Hence, fission is a form of elemental
transmutation. The by-products include free
neutrons, photons usually in the form
gamma rays, and other nuclear fragments
such as beta particles and alpha particles.
Fission of heavy elements is an exothermic
reaction and can release substantial amounts
of useful energy both as gamma rays and as
kinetic energy of the fragments (heating the
bulk material where fission takes place).
• Nuclear fission produces energy for nuclear
power and to drive explosion of nuclear

Fusion Reactions

• Nuclear fusion is a process where two or
more nuclei combine to form an element
with a higher atomic number (more protons
in the nucleus). Fusion is the reverse process
of nuclear fission. Fusion releases energy.
The energy released is related to Einstein's
famous equation, E=mc2.
• For a fusion reaction to occur it is necessary
to bring the nuclei so close together that
nuclear forces become important and "glue"
the nuclei together. The nuclear force only
acts over incredibly small distances and has
to counteract the electrostatic force where
the positively charged nuclei repel each
other. For these reasons fusion most easily
occurs in a high density, high temperature


• Electricity was generated by a nuclear
reactor for the first time ever on September
3, 1948 at the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak
Ridge, Tennessee in the United States, and
was the first nuclear power plant to power a
light bulb. The second, larger experiment
occurred on December 20, 1951 at the EBR-I
experimental station near Arco, Idaho in the
United States. On June 27, 1954, the world's
first nuclear power plant to generate
electricity for a power grid started operations
at Obninsk, USSR. The world's first full scale
power station, Calder Hall in England opened
on October 17, 1956

• 1896 - Discovery of natural radioactivity by
Henry Becquerel* (Paris)
• 1898 - Discovery of Radium by Pierre et
Marie Curie* (Paris) (they create the term
• 1905 - Theory of relativity by Albert Einstein
(Germany): equivalence between mass and
energy is established (the basic phenomena
involved in energy release by fission)
• 1911 - Rutherford creates a model of the
atoms (England)
• 1919 - First observation of artificial
transmutation (particles on gold atom) by
Ernest Rutherford (England), and discovery
of the proton (same time)
• 1932 - Discovery of the neutron by James
Chadwick (England)
• 1934 Discovery of artificial radioactivity
(particles on Aluminum atoms) by Frederic
Joliot and Irène Curie (Paris)

Types of Nuclear Power Reactors

• The only natural element currently used for nuclear fission in
reactors is uranium. Natural uranium is a highly energetic
substance: one kilogram of it can generate as much energy as
10 tonnes of oil. Naturally occurring uranium comprises, almost
entirely, two isotopes: U238 (99.283%) and U235 (0.711%). The
former is not fissionable while the latter can be fissioned by
thermal (i.e. slow) neutrons. As the neutrons emitted in a
fission reaction are fast, reactors using U235 as fuel must have a
means of slowing down these neutrons before they escape from
the fuel. This function is performed by what is called a
moderator, which, in the case of certain reactors (see table of
Reactor Types below) simultaneously acts as a coolant. It is
common practice to classify power reactors according to the
nature of the coolant and the moderator plus, as the need may
arise, other design characteristics.

Uranium–fuelled Reactors

Nuclear Reactor

• All nuclear reactors are devices designed to maintain a
chain reaction producing a steady flow of neutrons
generated by the fission of heavy nuclei. They are,
however, differentiated either by their purpose or by
their design features. In terms of purpose, they are
either research reactors or power reactors.

• Research reactors are operated at universities and
research centres in many countries, including some
where no nuclear power reactors are operated. These
reactors generate neutrons for multiple purposes,
including producing radiopharmaceuticals for medical
diagnosis and therapy, testing materials and conducting
basic research.

• Power reactors are usually found in nuclear power
plants. Dedicated to generating heat mainly for
electricity production, they are operated in more than
30 countries (see Nuclear Power Reactors). Their lesser
uses are drinking water or district water production. In
the form of smaller units, they also power ships.

