Nuclear power plants use low-enriched uranium fuel to produce electricity through a process called fission - the splitting of uranium atoms in a nuclear reactor.Uranium fuel consists of small, hard ceramic pellets that are packaged into long, vertical tubes.
Bundles of this fuel are inserted into the reactor.
A single uranium pellet, slightly larger than a pencil eraser, contains the same energy as a ton of coal, 3 barrels of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.
Each uranium fuel pellet provides up to 5 years of heat for power generation.
And because uranium is one of the world’s most abundant metals, it can provide fuel for the world’s commercial NPPs for generations to come.
According to the World Nuclear Association (August 2020), there were 441 nuclear fission power plants in operation worldwide:
- 54 under construction
- 109 in the planning stages
The 1st nuclear reactor to produce electricity was located in Idaho, the U.S.
The Experimental Breeder Reactor began powering itself in 1951.
The 1st nuclear power plant designed to provide energy to a community was established in Obninsk, Russia, in 1954.
America’s 95 nuclear power plants generated 19.7% of the nation’s electricity in 2019.
For other countries it varies between 0%, e. g. in New Zealand and 70.6% in France.
Russia currently operates 38 nuclear reactors.
Nuclear power plants produce renewable, clean energy.
They do not pollute the air or release greenhouse gases.
They can be built in urban or rural areas, and do not radically alter the environment around them.
However, the byproduct of nuclear energy is radioactive material.
The used uranium pellets must be stored in special containers that look like large swimming pools
Critics of nuclear energy worry that the storage facilities for radioactive waste will leak, crack, or erode.