How nuclear reactors work


How nuclear reactors work

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Nuclear fusion generates a massive amount of heat. This heat is used to heat water and turn it into steam. The steam is then used to spin a turbine generating electricity.

That’s the simple answer anyways

im not involved in anything like this but simply put in principle, u take a small particle(neutron) and shoot it at a big atom(uranium) to break it apart. The nuclease of an atom(protons and neutrons) have some “glue” holding them together. When the bug atom breaks, the glue(which has a mass) turns into pure energy(following e=mc^2). Harness the energy somehow.

For a long time, radiation was a “curiosity” with no practical application. Radioactive elements, like Uranium, emit energy, but very slowly. You could capture the energy, but you’d be there for millennia if you wanted any useful amount of energy out of it.

Then comes the discovery of the neutron. See, neutrons are different from electrons and protons in that they’re neutral – you can shoot a neutron at an atom and it won’t be deflected by the electrons or protons in the atom. The other thing about the neutron, is radioactive elements seem to emit them… AND neutrons can be used to cause a radioactive decay.

So, there are three possibilities on how we can use these neutrons.
1 – If you get a bunch of radioactive atoms together, and one atom randomly decays, which emits a bunch of neutrons, which bump into two (or any amount more than one) neighbors, which then emit a bunch of neutrons, and more atoms decay, leading to more neutrons, etc., this is a runaway nuclear reaction – a nuclear bomb!
2 – If you get a bunch of radioactive atoms together, but maybe only 1% of the atoms are radioactive. Now when an atom decays, it emits neutrons, but most of those neutrons just hit inert neighbors, and nothing happens. This is natural radioactivity, and nothing happens except a slow release of energy.
3 – If you have a properly balanced system, you can set it up so each atom releases a bunch of neutrons, but you slow them down so they only bump into one additional atom. Now the nuclear reaction is sustainable, but not uncontrolled. This is a nuclear power plant.

A typical fission reactor is a big bundle of fuel rods (radioactive materials where the actual fission takes place) and control rods (made of materials that absorb neutrons, preventing fission from taking place). When the control rods are fully inserted into the bundle, no significant fission can occur, so the reactor is shut down.

To start the reactor, the control rods are lifted partway out of the bundle. Typically this is done with a big electromagnet, so that if something goes wrong with the lifting system the electromagnet turns off, the control rods fall back into the bundle, and the reactor shuts down. This is a very common theme in reactor design: anything going wrong leads to the reactor shutting down, because that’s better than the reactor going out of control. It’s an important part of disaster prevention.

While the reaction is going, things get very hot. This heat is typically used to boil a big tank of water, which changes to steam. The steam is used to drive turbines attached to generators, which create the actual electricity. This all happens inside sealed pipes, so that the water that goes into the reactor is never released into the environment. After going into the turbine, the steam runs through chilled pipes to cool it down. Those pipes often run through a pond or lake, but again, the reactor’s water is not allowed to mix with water from the pond. Then it returns to the water tank to be boiled again.

Fuel rods of an element uranium 235 are lowered into a large tank of water along with control rods. In the tank the the uranium undergoes a sustained chain reaction which means it splits and splits and splits when it does split it creates a spark of energy or heat. This heat causes the water in the reactor to boil, when it does it creates steam, this steam turned a turbine which is connect to a dynamo that also turned and creates electricity