Nuclear Power Plant Isar, Germany

Spent nuclear fuel pool

Turbine of a nuclear plant

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.

Nuclear energy can be used to produce electricity. This energy can be obtained in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. In nuclear fusion, energy is released when atoms are combined or fused together to form a larger atom. The sun produces energy like this. In nuclear fission, atoms are split into smaller atoms, releasing energy. Actually, nuclear power plants can only use nuclear fission to produce electricity.

Electricity production in a nuclear power plant

When one of these two physical reactions (nuclear fission or nuclear fusion) success, atoms experiment a slight loss of mass. This mass lost generates a big amount of heat energy, explained by Albert Einstein with his famous equation E = mc2.

Although the production of electricity is the most common utility there are many other uses of nuclear energy in other sectors, such as medical, environmental or wartime (atomic bomb).

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References

Last review: April 23, 2014