Nuclear power generation | Nuclear Physics | meriSTEM

Nuclear power generation | Nuclear Physics | meriSTEM


When it comes to electricity generation
the only real difference between a coal-fired power plant and a nuclear
power plant is in the way that heat is generated. In an efficient reactor the heat
liberated by nuclear fission is in the form of kinetic energy of the fission
fragments. This energy is used to heat water, create steam and hence drive a
generator to produce electricity. A coal-fired power plant creates heat by
burning the coal, however that heat then drives a steam cycle in almost the same
way as a nuclear power plant. The other main differences in power plant design
are that the products of nuclear fission are highly radioactive, hence the need
for a strong containment structure, radioactive shielding and long-term
storage of the spent fuel after it has been used. As mentioned
earlier the nuclear fuel remains very hot even when fission reactions stop so
the cooling of the fuel is also needed after the reactor is powered down. The
other major difference is that a coal power plant generates huge amounts of
carbon dioxide every moment that coal is being burned whereas the nuclear power
plant generates no carbon dioxide during its ongoing operation

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