Taking a Look at Nuclear Power

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The invention of the nuclear power plant was humanities greatest hopes but biggest fears. The energy is clean and frees us from using fossil fuels but it also screams disaster. There was an earth quake in Japan that caused a nuclear power plant to leak out radioactive steam. However there were 443 operating nuclear power plants in 47 countries in 2011 and in 2009 atomic energy accounted for 14 percent of the world’s energy production. In the United States alone 104 nuclear power plants supply some 20 percent of electricity. How does nuclear energy work? A nuclear plant and coal-burning plant aren’t very different from each other. Both heat the water into steam that is pressurized that drives the turbine generator. The nuclear plant however depends on heat that is developed during nuclear fission. For this fission to occur the nuclear plant uses U-235 (uranium), a natural element of Earth that has been around for as long as Earth has existed. The uranium is formed into inch-long pellets, the pellets are then arranged into rods, and the rods are collected into bundles. For the fission to occur U-235 decays naturally by alpha radiation. During alpha decay an alpha particle is throw off, or two neutrons and two protons are bound together. With the decay of just a single U-235 atom approximately 200 million electron volts (MeV) are released. One pound of uranium is equal to a million gallons of gasoline. For the fission to turn into energy the plant operators have to control

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