What is a Nuclear Power Plant? How Does Nuclear Plant Work?

What is a Nuclear Power Plant?

Nuclear power plant is the name given to systems that generate electrical energy using radioactive materials as fuel. In the past, there have been nuclear accidents that were catastrophic and killed thousands of people. For this reason, all countries that are now in question to build nuclear power plants object.

Nuclear energy is used in various fields of biochemistry and biology, production of construction materials, tracking of oil tank leaks, space technologies, icebreakers and aircraft industries. There is a need for power plants to turn electrical generators in order to obtain the excess amount of electrical energy needed in every field of life such as home and workplace. Most of these power plants generate heat by using materials such as oil, coal, natural gas, uranium as fuel to turn electricity generators.

This heat generation is done to evaporate the water. Worldwide, 17% of electrical energy needs are met by nuclear power plants. There are more than 400 nuclear power plants when it is assembled. Most of these places (more than 100) are in America. Some of the countries such as France, USA, Japan and Sweden obtain most of their energy from these plants.

Nuclear power plant is a nuclear reactor producing electrical energy using radioactive materials as fuel. While fossil-fueled power plants use fuels such as coal and petroleum, nuclear power plants produce energy by breaking down uranium.
The fact that these power plants use different substances than others reveals the necessity to take even more security measures. Nuclear power plants are named differently according to the primary variations in the operating system. It is named as boiling water, pressurized heavy water and pressurized water reactor.

How Does a Nuclear Power Plant Work?

To run the nuclear power plant, uranium is used as the main substance. High amounts of energy emerge after the breakdown of uranium. In this way, uranium undergoes a fission reaction (splitting of an atom into two or more nuclei).
The high amount of energy generated by the fission reaction heats the water vapor to high temperatures. The steam generated is transmitted to the electric generator turbines. The transmitted steam turns the turbine shaft and provides electricity generation.

What are the Benefits of Nuclear Power Plant?

Nuclear power plants are a fuel-intensive resource. It does not mix carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. One of its most important benefits is that it does not create a greenhouse effect. The fuels used in this system can be recycled and reused as fuel.

Modern nuclear power plants are structured with a very high quality security system. Until the nuclear reaction is completed, it is controlled as a precaution to prevent harm to the environment. Dependence on energy imports decreases with the existence of these power plants.

What are the Losses of the Nuclear Power Plant?

The production and development of uranium material causes a large amount of radioactive pollution. A malfunctioning nuclear power plant can cause major disasters, such as the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Therefore, security measures should be taken at the highest level.

If the radioactive wastes generated in these power plants mix with nature, their impact on the human body is enormous. Since there is still no formula in the world where radioactive wastes can be safely stored, no matter how much safety measures are taken, it poses a great danger for human health and environmental health in the long term.
The wastes in these systems are very dangerous. Therefore, it should be stored regularly and its release to nature should be prevented. In the slightest attack, very serious accidents can occur, which has devastating consequences for both people and the environment.

History of the Nuclear Power Plant

The world’s first nuclear power plant is the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant, which started operating in 1954. The work of this power plant was initiated by scientists led by the Russian nuclear physicist Igor Kurchatov. The events of the Second World War pushed the Soviet Union to do more comprehensive studies on nuclear weapons.

The energy in question was used in the aircraft industry and maritime transportation in the first place. The Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant was excavated in 1951 with only shovels, allowing access to the 20-meter deep reactor. The following year, concrete walls were built on its exterior for protection.

However, various unsuccessful attempts were made during this process. On June 26, 1954, it started operating with 55 capacity and 1500 kvt power, and achieved the title of the world’s first nuclear power plant. The power plant, which ended its operations in 2002, is now used for education and museum purposes.

The discovery of uranium coincides with the year 1879. The fragmentation of the atom in the following years enabled scientists to carry out various studies in this field. The real widespread period of these power plants is the early 1970s. During this period, the oil crisis felt around the world directed the authorities to alternative sources. With the industrial revolution, the use of energy in the world increased and people were constantly in search of new energy sources.

The fact that oil and natural gas are not renewable energy sources may cause a serious problem in the next 50-10 years. All these possibilities led to the start of the nuclear energy era. The amount of energy generated by splitting a uranium particle is 10 million times the energy emitted by a coal atom. The enormous difference made nuclear energy the energy source of the future.

In 1934, a researcher named Enrico Fermi took the first step towards this development. In 1938, Otto Hahn and Frittz Strassman contributed to the continuation of the work by bombing uranium neutrons from a source containing radium and beryllium.

The next year, it was determined that the energy emerged as a result of the atom breaking down. In 1941, a reactor suitable for chain uranium reaction was built. The world entered the age of nuclear energy on December 20, 1942, when the reaction was made self-sustaining.

As of 2018, 57 nuclear reactors are under construction in 17 countries. 15 of them are in China, 7 in India, 6 in Russia, 2 in America, 4 in United Arab Emirates. While 17% of the world’s electricity production is provided by nuclear power plants, this ratio is 72% in France, 55% in Ukraine, 50% in Belgium, 40% in Sweden, 27% in South Korea and 30% in the European Union and 20% in the USA.

What is the Chernobyl Disaster?

When the dates showed April 26, 1986, a massive explosion occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the city of Pripyat in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union. The explosion in the number 4 high-power channel reactor went down as a painful event in human history.

It was reported that the disaster that occurred at night was the result of a fire that broke out after the explosion in water vapor. However, this was such a big fire that it lasted for 9 days. While the smoke from the fire spread to the atmosphere, radioactive materials reached Europe.

In the first place, 134 employees were hospitalized and 28 of them lost their lives in the accident, and the effects of the disaster continued until 1996. Even in the Black Sea region of our country, cancer cases were encountered due to the radioactive substances emitted by the Chernobyl Disaster.

References:

  • https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/nuclear/nuclear-power-plants.php
  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/topics/reference/chernobyl-disaster/

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