• There are many different types of power reactors. What is
common to them all is that they produce thermal energy that
can be used for its own sake or converted into mechanical
energy and ultimately, in the vast majority of cases, into
electrical energy.

• In these reactors, the fission of heavy atomic nuclei, the most
common of which is uranium-235, produces heat that is
transferred to a fluid which acts as a coolant. During the
fission process, bond energy is released and this first
becomes noticeable as the kinetic energy of the fission
products generated and that of the neutrons being released.
Since these particles undergo intense deceleration in the solid
nuclear fuel, the kinetic energy turns into heat energy.

• In the case of reactors designed to generate electricity, to
which the explanations below will now be restricted, the
heated fluid can be gas, water or a liquid metal. The heat
stored by the fluid is then used either directly (in the case of
gas) or indirectly (in the case of water and liquid metals) to
generate steam. The heated gas or the steam is then fed into
a turbine driving an alternator.

• Since, according to the laws of nature, heat cannot fully be
converted into another form of energy, some of the heat is
residual and is released into the environment. Releasing is
either direct – e.g. into a river – or indirect, into the
atmosphere via cooling towers. This practice is common to all
thermal plants and is by no means limited to nuclear reactors
which are only one type of thermal plant.

Reactor Type Coolant Moderator Fuel Comment
Pressurised water
reactors (PWR, VVER)
Light water Light water Enriched uranium Steam gener-ated in
secondary loop
Boiling water reactors
Light water Light water Enriched uranium Steam from boiling
water fed to turbine
Pressurised heavy
water reactor (PHWR)
Heavy water Heavy water Natural uranium

Gas-cooled reactors
(Magnox, AGR, UNGG)
CO2 Graphite Natural or enriched

Light water graphite
reactors (RBMK)
Press-urised boiling
Graphite Enriched uranium Soviet design
Types of Nuclear Power Reactors

Types of Nuclear Power Reactors

• RBMK-reactors (pressure-tube boiling-water
reactors), which are cooled with light water and
moderated with graphite, are now less commonly
operated in some former Soviet Union bloc
countries. Following the Chernobyl accident (26
April 1986) the construction of this reactor type
ceased. The operating period of those units still in
operation will be shortened.

• Plutonium-fuelled Reactors - Plutonium (Pu) is an
artificial element produced in uranium-fuelled
reactors as a by-product of the chain reaction. It is
one hundred times more energetic than natural
uranium; one gram of Pu can generate as much
energy as one tonne of oil. As it needs fast neutrons
in order to fission, moderating materials must be
avoided to sustain the chain reaction in the best
conditions. The current Plutonium-fuelled reactors,
also called “fast” reactors, use liquid sodium which
displays excellent thermal properties without
adversely affecting the chain reaction. These types
of reactors are in operation in France, Japan and the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

• Light Water Reactors - The Light Water Reactors
category comprises pressurised water reactors
(PWR, VVER) and boiling water reactors (BWR).
Both of these use light water and hence enriched
uranium. The light water they use combines the
functions of moderator and coolant. This water
flows through the reactor core, a zone containing a
large array of fuel rods where it picks up the heat
generated by the fission of the U235 present in the
fuel rods. After the coolant has transferred the heat
it has collected to a steam turbine, it is sent back to
the reactor core, thus flowing in a loop, also called a
primary circuit.

Types of Nuclear Power Reactors

Pressurised Water Reactors

• The fission zone (fuel elements) is contained
in a reactor pressure vessel under a pressure
of 150 to 160 bar (15 to 16 MPa). The
primary circuit connects the reactor pressure
vessel to heat exchangers. The secondary
side of these heat exchangers is at a pressure
of about 60 bar (6 MPa) - low enough to
allow the secondary water to boil. The heat
exchangers are, therefore, actually steam
generators. Via the secondary circuit, the
steam is routed to a turbine driving an
alternator. The steam coming out of the
turbine is converted back into water by a
condenser after having delivered a large
amount of its energy to the turbine. It then
returns to the steam generator. As the water
driving the turbine (secondary circuit) is
physically separated from the water used as
reactor coolant (primary circuit), the turbine-
alternator set can be housed in a turbine hall
outside the reactor building
Boiling Water Reactors

• The fission zone is contained in a reactor pressure
vessel, at a pressure of about 70 bar (7 MPa). At the
temperature reached (290 °C approximately), the
water starts boiling and the resulting steam is
produced directly in the reactor pressure vessel.
After the separation of steam and water in the
upper part of the reactor pressure vessel, the steam
is routed directly to a turbine driving an alternator.

