Nuclear energy is the one type of energy that can be released from the nucleus of an atom. There are two ways to produce this energy, either by fission or fusion. Fission occurs when the atomic nucleus is split apart. Fusion is the result of combining two or more light nuclei into one heavier nucleus.
Atoms are made up of several parts: protons, neutrons, electrons, and a nucleus. A nucleus is the positively charged center of an atom. Protons are positively charged particles, and neutrons are uncharged particles. Electrons orbit around the nucleus and are negatively charged. Fission can occur in two ways—first, in some very heavy elements, such as rutherfordium, the nucleus of an atom can split apart into smaller pieces spontaneously. With lighter (lower atomic weight) elements, it is possible to hit the nucleus with a free neutron, which will also cause the nucleus to break apart, and a significant amount of energy is released when the nucleus splits. The energy released takes two forms: light energy and heat energy. Radioactivity is also produced. Atomic bombs let this energy out all at once, creating an explosion. Nuclear reactors let this energy out slowly in a continuous chain reaction to make electricity. After the nucleus splits, new lighter atoms are formed. More free neutrons are thrown off that can
split other atoms, continuing to produce nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy can be used for various industrial applications, such as seawater desalination, hydrogen production, district heating or cooling, the extraction of tertiary oil resources, and process heat applications such as cogeneration, coal-to-liquids conversion, and assistance in the synthesis of chemical feedstock. A large demand for nuclear energy for industrial applications is expected to grow rapidly on account of steadily increasing energy consumption, the finite availability of fossil fuels, and the increased sensitivity to the environmental impacts of fossil fuel combustion. With increasing prices for conventional oil, unconventional oil resources are increasingly utilized to meet such growing demand, especially for transport.
Nuclear binding energy is the energy required to split a nucleus of an atom into component parts. The term nuclear binding energy may also refer to the energy balance in processes in which the nucleus splits into fragments composed of more than one nucleon. If new binding energy is available when light nuclei fuse, or when heavy nuclei split, either of these processes results in releases of the binding energy. This energy, available as nuclear energy, can be used to produce electricity (by nuclear power plant) or as a nuclear weapon.
Currently, at nuclear power plants, the heat to make the steam is created through nuclear fission which releases heat. In a nuclear power plant, uranium is the material used in the fission process and the heat from fission is used to create steam to turn a turbine which, in turn, produces electricity. However, nuclear energy can be as hazardous as any fossil fuel in terms of destruction of the environment and deserves some comment insofar as an appreciation of its use may assist in the general background and aid in putting fossil fuel resources into a more complete context.
Nevertheless, as long as suitable safety regulations are applied, energy from nuclear sources has shown potential to be a significant energy source in the future. The technology is known but has suffered some setbacks. Accidents and dubious claims of the ease with which energy may be derived from nuclear sources have reduced the credibility of the nuclear industry. Nevertheless, the potential still exists for the extraction of energy from nuclear sources. Hence, the continued use of the so-called conventional fuel resources is derived from the remains of ancient plants and animals. Those same resources have been instrumental in the phenomenal expansion of the industrialized world. And also, those same resources can have serious adverse effects on the flora and fauna (including man) of the world.
More to Read
Nuclear power plant