Nuclear Power Plant

What are Nuclear Power Plants?

In this introduction of a nuclear power plant, you should know that a nuclear power plant can be defined as a thermal power station in which a nuclear reactor is used as the main heat source. After that, the heat produced by nuclear reactors is used for generating steam. This steam moves the steam turbines that are connected to generators. And these generators produce the needed electricity.

As of 2018, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that there are 450 nuclear power plants working all across the globe. Nuclear power plants are also considered as baseload stations. This is mainly because the fuel is a very small part of the cost of production and they cannot be quickly or easily dispatched.

The operation, maintenance, and fuel costs of nuclear power plants are rather low. This means that these plants are suitable for base-load power suppliers. However, at this time, the cost of proper long-term radioactive waste storage is not certain. This should be included in the principle of the nuclear power plant.


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The History of Nuclear Power Plants

According to several sources, electricity was generated for the very first time by a nuclear reactor on 3 September 1948. This was done at X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, United States of America, or the USA. This was the first nuclear power station that was used for powering a light bulb.

The second nuclear power station was built as a much larger experiment and it worked for the first time on 20 December 1951 at the EBR-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho. Further, on 27 June 1954, the first nuclear power station in the world was used to generate electricity for an entire power grid. It was the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant and it started its operations in Obninsk of the Soviet Union.

Calder Hall in the United Kingdom was the world’s first full-scale power station and it opened on 17 October 1956. This nuclear power station was mainly devoted to electricity production. It was meant to produce plutonium too. And the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, United States of America, was connected to the grid on 18 December 1957. You should also read about nuclear power plants in India. This will help you understand what is nuclear power plant in India.


The Structure of a Nuclear Power Plant

The structure of a nuclear power plant definition can be a bit complicated. But in this section, students will be walked through all of it step by step. The first thing one needs to know about the structure of a nuclear power plant is that the conversion to electrical energy takes place in an indirect manner.

The fission in the nuclear reactor is also responsible for heating the reactor coolant. The coolant can be water, gas, or even a liquid metal. The selection of coolant depends on the type of reactor that is used. After that, the reactor coolant goes to the steam generator. The water starts to heat for the production of steam.

The pressurized steam is usually fed to a steam turbine that is formed by multiple stages. Once the steam turbine expands and partially condenses the steam, the vapour that is remaining will also condense in the condenser.

It should be noted that the condenser is a heat exchanger that is connected to the secondary side, like a cooling tower or a river. After that, the water is pumped back into the steam generator. From there, the cycle can begin again. The cycle of water and steam also corresponds to the Rankine cycle. This is somewhat similar to the thermal power plant structure.

In the entire structure, the nuclear reactor is located at the centre of the nuclear station. At the core of it, the reactor produces heat through the process of nuclear fission. Because of this heat, a coolant is heated while being pumped through the reactor. This removes the energy from the reactor.

The heat from the nuclear fission gets utilized to raise steam, it runs the turbines, and that turns the power of the electrical generators. The nuclear reactions or the chain reaction inside the nuclear reactor are powered by uranium. Different isotopes can also be used but those isotopes can have different behaviours.

The reactor core also has a protective shield around it. This is because radioactivity is creased by nuclear fission. The job of the containment is to absorb the radiation and prevent any radioactive material from being released directly into the environment.

There are also several reactors that come equipped with a dome of concrete. This concrete helps in protecting the reactor against any external impacts and internal casualties. Students should remember that the steam turbine, which is present with the engine house, is present in a separate structure from the main reactor building. This alignment is done to prevent the debris from any destruction of a turbine in operation from flying towards the reactor. This is also roughly the same structure of the 1st nuclear power plant in India or the largest nuclear power plant in India.


Fun Facts About Nuclear Power Plants

Did you know that nuclear stations are mainly used for the baseload? This is because of several economic factors. The cost of operation for fuel for a nuclear station is smaller when compared to the cost of operation of fuel for coal or gas power plants. Further, most of the cost of a nuclear power plant information is mainly capital cost, this means that there is almost no cost saving by running the plant at less than full capacity.

Students might also find it interesting to note that nuclear power plants are frequently used in load-following mode. This is done on a large scale in France even though it is usually accepted that this is not an ideal economic situation for any nuclear station. This is a very important point when it comes to nuclear power plant working.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1. Explain How Nuclear Energy is Created. Also Mentioned How the Entire Process Works.

Answer: The generation of electricity through nuclear power is similar in terms of its fundamentals to how electricity is generated in the case of thermal power sources, like coal, oil, and natural gas. In the case of natural gas, coal, and oil, these materials are burned to boil water. The boiled water gets converted into a hot gas.


The high pressure of the boiled water or the steam or the gases are used for turning the electric turbines. These turbines generate electricity. Nuclear power works in a similar fashion. However, the only difference is in terms of the fact that a nuclear chain reaction is conducted to generate heat instead of burning fossil fuel. The heat from that particular nuclear chain reaction or fission, which is known as the splitting of atoms, is used for boiling the water.

Question 2. Mention How Nuclear Energy is Used.

Answer: According to several sources, nuclear energy is used in around 30 states in the United States of America. There is roughly the same number of countries in the world that also use nuclear energy. In the United States of America, nuclear energy accounts for less than 20% of the electricity that is produced and 8% of total energy consumption of the entire country if one considers other uses like heating and transportation. Also, in Maryland, there are two nuclear reactors, which are located at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. And there are 96 reactors that are operating throughout the United States of America.

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