• The steam coming out of the turbine is converted
back into water by a condenser after having
delivered a large amount of its energy to the
turbine. It is then fed back into the primary cooling
circuit where it absorbs new heat in the fission

• Since the steam produced in the fission zone is
slightly radioactive, mainly due to short-lived
activation products, the turbine is housed in the
same reinforced building as the reactor.


• The conversion to electrical energy takes
place indirectly, as in conventional thermal
power plants. The heat is produced by fission
in a nuclear reactor (a light water reactor).
Directly or indirectly, water vapor (steam) is
produced. The pressurized steam is then
usually fed to a multi-stage steam turbine.
Steam turbines in Western nuclear power
plants are among the largest steam turbines
ever. After the steam turbine has expanded
and partially condensed the steam, the
remaining vapor is condensed in a
condenser. The condenser is a heat
exchanger which is connected to a secondary
side such as a river or a cooling tower. The
water is then pumped back into the nuclear
reactor and the cycle begins again. The
water-steam cycle corresponds to the
Rankine cycle.

Steam turbine

• The purpose of the steam turbine is to
convert the heat contained in steam into
mechanical energy. The engine house with
the steam turbine is usually structurally
separated from the main reactor building. It
is so aligned to prevent debris from the
destruction of a turbine in operation from
flying towards the reactor.

• In the case of a pressurized water reactor,
the steam turbine is separated from the
nuclear system. To detect a leak in the steam
generator and thus the passage of
radioactive water at an early stage is the
outlet steam of the steam generator
mounted an activity meter. In contrast,
boiling water reactors and the steam turbine
with radioactive water applied and therefore
part of the control area of the nuclear power

Nuclear reactors

• A nuclear reactor is a device to
initiate and control a sustained
nuclear chain reaction. The most
common use of nuclear reactors is for
the generation of electric energy and
for the propulsion of ships.
• The nuclear reactor is the heart of
the plant. In its central part, the
reactor core's heat is generated by
controlled nuclear fission. With this
heat, a coolant is heated as it is
pumped through the reactor and
thereby removes the energy from the
reactor. Heat from nuclear fission is
used to raise steam, which runs
through turbines, which in turn
powers either ship's propellers or
electrical generators.

• Since nuclear fission creates
radioactivity, the reactor core is
surrounded by a protective
shield. This containment absorbs
radiation and prevents
radioactive material from being
released into the environment. In
addition, many reactors are
equipped with a dome of
concrete to protect the reactor
against both internal casualties
and external impacts.

• In nuclear power plants, different
types of reactors, nuclear fuels,
and cooling circuits and
moderators are used.

Cooling system

• A cooling system removes heat from the reactor
core and transports it to another area of the plant,
where the thermal energy can be harnessed to
produce electricity or to do other useful work.
Typically the hot coolant is used as a heat source for
a boiler, and the pressurized steam from that boiler
powers one or more steam turbine driven electrical

Safety valves

• In the event of an emergency, two independent
safety valves can be used to prevent pipes from
bursting or the reactor from exploding. The valves
are designed so that they can derive all of the
supplied flow rates with little increase in pressure.
In the case of the BWR, the steam is directed into
the condensate chamber and condenses there. The
chambers on a heat exchanger are connected to the
intermediate cooling circuit.

