According to the definition of nuclear energy it is possible to extract the energy contained in the nucleus of atoms to generate heat. Thanks to the thermal energy obtained, it is possible to operate a thermoelectric power plant.
Generation of Electricity Through Nuclear Energy
The process to obtain electricity through nuclear energy is the result of a thermodynamic and mechanical process.
At first, the nuclear reactor generates fission reactions that emit a large amount of heat. With all this thermal energy, steam is obtained at high pressure. The steam, thanks to its high pressure, drives the steam turbines of the plant. In this way, mechanical energy is obtained, energy of rotation of an axis. Finally, the person in charge of transforming mechanical energy into electrical energy is the electric generator.
Other Forms of Electricity Generation
With the exception of the generation of electricity through the use of photovoltaic solar energy, the rest of the sources of electric power generation are based on the same principle. In the majority of chaos, the objective is to obtain mechanical energy to convert it into electrical energy by means of an electricity generator.
Non-renewable Energy Sources
Nos referimos a los sistemas de generación de electricidad mediante energías no renovables a los sistemas que utilizan combustibles que tienden a agotarse. Es decir, que el ritmo con el que se consumen estos combustibles es más rápido que el ritmo al que se generan.
In addition to nuclear power plants there are thermal power plants to generate electricity. In these power plants, the process of generating electricity is practically the same. The thermal power plants, which use coal and other fossil fuels, also take advantage of the calorific value of their fuel to generate high pressure steam, operate turbines and activate the electric generator again. While nuclear power plants obtain heat through nuclear energy reactions, thermal power plants obtain the heat energy from the combustion of fossil fuels.
In this category we must also mention the electrochemistry. Electrochemistry is the direct transformation of chemical energy into electricity, as in a battery. The generation of electrochemical electricity is important in portable and mobile applications. Currently, most of the electrochemical power comes from batteries. Open electrochemical systems, known as fuel cells, can be used to extract energy from natural or synthetic fuels.
Generation of Electricity Through Renewable Energy
In this type of electricity generation, the resemblance it has to nuclear power generation can be seen from the turbine. That is to say, in the power plants by means of different techniques (combustion of coal, nuclear energy etc.) a spinning axis is obtained at a certain moment. In the case of many renewable energies (wind energy, hydropower, etc.), a rotating axis is also obtained at a certain moment. From here, the process is the same: to convert the kinetic energy of the axis into rotation in electrical energy through the electricity generators.
Special mention must be made of photovoltaic energy. In this variant of solar energy electricity is not obtained from a generator but from a photovoltaic cell. Photovoltaic cells allow the conversion of solar radiation into electrical energy. When receiving solar radiation, the photovoltaic effect generates a small movement of electrons.
Despite the cost, the use of this type of energy has a very good acceptance from the environmental sectors since it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect or to global warming. From the environmental point of view it offers many more advantages than fossil energy sources.
Cost of Electricity Generation
The cost of generating electricity and its economic viability varies according to demand and the region. The economy varies considerably throughout the world, which also varies the cost of electricity generation. Hydropower, nuclear power, thermal power plants and other renewable and non-renewable sources have their own advantages and disadvantages. Generally the choice of the best option is based on the requirement of local power and the fluctuations of the demand. All electrical networks have variable loads, but the minimum daily is the base load, supplied by the plants that operate continuously.
Thermal energy is economical in areas of high industrial density, since high demand can not be satisfied by renewable energy sources. These plants can also support the variation in load and power consumption by adding more units or temporarily decreasing the production of some units. Nuclear power plants can produce a large amount of energy from a single nuclear reactor.
However, the nuclear accidents that have occurred throughout history, such as the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan have generated concern for the safety of nuclear energy. In addition, the capital cost of nuclear power plants is very high. Hydroelectric plants are located in areas where the potential energy of the water fall can be used to move the turbines and generate energy.
Due to advances in technology, and with mass production, renewable sources other than hydropower (solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, etc.) experienced decreases in the cost of production, and energy in Many cases are comparative in costs with fossil fuels.
Many governments around the world provide subsidies to offset the higher cost of any new energy production and for the installation of renewable energy systems to be economically viable. However, the use of renewable sources is often limited by their intermittent nature.