Nuclear Power Plant Isar, Germany

Spent nuclear fuel pool

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Nuclear fuel

Nuclear fuel

Nuclear fuel is the material used for the generation of nuclear energy. It is a material that can be fissioned or fused depending on whether its use is nuclear fission or nuclear fusion.

We refer to nuclear fuel both to the material (uranium, plutonium, etc.) and to the set made with nuclear material (fuel rods, the make-up of nuclear material, and the moderator or any other combination.

The most widely used nuclear fuel is uranium because it is the most suitable in nuclear fission reactors. Currently, all nuclear reactors in production for the generation of electrical energy are fission. At another level, plutonium is also used as a nuclear fuel.

Tritium and deuterium…

Last review: November 28, 2022

What is plasma state of matter?

What is plasma state of matter?

Plasma in physics is an ionized gas, one of the four classical states of aggregation of matter.

This gas is made up of ionized atoms and molecules and contains free electrons and positive and negative ions. In a broader sense, a plasma can be composed of any charged particle.

When the gas is heated to high temperatures, it passes into the plasma. Under these conditions, it is also called the fourth state of aggregation of matter (after solid, liquid, and gas).

The Northern Lights are examples of naturally generated plasma. The solar wind is made up of very high-energy charged particles that form a diffuse plasma. When these particles collide with the atmosphere, they…

Last review: February 17, 2021

What is a nuclear reactor?

What is a nuclear reactor?

A nuclear reactor is a facility capable of converting nuclear energy into thermal energy. The reactors can initiate, control, and maintain the nuclear chain reactions in this facility’s core.

In a common nuclear power plant, nuclear reactors are used to produce thermal energy and generate water vapor. The way to create this amount of heat is through fission reactions (splitting atoms). The generated steam at a high pressure drives the turbines to produce electricity.

To build a nuclear reactor is necessary to have sufficient nuclear fuel, which we call critical mass. Having sufficient critical mass means having enough fissile material in optimal condition to sustain a…

Last review: January 31, 2021

What are radionuclides?

What are radionuclides?

Radionuclides are nuclides (isotopes of elements ) with an unstable nucleus that change by radioactive decay into other elements, or other radioactive isotopes of the same element, which may or may not be stable.

Radionuclides can be divided into three types according to the radiation they emit:

  • Alpha emitters that emit helium nuclei (alpha particles).

  • Beta emitters that emit electrons or positrons (beta particles).

  • Gamma emitters emit radiation in the form of gamma rays.

When a radionuclide emits radioactivity, it reaches a more stable state. It requires less energy than before and, as a rule, is mutated into…

Last review: January 16, 2021

How does a steam turbine work?

How does a steam turbine work?

A steam turbine is a machine that exploits the thermal energy of steam at high pressure. This kind of turbine converts thermal energy into useful mechanical energy through an expansion thermodynamic transformation. The steam turbine transforms the internal energy of steam into rotational kinetic energy.

The steam turbine has ultimately prevailed over the steam engine thanks to the best thermal efficiency and the best power/weight ratio.

Maximum efficiency occurs when the steam expansion is an ideal process. In this case, the steam pressure decreases and becomes mechanical work in an infinite number of stages (multi-stage turbine).

One way to classify the different types…

Last review: December 30, 2020

Reactor nuclear refrigerant for gas (GCR)

Reactor nuclear refrigerant for gas (GCR)

A gas-cooled reactor or GCR is a type of nuclear thermal nuclear fission reactor.

The neutron moderator of the GCR reactor is graphite. The coolant in the gas nuclear reactor technology is carbon dioxide in the gaseous state.

According to the classification made by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations (IAEA), this type of reactors includes the advanced gas type or AGR and Magnox (from Magnesium Non-OXidising), both from British technology.

Within the history of nuclear energy, there was also a French GCR type called UNGG (from the French Uranium Naturel Graphite Gaz). Still, it is an obsolete type, and of which there is currently no operational…

Last review: December 29, 2020

What is a watt?

What is a watt?

The watt unit is the power unit according to the international system of units; the watt symbol is the letter W. Power is the rate at which energy is expended.

It is the unit used to quantify the amount of energy transferred in one second: one watt is equal to one joule (J) per second (s).

1W = 1J/s

The watt is usually associated with the unit of electrical power, that is, linked to electrical energy. However, power units can also refer to any power: mechanical, acoustic, or magnetic.

In mechanics, the watt is the power developed by a force of one newton applied to the point that moves one meter during one second. It means that if the point on which a force of…

Last review: December 3, 2020

Boiling Water Nuclear Reactor (BWR)

Boiling Water Nuclear Reactor (BWR)

A boiling water reactor or BWR (boiling water reactor) is a type of nuclear reactor. It is the second most used type of reactor in nuclear power plants in the world.

Approximately 22% of the nuclear reactors installed in the different nuclear power plants use the BWR reactor.

The BWR is a power reactor; that is, it is designed to generate electrical power.

The most important feature of the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) is that it uses light water (ordinary water) as a neutron moderator and a core coolant. Unlike the pressurized water reactor (PWR), it does not have a steam generator.

This type of light water reactor has a primary circuit and a secondary circuit.…

Last review: November 26, 2020

What is an isotope?

What is an isotope?

Isotopes are atoms whose atomic nuclei have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Not all atoms of the same element are identical, and each of these varieties corresponds to another isotope.

Isotopes are different forms of an element whit the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons with practically the same chemical properties. This term indicates that all types of atoms of a chemical element are located in the same place on the periodic table.

According to the isotope definition, each one that belongs to the same element has the same atomic number (Z) but a different atomic mass (A). The atomic number fits with the number of protons…

Last review: November 25, 2020

Nuclear energy, what is it, and for what is it?

Nuclear energy is the energy contained in the nucleus of atoms. Atoms are the smallest elements that make up a material. These elements have a core made up of neutrons and protons that are held together by nuclear energy.

The change in these nuclei releases a large amount of energy. This energy can be used in many ways; among others, the production of electrical power.

Nuclear plants work as fired power plants using coal or natural gas. The difference is how they get thermal energy: nuclear plants use nuclear chain reactions while fired plants use…

Last review: November 22, 2020

Nuclear energy in Brazil

Nuclear energy in Brazil

In 2016, gross electricity production in Brazil was 579 TWh. Of this total, 3% is produced by nuclear power plants (16 TWh). 

Currently, Brazil has two nuclear plants in operation: Angra 1 and Angra 2.

Private investment in nuclear energy is not allowed, although this is under review.

Brazil began developing nuclear technology in 1951 under the newly created National Research Council. However, it accelerated this under a military regime from 1964 to 1985.

Start of the Angra nuclear power plants

In 1970, the government decided to seek bids for the construction of a nuclear power generation plant. The contract for the construction of the Angra 1 plant…

Last review: November 20, 2020