A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station that generates electricity using heat from nuclear reactions. Nuclear reactions take place within a nuclear reactor. The nuclear power plant has machines that remove heat from the nuclear reactor to operate a steam turbine and generator electricity. Electricity made by nuclear power plants is called nuclear power.
Nuclear power plants use uranium as a source of fuel. When the nuclear reactor is on, uranium atoms split into two smaller atoms within the reactor. When uranium atoms split, they give off a large amount of heat energy. This splitting of atoms is called the nuclear fission process.
The most popular atoms in the nuclear fission process are uranium and plutonium. Those atoms are slightly radioactive in nature. The atoms produced when fuel atoms break apart are intensely radioactive. Today, the nuclear fission process occurs only inside nuclear reactors. The nuclear fission process only happens when the nuclear reactor parts are appropriately arranged in nuclear reactors. Atomic power plants turn their reactors off when replacing old nuclear fuel with new fuel.
Nuclear power plants are usually built near water sources to remove the heat produced by reactors. Some nuclear power plants use cooling towers to cool the nuclear reactor.
There are various advantages as well disadvantages of having nuclear power plants. Those advantages and limitations are covered below.
- Space needed for operating a nuclear power plant is less than other conventional power plants for the production of the same amount of energy.
- A nuclear power plant consumes a minimal quantity of fuel. Thus, fuel transportation costs are less, and extensive fuel storage facilities are not required. Further, nuclear power plants will conserve the fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas etc., for other energy needs.
- There is increased reliability of operation.
- Nuclear power plants are not affected by unfavorable weather conditions.
- Nuclear power plants are well suited to meet extraordinary demands of power requirements. They give better performance at higher load factors of 80 to 90%.
- Materials expenditure on metal structures, piping, storage mechanisms is much lower than a coal-burning power plant.
- It does not need a large quantity of water.
- The initial cost to set up a nuclear power plant is higher than a hydro or steam power plant.
- Nuclear power plants are not well suited for varying load conditions.
- Radioactive wastes, if not disposed of carefully, may affect the health of operators and the population nearby. In a nuclear power plant, the major problem faced is the disposal of highly radioactive waste in solid, liquid and gas without any injury to the atmosphere. The preservation of radioactive waste for a long time creates many difficulties.
- The maintenance cost of the nuclear power plant is high.
- Trained people are required to handle nuclear power plants.