What Is Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy is the energy in the nucleus of an atom. Atoms are the smallest particles that can break a material. At the core of each atom there are two types of particles (neutrons and protons) that are held together. Nuclear energy is the energy that holds neutrons and protons.
Harnessing nuclear energy
In order to take advantage of the nuclear energy present in the nucleus of atoms, it can be done in two ways: splitting the nucleus of an atom or fusing the nucleus of two atoms. In the first case we call it nuclear fission and in the second nuclear fusion.
The energy produced by the Sun, for example, comes from nuclear fusion reactions. But currently replicating nuclear fusion reactions artificially is very difficult so that all nuclear reactors generate fission reactions.
When one of these two physical reactions occurs (nuclear fission or nuclear fusion) the atoms experience a slight loss of mass. This mass that is lost becomes a large amount of heat energy as Albert Einstein discovered with his famous equation E = mc2.
The vast majority of nuclear power reactors use enriched uranium as a nuclear fuel. Uranium is an element that is naturally found that following a certain process is enriched to make it more unstable. Being unstable means that it is easier to divide, which is precisely what is intended to be done in a nuclear reactor.
Uses of nuclear energy
Although the production of electric power is the most common utility there are many other applications of nuclear energy in other sectors. These applications can be for civil or military use. There are a large number of treaties and agreements to regulate these activities.
Within the civil applications we would find the generation of electrical energy or medical, environmental, industrial applications.
On the other hand, within military applications would be military armament such as the atomic bomb or the propulsion of military vehicles such as submarines or the propulsion of long-range missiles.
Video - What is nuclear energy?
We ecourage you to watch this viedo made by National Geographic which explains clearly what is nuclear energy.
Last review: August 31, 2017