Physical Science : How Do You Turn Nuclear Energy Into Electricity?

Physical Science : How Do You Turn Nuclear Energy Into Electricity?


Hi, I’m Steve Jones, and I’m going to tell
you a little bit about getting nuclear energy into electricity. Now obviously here we have
a fairly complex diagram, but actually it’s simpler than it looks. First of all here is
the nuclear reactor and the heat exchanger. In fact these parts are the only parts that
are common to the nuclear power station, all of the rest you’ll find in any power station,
that is a steam turbine and a generator. This is the part that actually creates the electricity,
but this part is different, this is like a giant electric kettle, all it does is it produces
heat. The reactor itself contains fuel rods and when those fuel rods are placed into a
thing called a moderator, it gets hot, it gets very, very hot. And this reactor, the
heat in the reactor is then taken by these tubes out into the heat exchanger where it
mixes with a number of pipes coming through the steam turbine system. So the heat in here
produces heat in here and you get hot steam, that steam then drives the steam turbine.
So remember the nuclear reactor is nothing but a thing to produce heat, just the same
as for example with a conventional power station you would use coal, you’d burn coal or oil
or gas, well here we’re just burning nuclear fuel. The big advantage is the amount of fuel
that you might use in one year, whereas every year in a nuclear power station you may use
up to a 100 tonnes of fuel per year. In a coal fired station you would use something
like 2000 tons per week. This is significant because it means that although nuclear energy
is dangerous and there are problems with the safety, because there are only such a small
amount of fuel required we don’t need big roads to the power plant, and therefore it
can be built in the middle of an uninhabited area, in the middle of somewhere where basically
it’s a long distance from people. So that is the big advantage of the nuclear reactor.
So that is how we get nuclear energy and turn it into electricity.

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