Nuclear energy – Uses and abuses
Nuclear energy is the energy created from the nucleus of atoms. The nuclear power is released in nuclear reactions which can be nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. In nuclear fusion, atoms combine together to form a larger atom. This is accompanied by the release or absorption of energy. Large scale fusion processes involve very high temperatures and densities, such as the production of energy from the sun and the shine from stars we see in the night sky. On the other hand, nuclear fission is the process where one atom is split into two. Man made nuclear fission involve a nuclear reactor to split the nuclei of uranium atoms thus releasing large amounts of energy in the forms of heat and radiation. Nuclear energy has many uses such as powering nuclear submarines, desalinating water and generating heating systems but the most important is making electricity. Currently, 12-18% of the world's energy is generated through nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is created in nuclear power plants, specifically designed to withstand the process of nuclear fission. At a nuclear power plant, nuclear fission occurs inside the reactor containing a core with uranium pellets. As the atoms break open, neutrons are released. These then bump and break open other uranium atoms. This continuous process of breaking and bumping is called a chain reaction. When the uranium nuclei split, heat is released, boiling water into steam which drives large turbine blades to turn thus generating electricity.
Important scientists that contributed to the discovery of nuclear power include Antoine Henri Becquerel, Ernest Rutherford and Einstein. Becquerel was an expert on fluorescence (the ability of some substances to give off visible rays) and had accidentally discovered that uranium was radioactive when he was trying to experiment whether other substances gave off invisible rays. He had left a sample of pitchblende (substance that contains uranium) near an...
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