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A Guide to Understanding Nuclear Energy by Marcellus.com

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How does nuclear energy work? Nuclear power is one of the most potent energy sources known to science. The key to it all is nuclear fission, which takes place in the core of a nuclear reactor. Fission is the process by which a single atom splits into two, releasing a huge amount of energy. Uranium is the fuel used for induced fission: it is a chemical element that naturally undergoes fission at a very slow rate. Because of this, it’s a great candidate for the artificial fission that takes place inside a reactor. A pound of enriched uranium can generate the energy equivalent of a million gallons of ordinary gasoline. The fission reaction is slowed or accelerated by manipulating conditions in the reactor core — energy generated by fission is used to heat water, which turns a turbine to generate electricity. To discover more, review the resources below.

  • How Nuclear Reactors Work: This overview from the Nuclear Energy Institute includes a video and discussion of the different types of nuclear reactors.
  • The Future of Nuclear Power (PDF): This detailed MIT study discusses several different aspects of the future evolution of nuclear power in great detail.
  • How is Nuclear Power Produced?: Produced by a New Mexico state agency, this page provides illustrations and comparisons of various different methods of processing nuclear power.
  • How Does a Nuclear Power Plant Work?: This capsule discussion of nuclear power focuses on the role of uranium, what it is, and what it does in a nuclear power plant reaction.
  • Lecture: How a Nuclear Reactor Works: Developed for classroom use, this simple guide includes several illustrations and videos to more effectively communicate nuclear concepts.
  • Generation and Storage of Nuclear Power (PDF): This PowerPoint presentation offers a clean, clear, and concise overview of major scientific concepts relating to nuclear energy.
  • Nuclear Power Without Nuclear Proliferation?: This journal article explores the twin issues of nuclear power expansion and nuclear weapon proliferation in a changing geopolitical landscape.
  • Subject Guide to Nuclear Energy: This research guide collects a number of high-level resources for people who want to learn more about the science and engineering behind nuclear energy.
  • Fact Sheet from the IAEA: The top international agency concerned with nuclear power has developed a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” files about various nuclear topics.
  • Timeline of Nuclear Energy Events: This timeline presents some of the basic events in nuclear energy history for young learners, beginning with the 1895 discovery of x-rays.
  • Nuclear Power 101: Readers looking for a capsule overview of what nuclear power is, how it works, and what the major risk factors are will find this guide helpful.
  • Radtown, USA: An interactive site maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency offers kids the opportunity to explore nuclear energy in “their” town.
  • United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is one of the major nuclear safety organizations in the country and warehouses nuclear safety information.
  • World Nuclear Association Guide to Reactors: This page includes a detailed, yet accessible review of the different kinds of nuclear reactors currently in use.
  • Duke Energy Basic Guide to Nuclear Power: Duke Energy, one of the largest U.S. utilities, walks readers through a step-by-step review of nuclear power generation.
  • Nuclear Fission Basics for Dummies: The world-renowned “friendly” educational series For Dummies tackles the subject of nuclear fission in this excerpt from its Chemistry for Dummies.
  • Basic Reactor Elements and Fission Reactor Use: This page focuses on the different parts of a nuclear reactor and the chemicals necessary to make it function.
  • Bitesize Course in Nuclear Fission and Fusion: Top-quality educational content from the BBC seeks to compare and contrast nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
  • Background on the Chemical Element Uranium: Uranium is the key to nuclear reactions. This page shines a spotlight on all the most important properties of this element.
  • News Item on the Discovery of Nuclear Fission: At Nature Magazine’s Physics Portal, readers can review information about the discovery of nuclear energy.
  • The Life Cycle of Uranium: Uranium has to undergo specific processes to be prepared for use in nuclear reactors. This page explores the life cycle that uranium goes through.
  • Uranium, the Environmental Clock: One of the most interesting properties of uranium is its ability to be used as a chemical “clock” to date other items, as discussed on this page.
  • Uranium, What Is It?: This page from the Argonne National Laboratory explains what uranium is and how it is used.
  • Understanding the History of Nuclear Energy: Compiled by the Department of Energy, this page includes a brief overview as well as a detailed report of nuclear energy history.
  • All About Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom: The United Kingdom is a major producer and user of nuclear energy. This page describes the major milestones in its nuclear development.
  • Why the French Like Nuclear Energy: France is one of the biggest centers of nuclear power in the world. This report explores why France uses nuclear power for 76% of its electricity.
  • Ten Myths About Nuclear Energy: There are many misconceptions surrounding the use of nuclear energy. This page explores some of the most common issues.
  • Nuclear Fission and Fusion: What is the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion? This page delves deeper into the two processes and their uses.
  • Uses and Hazards of Uranium: Uranium must be handled respectfully to be safe. This page discusses the processes and safety protocols surrounding the use of uranium.
  • Who Discovered Fission?: The history of nuclear fission goes back far beyond World War II to the turn of the 20th century. This online exhibit includes explanations and recordings.