How Things Work Model – Nuclear Power Plant

What problem does our technology try to solve?

Nuclear power plants were invented to create a large amount of energy using a small amount of fuel and to reduce the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. A 8.5g pellet of Uranium can provide as much energy as 1 ton of coal. Nuclear power plants do not release greenhouse gases and are better for the environment.

What are the main parts of a nuclear power plant and what are their functions?

There are many components of a nuclear power plant that allow it to function.

  1. Fuel Rods – Provide Uranium atoms for the fission process.
  2. Control Rods – Control the fission rate in the reactor.
  3. Moderator – (usually water) Located inside the reactor, slows down Uranium molecules.
  4. Generator / Turbine – Turns steam into electricity.
  5. Containment Chamber – Keeps steam in and covers reactor and steam generator. (barrier)
  6. Condenser – Condenses steam to pass through turbine.
  7. Pumps (water pumps) – Pumps cool the reactors. Water being pumped through the systems pushes water past nuclear core and removes heat.
  8. Cooling Tower – Dissipates heat into atmosphere.
  9. Pipes – Transfer water and steam throughout the power plant.
  10. Steam generator – Convert water into steam from heat produced in the nuclear reactor.

How does a nuclear power plant produce energy?

Nuclear energy is produced from the splitting of Uranium atoms. This process is called fission. This generates heat which creates steam that passes through a turbine and generates energy.

What are the social implications?

There are pros and cons to power plants based on their affect on society.

Social Pros:

  • Job Intensive – Power plants create a lot of job opportunities and offer a lot of different specialties for everyone.
  • Resilience – Nuclear power plants are very resilient during harsh weather, which means the jobs created by the power plant will be available year.
  • Low operating costs – Power plants cost very little to power, as not very much fuel (uranium) is required to create energy.

Social Cons:

  • Explosive – If an explosion was ever to occur in a nuclear power plant, the radioactivity released into the atmosphere would have severe consequences. The community would be evacuated and would never be able to come back.
  • Size – Nuclear power plants are large in size and have many components that take up a lot of space. The cities in which nuclear power plants are located must limit the expansion of homes to ensure there is enough space to construct the power plant.

What are the environmental implications?

Environmental Pros:

  • No greenhouse gases – Nuclear power plants do not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They do not use fossil fuel to produce energy, therefore carbon dioxide emissions are not released from the power plant.
  • Resilience – Nuclear power plants are very resilient to extreme weather conditions. Therefore, they continue to produce energy all year.
  • Fuel efficiency – To create power in a nuclear reactor, uranium rods are used as a fuel source. An 8.5g pellet of uranium can produce as much energy as one ton of coal. Using nuclear power plants to produce energy will save fuel resources.

Environmental Cons:

  • Explosions – Nuclear power plants are full of radioactive particles. If something goes wrong, the whole plant could explode. The radioactive particles would spread into the atmosphere and travel many miles around the city it exploded in. This would change how plants, animals and humans live in these areas.
  • Size – Nuclear power plants are very large and take up a lot of space in cities they are located in. Tearing down trees and altering the environment surrounding the plant may be necessary to build a plant.
  • Disposal – There is no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste. Often it is buried or kept in chambers with a moderator until their radioactivity rate has decreased. They can cause damage to the environment and surrounding habitats.

Evaluate – Does your technology do its intended task?

In my opinion, nuclear power plants do a great job of creating a large amount of energy with a small amount of fuel.