Nuclear power plant working principle

Even though I’m a big renewable energy fan, I believe it is still important to know how do other energy sources work, in this case nuclear energy.

Nuclear power plant is basically a facility that converts energy of atom into the electricity. Nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power plants, and fossil fuel power plants have very similar working principle in the way they generate electricity, the only thing that is really different is their fuel source. Nuclear power plants usually use naturally occurring uranium as their fuel source.

Nuclear power plants split the uranium atoms into fuel in the process called nuclear fission, and the result of this is the tremendous amount of heat. In order to unlock the heat energy in the uranium atom you need the right moderator, in nuclear power plants this moderator is heavy water.

Heavy water is special kind of water. Heavy water is called heavy because it is ten percent heavier than the ordinary water. This is because heavy water contains a higher than normal proportion of deuterium, a form of hydrogen.

The heavy water surrounds the nuclear fuel bundles, and slows down the neutrons. Neutrons need to be slowed down because by doing so they have the better chance to hit and split the uranium atoms. A chain reaction of uranium atom splitting ensures the constant source of heat to heat the heavy water. The heated heavy water is pumped through the reactor in the closed system through a set of boilers where it boils ordinary water into high pressured steam.

Afterwards, heavy water is recirculated back to the reactor to pick up more heat and cool the fuel. The high pressured steam made from ordinary water then gets transported to large turbines through large pipes where it pushes the blades and turns the shaft connected to a rotor in the generator. This causes rotor to spin, and its spinning creates electricity.

All modern nuclear power plants have highly sophisticated safety systems that ensure maximum safety of this process so the new Chernobyl accident looks almost impossible to happen.