A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station that generates electricity using heat from nuclear reactions. Nuclear reactions take place within a nuclear reactor. Nuclear power plant has a machines which remove heat from the nuclear reactor to operate a steam turbine and generator electricity. Electricity made by nuclear power plants is called nuclear power.
Nuclear power plants use uranium as source of fuel. When the nuclear reactor is on, uranium atoms split into two smaller atoms within the reactor. When uranium atoms split, they give off a large amount of heat energy. This splitting of atoms is called nuclear fission process.
The most popular atoms to nuclear fission process are uranium and plutonium. Those atoms are slightly radioactive in nature. The atoms produced when fuel atoms break apart are strongly radioactive. Today, nuclear fission process occurs only inside the nuclear reactors. In nuclear reactors, nuclear fission process only happens when the nuclear reactors parts are arranged properly. Nuclear power plants turn their reactors off when replacing old nuclear fuel with the new fuel.
Nuclear power plants are usually built near the water sources to remove the heat produced by reactor. Some nuclear power plants use cooling towers to cool the nuclear reactor.
There are various advantages as well disadvantages of having nuclear power plants. Those advantages and limitations are covered below.
- Space needed for operating a nuclear power plant is less as compared to other conventional power plants for production of same amount of energy.
- A nuclear power plant consumes very small quantity of fuel. Thus fuel transportation cost is less and large fuel storage facilities are not required. Further the nuclear power plants will conserve the fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas etc. for other energy need.
- There is increased reliability of operation.
- Nuclear power plants are not effected by the unfavorable weather conditions.
- Nuclear power plants are well suited to meet large demands of power requirement. They give better performance at higher load factors of 80 to 90%.
- Materials expenditure on metal structures, piping, storage mechanisms is much lower compared to a coal-burning power plant.
- It does not need large quantity of water.
- Initial cost to set up nuclear power plant is higher as compared to hydro or steam power plant.
- Nuclear power plants are not well suited for varying load conditions.
- Radioactive wastes if not disposed carefully may have an effect on the health of operators and the population nearby. In a nuclear power plant the major problem faced is the disposal of highly radioactive waste in form of solid, liquid and gas without any injury to the atmosphere. The preservation of radioactive waste for a long duration of time creates many difficulties.
- Maintenance cost of the nuclear power plant is high.
- Trained people are required to handle nuclear power plants.