Feedwater pump

• The water level in the steam generator and nuclear
reactor is controlled using the feedwater system.
The feedwater pump has the task of taking the
water from the condensate system, increasing the
pressure and forcing it into either the Steam
Generators (Pressurized Water Reactor) or directly
into the reactor vessel (Boiling Water Reactor)

Emergency power supply

• The emergency power supplies of a nuclear power
plant are built up by several layers of redundancy,
such as diesel generators, gas turbine generators
and battery buffers. The battery backup provides
uninterrupted coupling of the diesel/gas turbine
units to the power supply network. If necessary, the
emergency power supply allows the safe shut down
of the nuclear reactor. Less important auxiliary
systems such as, for example, heat tracing of
pipelines are not supplied by these back ups. The
majority of the required power is used to supply the
feed pumps in order to cool the reactor and remove
the decay heat after a shut down.

People in a nuclear power plant

• Nuclear engineers
• Reactor operators
• Health physicists
• Emergency response team personnel
• Nuclear Regulatory Commission Resident

• In the United States and Canada, workers
except for management, professional (such
as engineers) and security personnel are
likely to be members of either the
International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers (IBEW) or the Utility Workers Union
of America (UWUA), or one of the various
trades and labor unions representing
Machinist, laborers, boilermakers,
millwrights, iron workers etc.

• There are trades to be made between safety,
economic and technical properties of
different reactor designs for particular
applications. Historically these decisions
were often made in private by scientists,
regulators and engineers, but this may be
considered problematic, and since Chernobyl
and Three Mile Island, many involved now
consider informed consent and morality to
be primary considerations.

Failure modes of nuclear power plants

• There are concerns that a combination of human and mechanical error at a nuclear facility could
result in significant harm to people and the environment.

• Operating nuclear reactors contain large amounts of radioactive fission products which, if
dispersed, can pose a direct radiation hazard, contaminate soil and vegetation, and be ingested by
humans and animals. Human exposure at high enough levels can cause both short-term illness and
death and longer-term death by cancer and other diseases.

• It is impossible for a commercial nuclear reactor to explode like a nuclear bomb since the fuel is
never sufficiently enriched for this to occur. Nuclear reactors can fail in a variety of ways. Should
the instability of the nuclear material generate unexpected behavior, it may result in an
uncontrolled power excursion. Normally, the cooling system in a reactor is designed to be able to
handle the excess heat this causes; however, should the reactor also experience a loss-of-coolant
accident, then the fuel may melt or cause the vessel in which it is contained to overheat and melt.
This event is called a nuclear meltdown.

• After shutting down, for some time the reactor still needs external energy to power its cooling
systems. Normally this energy is provided by the power grid to which that plant is connected, or by
emergency diesel generators. Failure to provide power for the cooling systems, as happened in
Fukushima I, can cause serious accidents.

• Nuclear safety rules in the United States "do not adequately weigh the risk of a single event that
would knock out electricity from the grid and from emergency generators, as a quake and tsunami
recently did in Japan", Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said in June 2011.

Multiple reactors

• The Fukushima nuclear disaster illustrated the dangers
of building multiple nuclear reactor units close to one
another. This proximity triggered the parallel, chain-
reaction accidents that led to hydrogen explosions
damaging reactor buildings and water draining from
open-air spent fuel pools -- a situation that was
potentially more dangerous than the loss of reactor
cooling itself. Because of the closeness of the reactors,
Plant Director Masao Yoshida "was put in the position
of trying to cope simultaneously with core meltdowns
at three reactors and exposed fuel pools at three units"
Nuclear safety systems

• The three primary objectives of nuclear safety
systems as defined by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission are to shut down the reactor,
maintain it in a shutdown condition, and
prevent the release of radioactive material
during events and accidents. These objectives
are accomplished using a variety of
equipment, which is part of different systems,
of which each performs specific functions.

Advantages of Nuclear Power Plant

Advantages of nuclear power stations include a vast amount of energy is
produced from little amount of fuel. Nuclear power does not contribute to
global warming since it does not generate carbon dioxide which pollutes the

• Nuclear power - Nuclear power is clean, safe, reliable, compact, competitive
and practically inexhaustible. Today over 400 nuclear reactors provide base-
load electric power in 30 countries. Fifty years old, it is a relatively mature
technology with the assurance of great improvement in the next generation.
(Hundreds of nuclear reactors furnish reliable and flexible shipboard power:
military ships of course. But the technology is adaptable to civilian maritime

• Clean - Nuclear energy produces almost no carbon dioxide, and no sulfur
dioxide or nitrogen oxides whatsoever. These gases are produced in vast
quantities when fossil fuels are burned.

