A nuclear power plant is a type of power station that generates electricity using heat from nuclear reactions. These reactions take place within a reactor. The plant also has machines which remove heat from the reactor to operate a steam turbine and generator to make electricity. Electricity made by nuclear power plants is called nuclear power.
Nuclear power plants are usually near water to remove the heat the reactor makes. Some nuclear power plants use cooling towers to do this. Nuclear power plants use uranium as fuel. When the reactor is on, uranium atoms inside the reactor split into two smaller atoms. When uranium atoms split, they give off a large amount of heat. This splitting of atoms is called fission.
Main Purpose Of Nuclear Power Plant-
Nuclear power plants, like any other power plant, are chiefly used to produce power.Some may directly also produce steam used for heating homes and various other services, but most produce power.Nuclear reactors are not some big glowing ball or anything. The inside looks more like this:
A nuclear reactor is much like a chemical reactor except it is a vessel where atomic nuclei are broken apart and formed. When nuclei are broken, the reaction is called fission, and when nuclei are formed, the reaction is called fusion. Like chemical reactions, nuclear reactions can be exothermic (net energy generators) or endothermic (net energy consumers) and like chemical reactions, nuclear reactions can chain react.
The sole function for a nuclear reactor is to channel and shepherd the nuclear reaction going on inside it. It does this via control of temperature (like in a chemical reactor), control of radiation (via absorption or generation of the radiation), and control of leakage (via physical reflectors or sometimes electric/magnetic fields).
Nuclear reactors are found in many sectors of industry from the electric power industry to medicine to high energy physics research as they offer the ability to change chemical elements into other chemical elements. This is called transmutation, and it is essentially doing reactions that the alchemists of old wanted to do (turning lead into gold) except for elements with industrial applications.
We currently use nuclear fission reactors for power as those are the reactions that we can safely control. Humanity is working on making nuclear fusion power reactors so that we won’t have to deal with long-lived radioactive elements, however, as of yet, this hasn’t been achieved yet. However, both nuclear fission and fusion are routinely used to produce needed elements in medical labs, doctor’s offices, oil/gas drilling rigs, and spacecraft as means of producing radiation for imaging inside solid objects.
Working Of Nuclear Power Plant –
Like all other power plants, water is heated and the steam produced creates electricity thanks to alternators driven by steam turbines. They are called turbo-alternators.
The difference between each type of power stations if the fuel used to heat the water and create steam. In a thermal power station, coal or gas are burnt whereas in nuclear power plants, the energy needed to boil the water comes from the fission of radionuclide.
Two main types of nuclear reactor depending on the power conversion system:
The power conversion system can be either a direct cycle from the core directly to the turbine (Boiling Water Reactor – BWR) or indirect cycle with an intermediate loop between the core and the turbine (Pressurized Water Reactor – PWR). In that case, there are heat exchangers (Steam Generators) to transfer heat from the first loop to the second.
Mostly Uranium oxide
- Natural: in that case, the moderator should be very transparent to the neutrons (heavy water or graphite) and the cooling fluid as well (CO2,He)
- Low enriched (5%) then one can use easily water as moderator and cooling fluid
- MOX (a fraction of recycled wastes) can also be used to burn plutonium in standard power reactors
238U is fissionable but cannot support a chain reaction while 235U can. In natural 238U, the fraction of 235U is not enough for the chain reaction. That’s why low enriched uranium is used (enriched in 235U with a fraction about 5% in reactors with modetor)
The fuel is then assembled in small tubes which go in the reactor.
- Electricity – This is the most common use of nuclear power plants. Easily said – they heat water for the purpose of either direct or indirect steam production, and this steam spins turbines.
- Research – I honestly don’t know what they research, but universities sometimes operate nuclear reactors.
- Medical Radioisotopes – Certain radioisotopes are useful in various medical fields; in relatively safe dosages these isotopes can be admitted to the body, and certain organs absorb them more readily, or they concentrate different based on X or Y condition, they can be used to locate things, et cetera.
- Propulsion – For ships (and possible for aircraft, though not used) nuclear reactors can generate a propulsive force. In ships, this is done the same way as making electricity, but instead of spinning a generator, they spin a shaft attached to a screw.
- Training – Few places do this, but as Allen Inks mentioned, the US Navy operates training reactors for the purpose of training future nuclear operators.