Nuclear Energy

- By Colton

Every atom has a nucleus, which is where the word “nuclear” comes from.   There are over 440 nuclear power reactors in 47 countries.   16 percent of the world’s electrical energy is nuclear energy.   Geothermal energy, when heat comes to the surface from the earth’s core, is from radioactive decay of uranium, and is another form of nuclear energy.   Canadian mines produce more than a quarter of the world’s uranium.

Energy that is made in a nuclear reaction is called nuclear or atomic energy.   Nuclear reactors can provide energy for entire cities.   Nuclear power plants work in the same way that a coal burning power plant does.   Both heat water into pressurized steam, which drives a turbine generator.   The difference is the way the water is heated.   Nuclear power plants use heat from nuclear fission.   Nuclear power plants need a lot of water, to make steam and to cool the system, so they are usually built near water.   There are two ways to produce nuclear energy, by splitting nuclei (fission) or joining nuclei (fusion).
Nuclear fission is when one atom splits into two and releases energy.   Nuclear reactors and atomic bombs use nuclear fission when uranium atoms split.   Uranium is used because the atoms can be split easily.   Nuclear fission with uranium happens in nature.   Albert Einstein discovered a little bit of mass could produce a huge amount of energy through nuclear fission.   A free neutron is fired into a uranium atom, causing it to split into two lighter atoms and throwing off two or three new neutrons.   These new neutrons cause a chain reaction and split more uranium atoms.   This splitting of an atom releases a huge amount of heat energy and gamma radiation.
Nuclear fusion is when atoms are joined.   The H-bomb or hydrogen bomb uses fusion.   Nuclear fusion requires a huge amount of heat, an atom bomb is actually needed to make enough heat to cause nuclear fusion, making a hydrogen bomb explode.   A hydrogen bomb is...