How nuclear works

Steam power plants, whether they are coal or nuclear, use heat to make electricity. They operate like a giant tea kettle, turning water into steam which is then used to turn a generator to make electricity. The only difference between coal and nuclear power plants is that nuclear plants use uranium as the fuel to produce the heat instead of coal.

In a nuclear power plant reactor, water is heated by a process called nuclear fission.

  • Uranium atoms are split when they are struck by neutrons.
  • When the atoms split, they release heat, along with two or three more neutrons.
  • These neutrons then strike other uranium atoms, again causing the atoms to split, release heat and again, two or three more neutrons. This is called a chain reaction.

The steam then spins the turbines, which are tied to the generators. The generators then produce electricity.

Frequently Asked Questions

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