This article on nuclear fusion is to help the people who aren’t very scientific, who would like to know just how nuclear energy works as it is a prime issue in today’s society.
Hopefully this will also raise questions and awareness about how serious this issue is, and by the end I hope you make a decision on your standing point on the subject.
Firstly to be able to understand how nuclear power works, you must take heed of Einstein’s equation, E=mc^2. Now I can guaranty you would have heard this at some point but never knew what it meant, until now. This equation shows that energy has a mass.
Now if you think back to your science lessons all those long years ago, you might remember a phrase such as kinetic, known as the energy of movement. So whenever you’re out walking or moving about, the more energy you use, the heavier you are I’m afraid, although don’t worry if you’re verging on being overweight. The change is so small, that it can be looked over in every day life, yet not with particles and nuclear fusion.
So what’s this got to do with Nuclear Power?
Well nuclear power works on a chain reaction basis. Particles called neutrons are fired at an element called Uranium 235. This causes it to split up creating two new elements and more neutrons, which themselves go on to split more uranium up hence chain reaction.
When the uranium splits up it, the total mass of the products released is less than the original mass of the uranium. This is where what we talked about earlier comes in, as the rest of the mass has been released as energy. This energy is what powers nuclear plants by creating steam and powering generators.
Now you know the physics behind how nuclear fission works, i am now going to tell you how the plant works, and the safety measures in place.
For instance, if we just fired neutrons at the uranium and let it carry on the work, so much energy would be released so fast through the chain reaction building up, that we would have a nuclear explosion.
To prevent this, we have what are called control rods. All these do is absorb the neutrons that are emitted and fired. This is handy because not only can it stop a chain reaction from happening, it can control the speed of which it takes place.
So what else is there to help protect us?
Well radiation leakage is a problem which is why all reactors are built with thick blocks of concrete around them, absorbing any radiation.
But to take just one side discussion would be pointless; as this article is to help you decide for yourself how safe nuclear power is.
By saying this, I mean it’s not 100% full proof. There is only so much absorption or radioactivity that a material can take. This causes problems, as they become radioactive themselves causing radioactive waste, which poses the question where does this all go? To answer this, low-level waste like laboratory clothing is buried underground or at sea while the high-level waste has to be kept in storage tanks of water to just keep it cool as its so hot from being radioactive.
So the questions that should be coming into your head now are how much waste we can bury, considering it can take thousands of years to loose its radioactivity.
Taking into account we have sustainable energy sources that don’t produce any waste, do we need nuclear power plants? The question now at hand is “macro or micro”; do we go for the single power plant or the larger wind farms? The decision is ultimately yours.