How does nuclear power work?

11 August 2022

Nuclear power works simply by creating electricity by splitting atoms. When you split atoms, heat is created.

Nuclear power works simply by creating electricity by splitting atoms. When you split atoms, heat is created. This heat is used to heat water and then the steam is used to drive turbines and generators which in turn generate electricity.

So how does nuclear power work? The process used is called fission in physics and the most common substance used is uranium. This is usually referred to as nuclear fuel. After fission and when the energy is extracted from the uranium, the nuclear fuel is highly radioactive. This means that nuclear power leaves behind a waste that needs to be managed, which has been the main counter-argument against nuclear power.

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How does nuclear power affect the environment?

The actual process in a nuclear power plant has minimal impact on the environment, compared to burning coal or other non-renewable energy sources that have a constant emission from their process. But nuclear power leaves behind a waste that is markedly different from all other energy sources. The nuclear fuel must be taken care of and finally stored in a place where it can lie safely for several hundred thousand years.


A nuclear power plant occupies the same area as a larger factory and thus has a major impact on the surrounding environment.


There is also a certain risk with a nuclear power plant, as it constantly needs to be kept cooled. Should the nuclear power plant break down and all cooling ceases for some reason, something called a meltdown would occur. This is when the reaction in the nuclear power plant becomes uncontrolled. That is what happened in, for example, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Radioactive waste leaked into the environment and had disastrous consequences, above all for the nearby environment.

What is fourth generation nuclear power?

Fourth generation nuclear power is about the technological revolution that is currently underway when it comes to research and development on nuclear power. The term fourth generation nuclear power means a total solution for nuclear power in which many of the problems associated with today's nuclear power are dealt with.

Fourth-generation nuclear power is significantly more efficient than today's nuclear power. The waste must not have the same long decomposition time as today. Nor should there be any serious accidents of the kind we have seen before. The systems must be built so that such scenarios are simply impossible. Did you know that SenseNode performs energy analysis?


The biggest advantage of nuclear power is undoubtedly its efficiency when it comes to producing electricity on a large scale. No other energy source even comes close to nuclear power today.


If you ignore the waste that needs to be disposed of, nuclear power has a relatively small impact on the environment. The process does not release any toxic gases into the atmosphere and thus does not contribute to global warming, which is one of humanity's biggest challenges right now.


The disadvantages of nuclear power today are mainly based on two things. Partly the risk involved in operating a nuclear power plant. An accident could be devastating for both the environment and people, and also for thousands of years to come. Even if you manage to maintain a very high level of security at the facilities, what happens if, for example, there is a war and the facility is bombed?


The other disadvantage concerns waste management. It often becomes a moral question. What right do we have to leave hazardous waste to people born 1000 years from now?

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