nuclear power stations

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  Nuclear power station
 
A possible design for the next generation of nuclear power stations (NIA - Westinghouse AP1000))

The main nuclear fuels are uranium and plutonium, both of which are radioactive metals. Nuclear fuels are not burnt to release energy. Instead, they are involved in nuclear reactions in the nuclear reactor which leads to heat being released.

Just as with ordinary power stations, the heat energy is used to boil water. The kinetic energy in the expanding steam spins turbines, which drive generators to produce electricity.

Advantages

Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear fuels do not produce carbon dioxide.

Disadvantages

Like fossil fuels, nuclear fuels are non-renewable energy resources. And if there is an accident large amounts of radioactive material could be released into the environment. In addition, nuclear waste remains radioactive and is hazardous to health for thousands of years. It must be stored safely.

Nuclear waste is given different categories:

Category Examples Disposal
Low level Contaminated equipment, materials and protective clothing Put in drums and surrounded by concrete
Intermediate level Components from nuclear reactors, radioactive sources used in medicine or research Mixed with concrete, then put in a stainless steel drum in a purpose-built store
High level Used nuclear fuel and chemicals from reprocessing fuels Stored in a purpose-built store where air can circulate to remove the heat produced

 

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