• Nuclear waste - One gram of uranium yields about as much energy as a ton of
coal or oil - it is the famous “factor of a million”. Nuclear waste is correspondingly
about a million times smaller than fossil fuel waste, and it is totally confined.

• Safe - Nuclear power is safe, as proven by the record of half a century of
commercial operation, with the accumulated experience of more than 12,000

• Reliable - Nuclear reactors provide base-load power and are available over 90% of
the time; intervals between refuelings have been extended and down time for
refueling has been reduced. In the USA, these improvements over the years have
been the equivalent of adding one reactor a year to the existing fleet. Most
reactors are designed for a life of 40 years; many are reaching that age in good
condition and extensions of 20 years have usually been granted

• Competitive - The cost of nuclear power is competitive and stable. The cost of
nuclear fuel is a small part of the price of a nuclear kiloWatt-hour, whereas fossil
fueled power, especially oil and gas, is at the mercy of the market.

• Inexhaustible - Uranium is found everywhere in the crust of the Earth – it is more
abundant than tin, for example. Major deposits are found in Canada and Australia.
It is estimated that increasing the market price by a factor ten would result in 100
times more uranium coming to market. Eventually we will be able to recover
uranium from sea water where 4 billion tons are dissolved
• Compact - A nuclear power station is very compact, occupying typically the area of
a football stadium and its surrounding parking lots. Solar cells, wind turbine farms
and growing biomass, all require large areas of land.

• Radiation - Fear of the unknown is the merchandise of anti-nuclear “greens”. They
preach fear of radiation in general, fear of radioactive waste in particular, fear of
another major accident such as Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, and fear of nuclear
weapons proliferation. Their campaign has been successful only because radiation
is a mystery to most people, and very few are aware of the fact that radiation is
present everywhere in the environment. The anti-nuclear organizations also
exploit the widespread but mistaken interpretation of the studies of the health of
the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing: that even a small amount of
radiation is deleterious to health (the LNT hypothesis), and the related concept of
collective dose.

• Old Fashioned Attitudes- Ecological organizations such as Greenpeace have
consistently had an anti-nuclear bias which is more ideological than factual. An
increasing number of environmentalists are now changing their minds about
nuclear energy because there are very good, solid, scientific and, above all,
environmental reasons to be in favor of nuclear energy

11 Facts About Nuclear Energy

• Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission (the
process of splitting an atom in two). Nuclear fusion
(the process of combining atoms into one) has the
potential to be safer energy because it is produced
at a much lower temperature. However, nuclear
fusion technology has not yet been developed to
operate within a large power plant.

• Nuclear energy comes from uranium, a
nonrenewable resource that must be mined.

• Every 18 to 24 months, a power plant must shut
down to remove its spent uranium fuel, which has
become radioactive waste.

• 13 percent of the world’s electricity comes from
nuclear power plants that emit little to no
greenhouse gases.

• Nuclear energy is being used in more than 30
countries around the world, and even powers Mars
• Nuclear power facilities can produce energy at a 91
percent efficiency rate 24/7, while maintaining the
method with the lowest emissions.

• More than 70 percent of America’s emission-free
power comes from nuclear energy sources.

• 1 in 5 households and business in the U.S. are
electrically powered by nuclear energy.

• United States power plants produce 2,000 metric
tons of radioactive waste every year.

• The building of new nuclear facilities creates
between 1,400 and 3,500 jobs for construction
workers, and after the facility is built maintains 400
to 700 permanent positions paying roughly 36 to 44
percent more than the average salary of the
surrounding area.

• American nuclear energy facilities are the highest
regulated plants in the world, subject to more
scrutinous observations and regulations.

That’s all!
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