Nuclear power – how it works

In a nuclear power plant, energy is derived from splitting atomic nuclei. The process is called fission, and it heats water to form steam. The steam powers a turbine, which in turn powers a generator that generates electricity.

Fission takes place in the reactor. During the process, atomic nuclei are split by bombarding them with neutrons. When an atomic nucleus is split, it emits new neutrons that can split new atomic nuclei, creating a chain reaction. A nuclear power plant typically uses uranium-235, a special isotope of the element uranium, as fuel. In order to control the process, various types of control rod stems are used to absorb the discharged neutrons, reducing the fission rate or stopping it entirely.

There are several different types of nuclear reactors, the most common of which are pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors.

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